Artists design the food of the future

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Two surgeons They operate with much difficulty … a huge sandwich. It is the video that closes and that summarizes with irony the new great exhibition of Victoria & Albert Museum, the great London museum of design: Food: bigger than the plate. The video, made expressly by the satirical Austrian performers Honey & Bunny, it is striking because the operating table is not in a hospital, but in the fabulous bathroom of the queen Victoria from the London museum itself, presided over by rich white and green ceramics.

But even more striking is that what the two surgeons have on the operating table, next to the surgical instruments, is a great
sandwich filled with tomato and lettuce which they try hard to extract a kind of cold meat. The meat. In that sense, the director of the V & A, Tristram Hunt, points out that the monumental shows part of the "passion for food that dominates today's culture" to engage in an essential dialogue: "In the current social, politically and ecologically turbulent climate, the question of how we fed ourselves had never been more pressing. The future of food impacts every citizen of the world. Our current food system, much of which took shape in the Industrial Revolution, needs a redesign, looking critically to know what to preserve, rethink or create again. "






Change of epoch

"There is a growing desire for better food for the people and for the planet"

And of course the show tries to do it in a shocking way. And consistent. Shocking because the data is: one million plastic bottles per minute are manufactured. And if a botijo-there is one in the sample, an invention of the year 1100 in the Iberian Peninsula-serves to cool and is reusable, lasts about 15 years and takes 50 to disappear, a plastic bottle, invented in the seventies in the Kingdom Together, they are 200 grams of oil with a single use of five minutes and it takes 700 years to disintegrate. The Ooho! Project, in the sample, has created from algae a plastic that is consumed together with the water that surrounds it.

But the exhibition is also impressive because the proposals presented want to be to question our ideas: among other facilities there are refrigerators that store cheeses made with bacteria … of British celebrities. Like a cheddar created from microbes in the armpit or feet -that's why they smell and are related to those in cheeses- by Blur's ex-player Alex James. It is Selfmade, born from a project of the universities of Stanford and Edinburgh that unites biologists, artists and designers and that puts in question our current antiseptic world.

Biodiversity Koen Vanmechelen pairs chickens from around the world to reverse industrial standardization

Biodiversity Koen Vanmechelen pairs chickens from around the world to reverse industrial standardization
(Peter Kelleher / V & A Museum)






The videos about our relationship with food – the tomatina could not be absent – and about our production system are absorbing: giant farms that move large machines with their blades gobble up chickens that later appear hung, already plucked and washed, in a long industrial chain; huge fish farms in which, also, the fish are being sucked to take them to the world of consumption; kilometric pools in which hundreds of thousands of apples float; fabulous ingenios that advance through the crops with the integrated workers under their front, dedicated to tear off vegetables that pocket and throw into the machine. That also swallows them.

As for consequent, the sample tries to be in situ: GroCycle, which is displayed in a large showcase, consists of large bags, almost giant sausages, replete with the dregs of the thousand daily cafes of the V & A bar. On the outside of the pendant pockets grow abundant mushrooms that are cut by the restaurant of the museum and integrated into their daily menu.

Cook them in the coffee. The GroCycle project transforms the museum café into mushrooms for its restaurant

Cook them in the coffee. The GroCycle project transforms the museum café into mushrooms for its restaurant
(Peter Kelleher / V & A Museum)






And it is curated by Catherine Flood and May Rosenthal Sloan, Food: larger than the dish, has more than 70 installations of artists and designers working with farmers, chefs, scientists and local communities. Facilities and projects that address the entire food cycle. As he remembers from the beginning the sample, "if you are a consumer, you are a producer, to eat creates garbage". And for the waste, and how to take advantage of them, begins a journey that shows, for example, how a Mexican designer, Fernando Laposse, has reintroduced seeds of corn varieties that had been eliminated in the last decades in an ultrastandardized production system in peasant communities. -He has had to ask the Global Seed Vault, in Svalbard, Norway- and with its colorful peels he produces a product that imitates colorful woods that take decades to grow.

From waste, to how we raise and create food. How in the XVIII the animals are manipulated so that they have more and more meat and, again, the biodiversity is eliminated. There are paintings by James Ward from the 19th century in which the owners ask that the pig be painted at its peak the day before the sacrifice. And there are artists like Koen Vanmechelen who, in the face of animal standardization, have been breeding chickens from all over the world for 20 years and created an unprecedented genetic diversity that inverts the logic of industrial breeding. From aging, the exhibition goes to trade, with products that make infinite routes of cultivation to the consumer, and then to the most pleasant part, the kitchen, which starts with powerful Ferran Adrià drawings in which civilization is equated to culinary art and cook art. A part in which is redesigned until the sausage, which after all is a design, to make our sources of protein more sustainable.





Celebrity cheese. Selfmade shows cheeses created from known axilla microbes

Celebrity cheese. Selfmade shows cheeses created from known axilla microbes
(Peter Kelleher / V & A Museum)

The whole show, says Commissioner Flood, is that "something big is happening in the world of food: we see a growing desire for food that is better for people and for the planet and also in recent years we see more and more artists and designers turning to food as the main theme of their work, operating provocative ways, asking questions, creating narratives, trying to change minds and behaviors. Something that we show with alternative projects, sometimes playful and unexpected. We do not want a catalog of improvements in food, but projects that push our imagination beyond innovations that are more of the same. And we do not want to be didactic or to judge, but to start a great debate because we all have a participation in the future of food ". It is time to decide what food we eat, how it should be and know, to think, concludes Rosenthal, "how we want to exist in the future".





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