Monday, 5 January 2015

Edible Future

Bioplastic Fantastic by Johanna Schmeer

The first hand-in I've had for my Curating MA was a group project to curate a hypothetical exhibition for the British Council, tying in with their Maker Library Network. If you haven't come across one, a Maker Library provides designers - and sometimes members of the public - a space in which to make things, often by digital means, while complimenting this make space with a library of resources and an exhibition space that explores making and made work. My classmates and I were charged with curating a pop-up Maker Library which would explore making in a hands-on way, show the work of British designers and makers and select relevant publications for the accompanying library space.

My class as a whole is pretty international, and the group I worked with consisted of Irish me, three Chinese students, a Taiwanese student and a Thai student: 6 people from 4 different countries on 2 different continents. Within our group - as is usually the case in our class - our conversation would often turn to food: what do we eat in our home country, what do we like about English food... food is an instant unifier, a common ground. But while food is common, it's not unchanging. Availability, technology and broadening tastes have changed the ways we make and consume food all around the world. Unfortunately, industrialisation and fashions have made alarming processes and environmentally-costly practices more and more widespread, making much of the food we eat unhealthy both for us and for the planet. Many in the food industry – and outside it – are looking for alternatives to our current methods of food production. The way we make food must change, and there are a number of ways we could do this.

My group and I decided to use the format of the Maker Library as an opportunity to explore just some of the ways making food could change, and how designers here in the UK are exploring food in their work. We thought that we could question how making and preparing food could change and hoped to prompt discussion by contrasting the super new ways of making food with designs that aim to improve traditional means of food preparation. A make space filled with a 3D printer and tools for molecular gastronomy, accompanied by videos of work by British food designers, would explore ways of making food through technology and emerging scientific methods. An exhibition space would contain products designed to make traditional ways of preparing food easier and more enjoyable, while the library would invite visitors to learn more about the culture and politics of food. This Maker Library would ask visitors, 'how do we make the future edible?'

Discussing and developing all aspects of this project was really interesting, but in particular my group mates unearthed some really cool work going on in the UK exploring food design and design for food. Pictured at the top is an edible creation by London- and Berlin-based designer Johanna Schmeer from her Bioplastic Fantastic series. Bioplastic Fantastic is a selection of objects which act as functional 'biological' cells even though they are made from polymers and enzymes. These objects produce nutrients, water and fats so can nourish us as traditional food would, just in a slightly whacky-looking way... See below for a video of how Schmeer's Bioplastic Fantastic objects look, feel and ooze...

Pictured second from the top is Cook's Canvas by Designs of the Year 2014-nominated Lauren Davies. Taking inspiration not from futuristic or sci-fi food practices but something more old-school, Davies looked to design something for the forager, tapping into the increased interest in taking a 'back to basics' approach to cooking. Cook's Canvas is an apron-cum-shoulder bag. You throw it over your shoulder when out in your garden or walking through the woods to fill it with what you find. Then when you return to your kitchen you empty the bag, unclip it and wear it as an apron while you prepare your spoils. In keeping with low-tech reinventions of traditional food prep, pictured below is a Nut Hammer by Roger Arquer. Insert nut in silicone bowl, attach hammer, hit against a hard surface. Nut cracked, nuff said.

I think design that relates to food - the objects we use to make or enjoy it as well as the design of food itself - is a really pertinent area of design. So much of it relates to so many of us: maybe not super-expensive tableware or the interior design of a Michelin-starred restaurant but the objects and processes involved in food production at home or in the factory certainly does. If you'd like to see an actual, real life exhibition exploring food and design, check out Appetite for Design as part of Irish Design 2015 in Kilkenny opening in early May. If you'd like to know more about my cool dude classmates who I worked on this project with, follow the links below. And lastly, stay tuned for more insights into my MA work: I have some hand-ins soon that I'll share some of the work from in February. Less delectable, but hopefully still worth a read :)

Edible Future team:
Chi-Wei Chen: Instagram
Shengnan Liu: LinkedIn
Jing Peng
Nuttamon Prayoonhong: LinkedIn and Instagram
Xiajie Zhang

Images and video via 1&4 | 2 | 3