Common Grounds (2023)

‘Common Grounds’ is a deeper exploration of artist Calvin Tay’s research into the often overlooked dimensions of modern rituals that are, in equal parts, ceaseless as they are vital to everyday living. In collaboration with Maxi Coffee Bar, this research delves into the realm of coffee, and through this exhibit he sought to uncover common threads between us over our shared love for this daily routine.

The artwork displayed on the walls throughout Maxi Coffee Bar assume the form of a secret coffee language, caffeinated hieroglyphs derived from visual manifestations conjured by both patrons and baristas. Over the course of three months, they investigated what revolved around their cup of coffee over an activity of questions, prepared by Tay, that probed into their relationship with coffee and the role it plays in their day.

This investigation ended with them tasked to express their coffee ritual in a continuous line, pushing the individual to translate an intangible experience into a visual representation.

A continued exploration employing the use of thermoplastics, he used a mixture of Hot Melt Adhesive and coffee grounds roasted at Maxi Coffee Bar to mould these depictions into a 3D artefact by layering the line repeatedly over itself, a representation of the repetition of this process in our daily routine. These pieces capture a unique moment in time that cannot be repeated exactly as it was.

Despite being created by separate individuals, once placed beside each other these coffee expressions exhibit similar structures and accents that tie them together – they reveal a common ground that we share, a common language that we drink.

Each layered form has been labelled with selected captions that the participants identified while investigating their coffee ritual, along with the date and time that the moment was captured.

These captured expressions were then assembled together, pinned down, and encased in a plywood box that has been treated with a wash of coffee and wood stain, drawing a likeness to how insects are preserved and displayed in specimen boxes.

The preservation of these captured rituals is sealed with an acrylic cover, allowing visitors to observe and appreciate these unique coffee expressions. Tay’s ‘Common Grounds’ exhibit offers a glimpse into our coffee language, providing an opportunity to explore the relationships that unite us through our collective coffee rituals.

See here for investigations that were done with baristas and customers of Maxi Coffee Bar.

Common Grounds full catalogue here.

‘Common Grounds’, 26th March – 21st May 2023. Maxi Coffee Bar, Ann Siang Hill, Singapore.