Category Archives: food

Making cheese from the black mould on your wall

Stachybotrys chartarum, aka black mould, is one of the nastiest guests you can find in your home. The microfungus grows inside damp buildings and produces toxic spores. Its presence in your home can affect your health and expose you to greater risks of suffering from respiratory problems, allergies or even immune system disorders.

The problem seems to be particularly common in London rented accommodations. Landlords are either too stingy or too sloppy to take the necessary measures to limit the moisture in the air. When they are not just plain greedy and let the flats deliberately rot so that tenants will move out and the property owner can renovate the building and turn it into lucrative Airbnb accommodations.

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Avril Corroon, a young artist currently pursuing a Masters in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University, decided to give a pungent visibility to the problem of rogue landlords and poor living conditions in rented accommodation. She did so by making artisan cheeses using bacteria cultures collected directly from the mould growing in London housing. I wouldn’t eat the cheeses she makes but they look surprisingly convincing!

The project is called Spoiled Spores (at the moment.) Corroon’s social critique might be insalubrious but it is also one of those rare projects that manage to talk about gentrification and class divide with humour.

I got in touch with Avril and asked her to tell us more about her range of “sick building” cheeses:

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Hi Avril! I’ve never made cheese in my life. You made yours using bacteria cultures collected from the mould growing in London housing. How did you discover the existence of these bacteria and their suitability to make cheese?  

Neither had I before this. To make blue cheese you add penicillium roqueforti to your milk and rennet, so I wondered what would happen if I swapped the ‘good mould’ for ‘bad’ mould and if it’d make a black mouldy cheese? Or what a Camberwell Camembert would look like from damp mould grown in a flat in Camberwell in London?

I had no idea if the cheese would come out looking and smelling like cheese or if the new mould would cause it to fall apart. It turns out that it does look and smell like cheese but as for taste I don’t know, it’s definitely not fit for consumption.

I’ve been doing call outs online and using word of mouth to find people living with mould and then visiting to take samples to make an individual cheese.
 Another element to the project is filming the homes where the moulds come from and interviewing the participants about their lives and any health problems they might have living around black mould. Some of them said they had mild respiratory issues and many said they constantly have to ask the landlord to come and sort it after the mould reappears after cleaning and repainting.

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

Of course, what i found most interesting about the project is that it is, if i understood correctly, a comment on the poor living conditions in rented accommodation. Could you elaborate on that?  

I had a lot of black mould growing in my last accommodation in Dublin and know many people living in damp housing managed by neglectful landlords. I wanted to make something that juxtaposed the mould, as a sign of neglected living conditions in rental property, with an artisan product like cheese, as a possible marker of gentrification.

Developers and city planners focus on areas, intentionally allowing them to become run down before pumping investment into recreating a new narrative of the area, as somewhere more attractive for middle and upper classes making it difficult for the community to sustain living there.

I hope that the work gives a sense of how interlinked and calculated disinvestment and investment is as a system and also gives the finger to private landlords for charging extortionate rental prices for poorly maintained flats and houses.

At the moment I’m being evicted from my rental accommodation in Elephant and Castle in South East London as developers are going to build luxury apartments. That whole area is under new urban development. Property developers Delancey have been given the go ahead by the council to take down the famous 75 year old Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre to make a ‘town centre’, but it’s already a centre for the traders and large multicultural community who go there. Up The Elephant campaigners are bidding to pose a legal challenge to drop the scheme, which is great.

I’m critical of how art institutions play a role in gentrification and want the work to address this too. In the work, I’m taking mould from people in bad living conditions and creating a high-end commodity out of this suffering as cheese, but then by giving it the status of art it then becomes a super commodity in the art gallery. I’m very interested in how the work touches these seemingly separate economies and how it can implicate a wider system than just the individual landlord. The cheese stink in the gallery and you can’t get away from the smell. It’s making an accusation there to question how art institutions function in the creation of inequalities, disinvestment and gentrification in areas.

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

The photo of the bedroom the mould came from doesn’t suggest “yummy! appetizing!” to me. How ready are people (and you!) to taste the cheese? Is it allowed to actually have people consume them or is there some Health and Safety issue that would prevent you from organising tasting sessions?  

At first some people have really wanted to try it before seeing the video footage of how they’re made. I have artisan style labels for each corresponding cheese, which includes on it the first name of the person who lives with the mould, the type of accommodation, and annual rent and location details in the ingredient list. It’s easy to not read the label in full, as much as we don’t read the ingredients on most packaging, so the cheese still retains a sort of sinister element to it. Authentic artisan cheeses that are expensive, strong smelling, especially the blue cheeses, don’t really seem like they should be edible anyway, but we’ve been assured that they are. If no one had told you that you can eat cheese with blue mould veined through out it, you wouldn’t put that in your mouth would you?

I like toeing between the lines of disgust my cheese looks no more suspicious than normal cheese, like a savory present waiting for the landlord.

Excerpt of Fresh Paint on The Walls, full duration 9min, 2016

How does the work fit into your own practice? Does it build upon some of your previous works? I’m thinking about Fresh Paint on the Walls which looks at the difficulty of living in the neoliberal city through the antics of an awful landlord who licks beige walls and covers his face in paint.

I make work, which uses my own surroundings or living and working conditions as a starting point and then re-present them in an exaggerated manner with a satirical narrative in video or through interventionist actions in live performance.

In Fresh Paint on The Walls, the archetype of the monstrous Landlord is obsessed with ingesting magnolia coloured paint, resulting in megalomaniac behavior and terrible spatial judgment, which causes him to charge extortionate rates for small rooms. The cheese work feels like a continuation from this work and shares some similar imagery such as eating from interior walls.

In some of my previous work, I outline a story with voice over narration, the cheese is more suggestive of a narrative instead. While I was making one of them I was reminded of Roald Dahl’s The Witches where all the witches have an AGM and plan a grand opening of sweet shops where they’ll poison all the children and turn them into mice. Except here, maybe it’s all the landlords who come to stuff their faces instead.

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores (installation view), 2019

Avril Corroon, Spoiled Spores, 2019

What’s next for the cheese? Was it a one off or are you planning to reproduce the cheese experiment in other settings?

At the moment I’m working on this project along with others towards my degree show for my masters in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University. I’m making new cheeses, visiting homes, taking mould samples and filming homes from new people that I come into contact with.

I’d love to take the project further and travel with it to make further renditions that are area specific to where it’s exhibited, so that each place and the specificities to that local are examined. I’m also getting in touch with food labs to get an analysis of the cheese sample and its toxins.

Getting other expertise in to expand the work could produce interesting results, like getting a cheesemonger and a real estate agent together to assess the value of a mouldy house or one of my cheeses. I think there’s a lot of ways I can develop the work further.

Thanks Avril!

Vapour Meat: a helmet to vape the essence of ‘clean meat’

Animals that fake their appearance to blend in their surrounding and attract their prey, people who fake a delirious state of bliss on social media, girls who prefer fake fur (or ‘fantasy fur’ as Lagerfeld called it) to the real one, etc. Sometimes the fake is just a little bit more desirable than the real. And if you’re worried about animal welfare, broken food systems and the future of our planet, then fake meat, and in particular lab-grown meat, looks like the saviour humanity was waiting for. It will be cruelty free, greenhouse gases free and guilt free. At least that’s the promise.

Devon Ward and Oron Catts, Vapour Meat [HP0.3.1]alpha, 2018. Exhibition view. Image courtesy of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

Devon Ward and Oron Catts, Vapour Meat [HP0.3.1]alpha, 2018. Exhibition view. Image courtesy of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

Technological solutions like lab-grown meat come with ethical, ecological and economic costs that receive far less coverage in the press than the cheerful myths and fictions heralded by the proponents of the technology. As previous works by The Tissue Culture & Art Project have demonstrated time and again (from Disembodied Cuisine which pioneered the lab-grown meat practice to Stir Fly, a bioreactor designed to culture and farm in vitro insect meat at home), one of the most contentious aspects of tissue engineering is its use of fetal bovine serum as a nutrient for the cells. Harvested from unborn calves, usually by drawing the blood directly from the heart of the fetus after the pregnant mother is slaughtered, FBS enables the cells to grow and multiply into meat for our consumption.

There are plant-based alternatives to the FBS of course but their content and formulation is wrapped in IP claims, NDAs and secrecy. And if there’s one thing our food systems need almost as much as the eradication of cruel practices, it’s transparency. This fake meat lack of transparency is reflected in the language adopted by the industry: they talk of “clean meat” and of “cellular agriculture”, for example.

Besides, growing cells in this way is also grossly inefficient. It requires considerable amount of resources and engineering on several levels: replicating the experience of eating meat is not just a question of aspect and taste, it also involves the reproduction of the meat texture, elasticity, smell, etc.

Devon Ward and Oron Catts, Vapour Meat [HP0.3.1]alpha, 2018. Exhibition view. Image courtesy of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

Vapour Meat, by Devon Ward and Oron Catts tries to unpack the growing uneasiness with meat and the murkiness that surrounds its artificial duplicates. The work pushes the discourse around lab-grown meat to its most extreme limits by imagining a device that would enable meat lovers to vape the essence of lab-grown meat.

Vapour Meat casts a critical and sarcastic eye at an industry typified by eco-opportunism and a love for the techno fix (why stop eating meat and consume plant-based proteins when you can throw a bit of science on a problem?) Ward and Catts see lab-grown meat as a kind of vapourware, a term used in the computer industry to design a computer hardware or software product that is announced to the general public but is never actually manufactured nor officially cancelled. Which is pretty much what is happening with in-vitro meat, a technology that has been described as ‘just around the corner’ for years. Yet, it remains unclear how the technology will be scaled up beyond prototypes or how it will comply with appropriate safety standards and relevant regulations across nations.

Vapour Meat is an example of what Catts and Ionat Zurr call a work of contestable design. Instead of evoking the desirable objects and scenarios typical of speculative design, contestable design submits to public scrutiny scenarios that underscore future problematic uses of a technological or scientific process.

FAKE: Faux or no? at Science Gallery Dublin

Vapour Meat uses this scenario to posit a future in which we reach for the fake and the technological in lieu of the real. As such, it’s one of the most interesting and curious works you can see at FAKE: The Real Deal?, a free exhibition at the Dublin Science Gallery that asks if life is better when we embrace the artificial.

I’ll come back with a long and proper review of the show later on. In the meantime, i got in touch with Devon Ward to learn more about Vapour Meat:

Hi Devon! What’s in the vapour that makes it smell like meat? How did you develop this artificial smell?

The vapour is composed of a mixture of different essential oils, infused oils and spices. I used my home cooking as the starting point to develop the smell. Many of the elements are based on spices I use when cooking. Without giving too much away, the vapour liquid contains infused oils that include flavours like smoked paprika and cumin. There are also small amounts of essential oils including sandalwood and basil, which aim at a mixture of smoky and sweet.

Devon Ward and Oron Catts, Vapour Meat [HP0.3.1]alpha, 2018. Exhibition view. Image courtesy of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin

On the one hand, the work might also be seen as a demonstration of the absurdity and excesses of the whole synthetic and lab grown meat industry that requires so much efforts, technology and artifices in order to produce proteins that could be found elsewhere, in a ‘natural’ state. So how does a work like Vapour Meat position itself within the fake meat issue?

You’re right, Vapour Meat isn’t too far from what companies may soon be producing. We may see ‘clean’ meat products that adopt sophisticated food presentation techniques to sell in vitro meat to a niche market. I wouldn’t be surprised if these companies create products inspired by Rene Redzepi or David Chang. For instance, labs may start serving ‘clean’ rabbit caviar on a bed of locally sourced arugula topped with owl mousse and a GFP-infused salt. And if a waiter served it, I can almost hear them saying something like, “this dish is a taste of our current cultural moment. It gives you the flavour of our biotech terroir, something lab-crafted and home-grown, at the same time. It’s a lab-to-table experience…” We may even see products that reference Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook. Someone might make a dish based on his Chickenfiat, a dish made of chicken and ball-bearings. The ‘Clean’ Chickenfiat recipe might call for in vitro chicken cells grown over the surface of steel ball-bearings served in a Martini glass while you sit in the cockpit of a VR flight simulator with LCD windows that display an orbit around Jupiter. All of this is to say that we may see elaborate spectacles being employed in order to sell ‘clean’ meat. The ‘clean’ meat industry wants to replace farm-grown meat with lab-grown meat, but it may just end up creating high-end products that only a few people can afford. The individuals pushing these grand visions seem to really gravitate toward highly technical fixes. This idea was dealt with by Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr in works like Disembodied Cuisine and Victimless Leather. And, Oron wrote an article for The Conversation last year that tries to unpack the hype-cycle around the lab-grown meat.

Vapour Meat definitely builds off of these ideas. The way I see it, Vapour Meat is a critical piece that satirises the recent cultural developments around lab-grown meat. It attempts to draw parallels between the ails of start-up cultures and the ‘clean’ meat industry.

The name Vapour Meat was inspired by the term vapourware, which describes software that is heavily hyped in order to draw interest and investors, but which never delivers on its promises. In other words, vapourware is something that deals with marketing, speculation, ideal and utopia. The term seemed utterly relevant, so Oron and I developed Vapour Meat to explore the overlaps between vapourware and ‘clean’ meat. We created an absurd product that literally produces nothing but vapour, but attempts to convey the ‘essence of meat’ through smell and small quantities of desiccated mouse muscle fibres (C2C12s). The work seemed to critically engage with the big promises of the ‘clean’ meat industry—namely that it will replace animal farming and dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions. Could ‘clean’ meat theoretically solve major issues around animal farming? Sure, but I have trouble seeing ‘clean’ meat live up to its grand ideals. There may be a place for in vitro meat in the future, but it may just be another signifier of status, power and wealth. ‘Clean’ meat may just be a form of conspicuous consumption.

And why does the title also feature “HP0.3.1 Alpha”? What does this correspond to?

“HP0.3.1 alpha” comes from software development nomenclature, which includes a code name, version number, and development stage. It’s a bit of an Easter egg for anyone working with software. In general, because we wanted to explore the overlaps between software start-up culture and biotech start-up culture, the nomenclature was another way to communicate that connection.

The “HP” stands for homeopathic. We were unable to include in vitro meat cells in the liquid reservoir for health and safety reasons, so this reality became the code name for our project. The “0.3.1” is due to the fact that work at the Science Gallery Dublin is actually the third version. Vapour Meat was in development for a year and previous versions involved other artists, so we thought this was a fitting way to acknowledge their involvement. We labelled this version of the work “alpha” due to the fact that it’s still being developed further. Also “alpha” is used to designate “white-box testing,” which was appropriate for a gallery exhibition.

Thanks Devon!

The exhibition FAKE: The Real Deal? remains open at the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin until the 3rd of June 2018.

Tomorrow’s tailor-made cows

Management Polled, Doon just the job. © Maria McKinney

Production Graph, Cloondroon Calling (QCD) © Maria McKinney

The delicate and colourful sculptures that the bulls above are carrying on their back are made from semen straws. These plastic straws are storage receptacles used in the process of artificially inseminating cows. They come in a variety of colours to help distinguish between different bull’s semen while being stored in liquid nitrogen.

Each straw sculpture has been specifically crafted by artist Maria McKinney for the animal whose genetic signature it denotes.

McKinney‘s project Sire (a “sire” is a bull used specifically for breeding purposes) investigates genetics in cattle breeding. Through these sculptures and their photographic documentation, the artist not only explores the past and future of humanity’s efforts to shape nature but she also reveals the hidden systems behind beef and milk production.

Shaping the cow of the future © Maria McKinney

Maria McKinney, video (still from the video), 2016

In pre-Christian Europe, people would perform a series of rituals in an attempt to influence the future behavior of nature. One of these practices involved crafting corn dolls, a figurine made by binding straw with the final sheaf of that year’s crop.

Today, genomics and its deep understanding of the complex patterns held within the structure of DNA give us the ability to manipulate how nature behaves in future generations of animal and plant species. With this field of science, scientists are now able to direct breeding strategies and conceive more ‘profitable’ animals.

McKinney‘s photographs and sculptures consider the newly proposed breeding objectives to ‘design’ the cow of the future: it would have to produce a large quantity of milk and meat, present good reproductive performance, live a long and healthy life, be docile and easy to manage, have a low environmental footprint, etc.

Throughout her project, the artist was in constant dialog with scientists. She worked with quantitative geneticist Dr. Donagh Berry, genome biologist Prof. David MacHugh and Head of Veterinary Clinical Studies Prof. Michael Doherty. The artist also consulted with a veterinarian and worked closely with the animal’s handlers to ensure the animals were not made uncomfortable or distressed while making the work. As for the bulls themselves, they are pedigree animals from Dovea Genetic, an artificial insemination co-operative with a bull stud farm in Ireland.

One of the many reasons why i found McKinney‘s work important is that she not only shows her work in art galleries but she also exhibited the sculptures at events attended by the farming community, including the National Ploughing Championships, Ireland’s foremost annual outdoor agricultural show:

Live installation at the National Ploughing Championships, Tullamore, 2015 © Maria McKinney

I asked the artist how familiar farmers are with these fairly new breeding techniques. She explained me that “artificial insemination has been common practice for quite a few decades, whereas the use of genomics in cattle breeding has only been introduced in the last number of years. Farmers are being asked to put these breeding strategies into practice. They are the ones taking scientific theory into reality. They do however not blindly trust and often there is pushback from them, when they realize something that perhaps the scientists do not (in particular in relation to monetary gain promised by the scientific advantage). They know their animals and line of work very well, and I got the impression from speaking to some farmers that sometimes the ideal, controlled environment of scientific labs does not exactly always translate into the reality of farming.

And again, there is never a guarantee that the desired genetics of the bull will get passed down to the progeny (offspring).”

Longevity/Apoptosome, Black Water Lad © Maria McKinney

Reproduction/Chromosome, Templemichael Zebo © Maria McKinney

I was also curious (and naive) about the reason why artificial insemination is such a widespread practice. She told me that it is “because these animals are potentially dangerous to keep – at least a couple of people are killed every year by bulls in Ireland alone, so farmers do opt for artificial insemination.”

“The males of this bovine species are a lot more objectified than their female counterparts,” McKinney continued. “They are kept in basically quarantine farms like Dovea. They are treated very well here, probably some of the best pampered in the country. If they are not kept healthy both in feed and body, then it doesn’t matter how good their genetics are. Genetics is only really half of it. The environment an animal is kept in is equally important if they are to thrive and their positive genetics given the opportunity to express. This is the same for humans – I’ve been looking into epigenetics more recently.”

Maria McKinney, Sire at the Wellcome Collection (exhibition view.) Photo: Michael Bowles, Wellcome Collection

My favourite quote from our online conversation was a response to my concern about how we instrumentalize other living beings, how we customize them according to our desires:

“These bulls are more and more hidden away and people don’t really think about them. Most people do not realize the day to day reality for these animals. I realized once I made this work, that it actually made them visible again. People couldn’t turn away, as the photographs are large scale and are quite confronting. The animals mostly are looking directly at the camera. They are present.

I am of course concerned about the position of animals on earth today. We consider them so separate, forgetting our own animal origins. Yet, we have benefited from their nutrition for centuries. Their muscle has provided us with both sustenance and brawn (cattle were also draught animals before mechanization). They have fueled and helped build the society we now find ourselves, while we continually push them to the margins.”

Maria McKinney’s work is part of the exhibition Somewhere in Between, on view at the Wellcome Collection in London until 27 August 2018.

If the questions raised by McKinney’s project interest you, then you might enjoy the following podcast: The New Animals which looks at animals genetically engineered for human consumption.

The Seed Journey to preserve plant genetic diversity. An interview with Amy Franceschini

Seed varieties have declined significantly since the beginning of time. First, with plant domestication and now, increasingly, through homogenization, industrialisation, privatization and commodification of our seed stock. Independent groups are currently working as private protectors of genetic diversity by cultivating endangered varieties in their home gardens, sharing seeds with other seed savers, but also lobbying the EU to make sure that a new proposal for seed marketing regulation will promote agricultural biodiversity, small-farmers’ rights, global food security and consumer choices.

Flatbread Society Soil Procession, 2016. Photo by Monica Loevdahl

Futurefarmers Seed Journey, 2016. Photo: Nina Sahrauoi

The need for a robust and vibrant culture of seed diversity was one of the motivations that led Amy Franceschini and Futurefarmers to establish the Flatbread Society – a collective of farmers, artists, activists, scientists and other people involved in urban food production and preservation of the commons. Since 2012, the group have been working in a permanent “common” area on the waterfront development of Bjørvika in Olso, Norway. They built an urban farm, an allotment community, an ancient grain field and a bakehouse.

Last year, however, a delegation of the Flatbread Society embarked on a year-long sailing expedition that will take them from Oslo to Istanbul. On board is a rotating crew of artists, sailors, anthropologists, activists, writers, ecologists, etc. As for the cargo, it consists mostly of grain seeds that had been lost or forgotten.

Along their journey to the Middle East, where the cultivated grains originated, the members of the crew stop in harbours to meet artisan bakers and farmers, make flatbread, collect and exchange seeds but also document and retrace the journey that the seeds made thousands of years ago.

Artes Mundi 7: Amy Franceschini, founder of Futurefarmers explains the Seed Journey. Video Artes Mundi

I talked with Amy Franceschini a few weeks ago about the Flatbread Society’s extraordinary sailing adventure and about their efforts to raise awareness around the need for the development of plant genetic diversity.

Flatbread Society, 2016. Photo by Monica Loevdahl

Flatbread Society, 2016. Photo by Monica Loevdahl

Hi Amy! First of all, I’m quite curious about the seeds you’ve decided to take on this ‘reverse journey’ to Turkey. Which varieties of grains did you select exactly?

We started with a Finnish Rye. We came to this rye when searching for someone farming “ancient” grains in Oslo. We have been working on a public artwork in the former port of Oslo for the last 5 years. The center piece of this work is a grain field featuring ancient grains that have been rescued from interesting places. 

For example, this Finnish Rye was found between two boards in an old sauna used by the Forest Finns in the early 1900’s to dry their grains. 

This grain was thought to be lost, but an amateur archaeologist rediscovered it.

Our project in Oslo is located on a “commons” – a piece of land set aside within this waterfront development that should be accessible to all. We took the tradition of Norwegian commons to heart in this project and wanted these ancient grains to symbolize the biological commons which is currently at risk due to the privatization and commodification of our seed stock. 

“The return of ancient seeds is like reverse engineering, taking apart this long history fold-by-fold. This voyage is an allegory, one forever open to chance. Our participation from afar breathes wind into the sails of the future”
Michael Taussig, Seed Journey on-board ethnographer.

Flatbread Society Seed Collection, 2014. Photo: Futurefarmers

And why did you chose to travel with these particular seeds? 

Each of these seeds have a particular story of rescue associated with them. And through the planting and exchanging of them comes an awakening. For example, a variety of barley that we have with us came by way of St. Petersburg. Nikolai Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. He was one of the first scientists to really listen to traditional farmers, peasant farmers — and ask why they felt seed diversity was important in their fields. During the siege of Leningrad in 1941, Vavilov was imprisoned by Stalin where he starved to death. He became the main opponent of Stalin’s favored scientist Trofim Lysenko for his defense of Mendelian theory. Just a few blocks away in the Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry, Vavilov’s staff scientists locked themselves in the seed bank to diligently protect his seeds. Over half a million people starved to death during the 28 month siege while these twelve scientists filled their pockets with grains so that future generations would be able to grow food. When the allied troops arrived at the seed bank they found the emaciated bodies of the botanists lying next to untouched sacks of wheat and other edible seeds -a genetic legacy for which they paid with their lives.

Futurefarmers Seed Ceremony, 2017. Photo: Mads Hårstad Pålsrud

Futurefarmers Seed Ceremony, 2017. Photo: Mads Hårstad Pålsrud

Futurefarmers Seed Ceremony, 2017. Photo: Mads Hårstad Pålsrud

Another wheat we have is called Brueghel. During an archaeological dig in a church in Pajottenland, Belgium, charred rye and wheat seeds were found. The archaeologists and a group of local farmers call these found seeds Bruegelseeds because they date from the time of Bruegel, the old Belgian painter known for landscapes and peasant scenes.

A group of young farmers want to make a “BruegelBread”, a bread made in the landscape of Bruegel. For the moment all of the grain for human consumption in this region comes from abroad and they would like to reinstall a local chain from the ‘Bruegelseed’ to the ‘Bruegelbread’.

This April 1st, we summon this ancient Brueghel grain and imagine what Bruegel would paint or make in 2017. Futurefarmers will host a Seed Ceremony at the Heetveldemolen – Heetveld Windmill. On this day many farmers will gather to share their unique and local cultivated grains. A handful of Brueghel grain will be launched onto the Futurefarmers Canoe Oven and rowed from canal, river and into the Schelde to Christiania.

Flatbread Society, Futurefarmers’ Canoe Oven, 2013. Photo: Max McClure

This journey to the Middle East can be seen as an awakening of the memory—the long journey the grain itself has taken—through the hands of time.

— Michael Taussig, Now Let Us Praise Famous Seeds

Will you be collecting other seeds along the way?

Yes. Collect, share, collect.
We collect and share at each stop. We carry a small wooden boat that holds all of the seeds we collect.

Our mothership RS10 Christiania carries an ingeniously crafted mini-boat “like a chalice.” Containing small amounts of old wheat and rye seeds collected along the journey.

These seeds are like jewels. The disproportion in size between the small chalice and the mother vessel carrying it symbolizes preciousness as does the very idea of a prolonged voyage using wind and sail as the means of propulsion.
Michael Taussig, Let Us Now Praise Famous Seeds

The mini boat of RS10 Christiania. Image courtesy of Futurefarmers

The mini boat of RS10 Christiania. Image courtesy of Futurefarmers

What do you mean when you say that the seeds have been ‘rescued’? Rescued from what or whom? And how? To what purpose?

The latin root of the word “rescue” is to return.

The seeds we choose to carry with us are seeds that were either lost or fell out of production and then found again, like the stories I referred to earlier, or they are seeds that farmers have gotten out of gene banks that have not been grown for 30-80 years. These farmers are working to return these seeds to the ground and into production rather than sitting dormant in gene banks.

The seeds they are growing fell out of production before the green revolution, so they have not been homogenized. But if they are not grown each year as a landrace, they do not have the opportunity to adapt to their local growing environment; soil, weather and social desire – taste.

Our collaborator in Norway is very busy collecting grains out of gene banks and getting them into the ground. He says,

“We don’t need a museum to conserve varieties, what we want is to grow them. “
-Johan Swärd, Norwegian farmer, Brandbu

It is truly our only hope for shifting from the dominant agricultural framework to a smaller, more local scale production of food.

Flatbread Society, 2016. Photo by Monica Loevdahl

Flatbread Society, 2016. Photo by Monica Loevdahl

Flatbread Society (Baking workshop), 2016. Photo by Monica Loevdahl

Why is this important to use heritage grains?

Agribusiness supplanted locally adapted seeds with fewer varieties of seeds: until the late 19th century, most plants existed as highly heterogeneous landraces. Over the past century of modern breeding, attempts to produce cultivars that meet the advanced agriculture demands of an increasing population has resulted in the landraces being almost wholly displaced by genetically uniform cultivars. The result has been a narrowing genetic base that puts these plants and the future of food at serious risk.

And aren’t they threatened with being patented like other grains?

It is said that wheat and rye were domesticated in Kurdistan and through gift and trade not to mention wind, birds, and animals, made their way north to Europe to become the “staff of life.” These “old” seeds come loaded with an underground history at once social and biological. The domestication of plants involved a long march through trial and error, not to mention chance, whereby certain varieties became reliable foodstuff. It was a revolution in world history, ushering in what is called the Neolithic period with tremendous consequences, one of which, of course, was deforestation. Another was the birth of the state and private property. We sail along the cusp of many contradictions.

Cultivators in each and every micro-climate developed their own varieties of seed stock from their harvests to the present time when, all of a sudden, such practices have been declared illegal. Another revolution is afoot. Farmers who continue with old stocks are at risk of arrest. They too are now an endangered species. In referring to themselves as such they cement an alliance — biological and political — with the plant world, which is what Flatbread Society is doing as well.

At the moment, they are such a small market and the farmers who are bringing them back into production are not interested in profit as such, but sustainability. The ideal scenario for these seeds would be to stay small in scale in terms of production and very local, so that they are adapted to a local biotope, ecology, taste and weather. This would enable a very local, durable and resilient economy, but not one based on surplus or growth per se.

But yes, these seeds can be in danger of being collected by large companies, patented and homogenized.

For example, Tanzanian farmers are facing heavy prison sentences if they continue their traditional seed exchange.

Amy Franceschini / Futurefarmers, Flatbread Society, Seed Journey, 2016 -17. Prints, charcoal drawings, video, benches, sail, canary cage and performance. Artes Mundi 7 installation view, National Museum Cardiff, 2016

Amy Franceschini / Futurefarmers, Flatbread Society, Seed Journey, 2016 -17. Prints, charcoal drawings, video, benches, sail, canary cage and performance. Artes Mundi 7 installation view, National Museum Cardiff, 2016

Ever since I’ve followed your work, I’ve been amazed by the way you connect with audiences outside of the traditional art venues. So how do you communicate this project and the issues behind it (politics of food production, role of grains in the economy, environmental challenges, knowledge sharing, etc.) to the people you encounter along the way?

We still depend on the arts institution as our main support. They are a very important amplifier of our work. They have a much wider media reach than we do. Through them, we have the capacity to bring farmers onto a cultural stage, which in some cases validates their work as seminally cultural. For example, when we exhibited at the National Museum in Cardiff for the Artes Mundi Shortlist exhibition, we were able to host a Seed Ceremony / Exchange with the Welsh Grain forum. We hosted this in the National Library inside the National Museum. Since we had access to this space our project became more legitimate and we were able to extend this legitimization to the farmers work by inviting them. The farmers work became legitimatized as a cultural practice and was documented by the BBC which gives their work a voice.

As Seed Journey moves along its route, word gets out and when we arrive in small or large harbors we are often welcomed by a small group of hosts, a town mayor, the local newspaper and passersby. We try to announce our arrival when we know the time/day of our arrival- to the mayor of small towns, align with harvest, sowing festivals, align with maritime Community. Our boat has an allure in itself, so a few times when we arrive at a marina, the harbor master is quite proud to have us and calls the local media.

For us, the message must move beyond the art venue, but the art venue is a valuable collaborator.

RS-10 Christiania, 2010. Photo: Martin Hoy

RS-10 Christiania. Photo courtesy of Futurefarmers

And then there’s the RS-10 Christiania boat! It is stunning! How did you end up with that boat?

Be careful what you wish for. The whole idea of the Seed Journey was really a very seed of an idea provoked by a day out on the Oslo fjord with Lars Hektoen, a Norwegian alternative banker. We were discussing the idea that seeds were once the first currency in many places. I proposed the idea of sailing the seeds we had been growing in Oslo back to the middle east as a way to unravel this history and theories of how these seeds migrated and how surplus seed stock availed so many aspects of “civilization”.

He immediately said, “fantastic!” If you do such a journey, you must take a Colin Archer rescue sailboat. They are safe, steady and still are a few in Norway.

Through our commissioner in Oslo, a meeting was set up with the Petersen brothers, the owners of RS 10 Christiania (Rescue Sailboat Christiania). A mutual excitement about the project emerged and an agreement was made to sail her and our seeds to Istanbul.

The boat is a beautiful thread of our story. She is a slow and steady craft. You can feel her line of duty as she sails us towards the unknown.

She is also the most expensive part of our journey, which has proven to be a challenge and might force us to abandon ship in Leg 2 and transfer to another vessel. But we will be launching a Kickstarter campaign in mid-May to try to keep her and the Petersen’s with us. But if you already would like to donate, our homepage is accepting donations.

A side note, Christiania sunk in the north sea in 1995 – also a point of reference to rescue.

Flatbread Society Bakehouse, Oslo, Norway, 2016. Photo: Monica Loevdahl

Is there anything in its story or design that particularly connects with the Flatbread Society/Seed Journey project?

Flatbread Society is a durational public art project in Oslo Norway which includes a Grain field, a Bakehouse and 10 years + of artistic programing. The grainfield connects Norway’s agricultural heritage to the present, extending the metaphor of cultivation to larger ideas of self-determination and the foregrounding of organic processes in the development of land use, social relations, and cultural forms. The presence of this grainfield against the backdrop of the city of Oslo and the Barcode — its openness and fluidity — stand in stark contrast, culturally and physically, to the rational and rigid development in the surrounding areas of Oslo.

In 2015 a group of 75 people, swarms of bees and a colony of airborne and soil-based microorganisms gathered in a geo-location now called Losæter — a museum without walls where an expanding inventory of ancient grains are growing.

Since then, a selection of seven grains have been planted upon this new common area in Oslo. Each variety has been “rescued” from various locations in the Northern Hemisphere — from the very formal (seeds saved during the Siege of Leningrad from the Vavilov Institute seed bank) to the informal (experimental archaeologists discovering Finnish Rye between two wooden boards in an abandoned sauna in Hamar, Norway). Together with local farmers Johan Swård and Anders Naes, these seeds and the knowledge of how to grow, harvest, mill and bake them have become embedded in the project.

Horse plough in Losæter

Could you tell us a few words about the people who accompany you on this journey? What is their role and how did you select them?

The project inherited an imaginary early on. Each time we speak of this journey, it fills ones mind with joy, hope, and wonder as well as being viewed as a critical project that needs to be happening right now. There is an absurdity and persistence to the project that captures people.

Many people enlisted themselves and soon enough we had an incredible crew of artists, anthropologists, ecologists, farmers and sailors. The core crew was born out of a conversation in Gent, Belgium over two years ago whereby, we asked each other, “If you had to be on a boat with this mission, who would need to be on this journey?” At this point it was more of a fantasy, but we wrote down many names, and most of them are now formal crew members.

The idea is that a rotating crew of artists, scientists, writers and farmers research
interests influence the journey, but the grains ultimately guide the route. Seed Journey maps not only space, but also time and phylogeny: while the more familiar space yields a cartographic map, time yields history and phylogeny yields a picture of networks of relationships between and among living beings —relationships between cultural groups, but also between human and non-human living forms such as seeds, sea-life and the terrestrial species from the various places and times we will traverse.

You have travelled (or will have travelled? I don’t know where you are at the moment) from Oslo to Cardiff with the project. What will happen (or did happen) during the Cardiff stop? What did you find in Wales?

September 17, Oslo we departed with a Send Off procession from the FBS grainfield to a fleet of Colin Archer rescue boats and other smaller boats to send us off.

We headed to Cardiff via Denmark and London where we met farmers, bakers and brewers and eventually shared all of the seeds gathered with the Welsh grain forum (as described above).

On April 1, we will have a pre-send off gathering in Belgium in collaboration with Muhka and Middleheimmuseum and a host of farmers and millers from Pajottenland.

On April 18, we will formally send off from Antwerp en route to Istanbul via
Jersey Island (Morning Boat residency), San Sebastian/ Tabakalera and Santander/ Botin Foundation.

Seed Journey Broadside

What do you hope will be the impact of this reverse journey?

We try not to think in terms of “impact”. This is a work in progress and it still has a lot to tell us and to discover. We hope to protect this space without the terms of impact, outcomes etc. But of course a basic drive for the project is to raise the status of the small farmer’s work, validate this work, connect farmers in various locations so as to strengthen the network that is working to protect farmers rights and most importantly to keep the seeds in the hands of many rather than a few.

Thanks Amy!

Talking broiler chicken, germ maps and maggots with Andreas Greiner

Andreas Greiner, Monument for the 308 (detail), 2016. Exhibition view of Andreas Greiner. Agentur des Exponenten. GASAG Kunstpreis 2016, Berlinische Galerie, 2016. Photo: Harry Schnitger

Andreas Greiner has built a monument to the humble broiler. A 7 meter high 3D printed version of a real chicken that had lived and died in a battery farm in Brandenburg, Germany. The artist then installed the giant sculpture inside the main hall of the Berlinische Galerie. I haven’t seen it yet but it looks poignant. It has the imposing presence of a dinosaur skeleton, the photogenic appeal of an instagram star but the mistrustful contours of a chicken that has never seen trees, grass or the light of a sunny day.

Not that i’ve ever seen any broiler chicken alive. I’m just assuming, extrapolating and letting my mind wander. Because Greiner’s work excels at triggering your imagination: he quietly lays in front of your eyes some visually stunning concepts and ideas, he never suffocates them with explanations but lets you ponder upon them and draw your own conclusions about what they say about our society, economy and culture.

Andreas Greiner, Monument for the 308, 2016. Exhibition view of Andreas Greiner GASAG Kunstpreis 2016, Berlinische Galerie, 2016, Photo. Theo Bitzer

Monument for 308 shows that Greiner is comfortable working on the macro scale but he is also quietly building an impressive career engaging with the small (maggots, flies, algae, tiny crustaceans), and the very very small (microbes of all sorts.) Greiner works with living organisms (including himself when he decided to spend a week inside a gallery in the sole company of a few insects and plants), enrolling them as both subjects of careful reflection and as collaborators. His previous projects involved buying 40 litres of maggots and bringing them to the exhibition space until they turn into flies, composing music based on
 the luminous skin of a squid, convincing the Director of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin to consider a fly as a living artwork and provide for its well-being, photographing portraits of algae, carefully orchestrating explosions around Berlin, etc.

The young artist recently received the GASAG Art Prize, a recognition awarded to Berlin-based artists whose work dialogues with technology and science. I caught up with him to discuss chicken, bacterial maps and the perils of working with maggots:

Heinrich, Totus Corpus – full Body Portrait of a broiler, 2015, Photo: Theo Bitzer & Andreas Greiner

Hi Andreas! I find your chicken projects very moving. But then i’ve always had a soft spot for animals. Which kind of response and reflection do you hope to elicit with works like Monument for the 308 and Heinrich (poor poor little battery chickens)?

I’m not necessarily looking to provoke pity for Heinrich, the broiler chicken. How a person reacts to my works is of course not in my control, however I would like the viewer to reflect upon the issue. We create these animals for the sole purpose of our eating habits, this is a species, which would not exist like this were it not for humans intervention into their breeding behaviour and anatomy. Heinrich is a metaphor, he represents our contemporary age in which humans are the driving creative and destructive force on planet earth. If dinosaurs are a relic from the Mesozoic Era, broiler chicken would be a “monument” of now.

Andreas Greiner, fattened chicken Éléonore before CT scan in Berlin, 2015

Heinrich at the petting zoo in Berlin Tempelhof, 2015

Andreas Greiner, Ulrike (Euastrum oblongum) Electron scanning micrograph 2016 measurement: Andreas Greiner and Martina Heider, Bayerisches Polymerinstitut, University Bayreuth

After Heinrich died, his body underwent an autopsy. What did you learn from it?

Heinrich died a few months after I handed him over to a petting zoo. The autopsy found that he most likely died from a heart attack, probably because his body was just too heavy.

I found the description of the works on your website to be fairly neutral and factual but i couldn’t help wonder whether these works were trying to make a point about animal welfare, man-made forms of nature, the food industry or maybe even veganism?

They are pointing to all of those and more. Certainly they also reflect my personal view. There is a general disregard for certain animals, which we view as an objective mass – matter to be exploited to fit our needs. My works show this, but I chose to only have short, factual descriptions like for example the documentations on my website. The reception should stay open for individual interpretation. By dealing with issues such as factory farming, genetic manipulation or the identity of animals, of course, the viewer makes their own conclusions in the end.

Andreas Greiner, Every Fly is a Piece of Art, University of the Arts, Berlin, 2012

Andreas Greiner, Every Fly is a Piece of Art, University of the Arts, Berlin, 2012

Andreas Greiner, Every Fly is a Piece of Art, University of the Arts, Berlin, 2012

Andreas Greiner, Every Fly is a Piece of Art, University of the Arts, Berlin, 2012

Andreas Greiner, Every Fly is a Piece of Art, University of the Arts, Berlin, 2012

I was feeling less sorry for the maggots then flies in the work Every Fly is a Piece of Art. I’m wondering how the whole adventure unfolded though. Did you really manage to buy all available fly maggots in Berlin and did you manage to control the flies and channel them through the exit as you had hoped? It sounds to me like a wild project where so many elements can take a direction that wasn’t expected…

Yes, it was slightly chaotic. I conceived this work for the final exhibition of my masters at the University of the Arts in Berlin. Back in 2012 with a students budget it was impossible to buy all the flies in Berlin. I visited every fisherman shop that sells maggots though and bought a huge amount of their maggots in stock. Most of the salesmen were afraid to loose their clients if they sold all of their maggots to me in order to really buy all oft them I would have had to bribe the salesmen.

In the exhibition they started hatching and flying about. All the painting students of the other studios were mad at me because the flies landed on their freshly painted surfaces. They reacted by constructing fly traps, which turned my intentions around completely. I actually had to end the project earlier than the official end of the master class exhibition – at least half of the flies (about 100 000) hatched outside in nature. After this experience, I decided to only work with a few flies or one fly at a time because this is more foreseeable.

Your practice seems to be an interesting mix of collaboration with scientists and other experts along with processes that make control over the final artworks a bit difficult.  How important is it for you to be in control (or rather maybe not be in control) of the art piece you are developing?

I am interested in the processual aspects of sculpture and have integrated living organisms into many of my works. I call this co-authorship, as they co-create and transform the art work by the process of living. Uncontrollable biological processes are an integral part of the outcome of an art work.

By working with experts and scientists I am able to broaden and deepen my work by researching very specific topics and techniques. I am interested in an exchange between artistic and scientific knowledge.

Andreas Greiner, Spring Forward Fall Back, Lichthaus, Kunstverein Arnsberg, 2014. Photo: Vlado Velkov

Andreas Greiner, Spring Forward Fall Back, Lichthaus, Kunstverein Arnsberg, 2014. Photo: Vlado Velkov

Andreas Greiner, Spring Forward Fall Back, Lichthaus, Kunstverein Arnsberg, 2014. Photo: Vlado Velkov

Andreas Greiner, Spring Forward Fall Back, Lichthaus, Kunstverein Arnsberg, 2014. Photo: Vlado Velkov

I’m very curious about Spring Forward Fall Back and what you experienced during this cohabitation with an ecosystem you had created for you and for nature. What did you learn and observe during that week? How did the insects, plants and other living entities inhabit and modify the space over time?

I was invited by the Kunstverein Arnsberg for a show at the Lichthaus and decided to live in there for a week. It was an interesting experience. First of all I learnt, that spring in Arnsberg (in the Sauerland, Western Germany) starts later then in the rest of Germany. . In the beginning there were few insects, for example a single bumblebee got lost, it moved very slowly because of the cold. I brought a female moth with me from Berlin and later she actually attracted a local male moth. Insect match-making. By the end of the exhibit an ant colony had settled and the population of my animal co-inhabitants and plants had multiplied 5 times.

Andreas Greiner &, Julian Charrière, Dominions, 2011, collecting microbes at Schwarze Pumpe, Brandenburg

Andreas Greiner &, Julian Charrière, Dominions, 2011, example of an expressed growth pattern by microbes

Andreas Greiner &, Julian Charrière, Dominions, 2011, collecting microbes at Elsdorf, Brandenburg, Nordrhein-Westfalen

Andreas Greiner &, Julian Charrière, Dominions, 2011, exhibition view

In Dominions you created bacterial maps of Germany and Switzerland. From the photos and videos on the project page, it seems that you collected the microbes from very specific and interesting looking locations. Could you tell us about these places and what guided your selection of them as well as of the selection of the microbes?
And what links the humble microbes with the title of the work, Dominions?

The project was a collaboration with Julian Charrière when we were still students at Olafur Eliasson‘s Institute for Spatial Experiments. We selected places in Germany and Switzerland. Some were biographically relevant (our birthplaces in Germany and Switzerland) and others were geographically important places, such as the highest mountain in Germany, the three border triangle between Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, the eastern most point of Germany, etc. We brought sterile boxes filled with a plane layer of white culture medium for microgerms (comparable to an unexposed film or white canvas) and exposed them to the surroundings for 30min each. The collected bacteria and spores expressed different patterns and colours back in Berlin under vitrine glass.

By selecting germs from all these chosen places we reconstructed a map of Germany and Switzerland, which is not based on socio-political conventions, but defined by the microorganisms populating these areas. It’s a reference to landscape painting or photography – a snapshot of the non-perceiveable micro-landscape in the air. We humans assume to have over our landscapes with roads, cities and railways criss-crossing though the country. But it’s microorganisms, like algae and bacteria, which cover the earth and have dominion over it.

Speaking of humble lives, what is it that attracts you to the underdogs like microbes, algae, maggots, broiler chickens, etc?

One of the challenges of art is to visualize things: show things from a different perspective, or things that are generally not seen. There is a staggering mass of life that we humans never visually appreciate: industrial broiler chicken, deep-sea squids, algae which are too small to be visible, or insects, because we find them repulsive. I consider the way we interact with our surroundings very telling of our species and our times.

From Strings to Dinosaurs shown at the exhibition cycle “MULTITUDES”, curated by Anna Henckel and Nadim Samman, at Import Projects and Cycle Music and Art Festival, 2015

EExhibition view of “Andreas Greiner. Agentur des Exponenten. GASAG Kunstpreis 2016”, Berlinische Galerie, 2016. Photo: Harry Schnitger

Any upcoming project, field of research or event you could share with us?

This month, I have two exhibitions in Berlin: Golden Gate together with Armin Keplinger at Kwadrat and DAS NUMEN MEATUS at Dittrich and Schlechtriem. The finissage of my exhibition in the Berlinische Gallerie is on the 6th of February, where Tyler Friedman and I will show the work From Strings to Dinosaurs. The algae in the reactor will be placed on top of the self-playing piano and illuminate during the musical composition.

Künstler Andreas Greiner in seinem Atelier in der Malzfabrik, Berlin Tempelhof Foto: Mike Wolff
Artist Andreas Greiner in his Berlin workshop. Photo: Mike Wolff in Der Tagesspiegel

Thanks Andreas!

To Flavour Our Tears – A restaurant where insects can feast on us

Image Center for Genomic Gastronomy

A few years ago, entomologist discovered that some moths and bees suck the tears from underneath the eyelids of birds and mammals (including humans) while they sleep. The insect attaches itself to the eyelid, then its mouth, shaped like a harpoon, starts sucking salt-rich liquid from the eyes. Some moths have also been recorded drinking sweat and fluids from the nose. Apparently, there’s even a species in eastern Russia that feeds on man’s blood.

Chaeopsestis ludovicae drinking tears from the eye of the author who photographed himself . Courtesy of Hans Bänziger, via

The Center for Genomic Gastronomy, a group of artists who collaborate with scientists to explore the biotechnologies and biodiversity of human food systems, is currently working on an experimental restaurant that investigates the culinary properties of our tears, and the culinary needs of insects and other eaters-of-humans. How do you taste to the small organisms that consume parts of you everyday, and every last bit of you when you die? How can humans manipulate our bodies, diet & emotions to change our own flavour?

I loved this idea that insects could exploit us for culinary purposes and in the gentlest possible way. It would be payback time for them! Insects, after all, are touted as the next superfood. They are supposed to a great source of proteins, are widely available and when the ones you fancy are not around, breeding worms, bugs and other insects have less impact on the environment than breeding pigs. I’ve seen insect snacks in Dutch supermarkets, Belgian ones and in my favourite English organic food stores. You may find the idea horrifying but it appears that we’re already eating them every day.



The Center for Genomic Gastronomy’s insect project, To Flavour Our Tears, was exhibited last month at the Pixelache exhibition in Helsinki and i think the work was a perfect fit for this year’s Pixelache theme: Interfaces for Empathy. Visitors were invited to think of their body as a restaurant, and start to cook and flavour themselves in a way that insects would find nutritious and flavoursome:

Humans believe we have spent the last 10,000 years domesticating species of all sizes, shaping the planet in our image. Perhaps the tear-drinking insects have been domesticating us the entire time, and they are now ready to farm our tears more intensively. Should we be attempting to repel, attract or give thanks to those that dine on us?

During the festival, the Center was handing out recipes (see images at the bottom of this story), offering the possibility to call an expert every day at 6pm to know more about the scientific background of theproject, collecting tears that were then dehydrated into salt, etc. They even had us lay down on a bed with a little ‘eyephone’ to listen to the testimony of Dr. Hans Bänziger, a Swiss psychologist and writer who let moths drink his tears.

An instrument to help you harvest your own tears

“We are calling this kind of research into flavouring oneself “AUTOGASTRONOMY,” said Zach Denfeld, co-founder of the Center together with Cathrine Kramer. “It is both metaphoric and quite possibly implementable. Where possible, at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy we try to stay true to our materials, assembling real organisms and ingredients in new configurations and find ways that we can give people the taste of the world we are imagining / speculating, and have them put the art directly into their body (or their body into to the art sometimes). We will be looking for ways to get closer to the real moths, but we will continue to search for other organisms that find parts of humans particularly tasty.”

Michael Pollan, A plant’s-eye view, 2007

“Even though our work often consists of Material Speculations I think the TFOT project is taking us down a more theoretical or non-material speculative approach,” he continued. “We are starting to ask questions about whether or not humans are or have been cultivated by non-humans, and how do we even go about exploring that possibility. Are we being farmed and harvested? Michael Pollan gave a talk back in 2007 asking “What if human consciousness isn’t the end-all and be-all of Darwinism? What if we are all just pawns in corn’s clever strategy game to rule the Earth? Author Michael Pollan asks us to see the world from a plant’s-eye view.” As this project moves forward, I could foresee us finding new ways to ask if humans are being cultivated / co-evolving with various agricultural species.”

To Flavour Our Tears Restaurant, a restaurant concept where the human body is regarded as a series of ingredients that are flavoured

In my exchange with Denfeld, he raised another interesting point: the most health-conscious of us are actually already tending to the needs and preferences of our microbiota, the aggregate of bacteria, fungi, archaea and other microorganisms, that resides on or within a number of tissues and biofluids. We know that ingesting more prebiotic food and probiotics is beneficial to the happiness of our gut microbiota, for example. The restaurant would thus be the next, less anthropocentric, step. We would make ourselves more tasty to non-human species that consume us.

Recipe cards:

Tear Catchers / Lacrimatory

Saprophytic Supper (from the word saprophyte, an organism, especially a fungus or bacterium, that derives its nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter)

For the second installation of the restaurant at the Jyväskylä Art Museum in Jyväskylä, Finland, The Center for Genomic Gastronomy took samples from people’s skin, hair and from around the room, looking for dust-mites and other eaters-of-human in our DIY microscope.



If you want to know more about The Center for Genomic Gastronomy’s research, i can’t recommend their publications enough. They are as entertaining as they are informative and eye-opening. There’s already 3 issues of Food Phreaking, a booklet about meat-free proteins titled Pray for Beans, and a rather brilliant Experimental Eating,


Previous stories about the Pixelache festival: Pixelache 2016 – Interfaces for Empathy, Pixelache 2016: Architectures for the Other Side and Pixelache 2016: The Science of Empathy.