nicolatwilley

Hosted By:

Nicola Twilley

Food Editor, GOOD / Author, Edible Geography / Co-founder, Foodprint Project

Dec 13

2010

The design of food has the potential to reshape the world, let alone what we eat for dinner. Food—the substance itself, as well as its methods of production and consumption—has always been the subject of tinkering and design. The color of carrots, the shape of silverware, and the layout of supermarkets are all products of human ingenuity applied to the business of nourishment. Today, food is being redesigned more fundamentally and at a faster pace than ever before. This process is taking place in a wide variety of different contexts, with very different goals in mind, from corporate food technologists re-shaping salt crystals to maintain palatability while combating heart disease, to synaesthetic experiences designed by artist-entrepreneurs such as Marije Vogelzang.

In an era when food justice, food security, climate change, and obesity are such pressing issues, should there be public funding for food design R&D, and, if so, who should be receiving it?


ethelbaraona

Ethel Baraona Pohl

dpr-barcelona

Ethel gave the final word

-Should there be public funding for food design R&D?

Food as collective knowledge evolves. In this sense we can infer that it has a sort of “swarm design” implicit on it. Research has sense in order to register and describe food and pre-industrial systems associated (e.g. seed-bank)

It was pointed out above that “Food is not just what is edible”, but also all the linked activities (food systems as differentiated by Nam). Those systems, developed after the Green Revolution, have generated a series of problems due to its obsession on productivity. Systems should be designed in order to improve them under parameters of equity and non-monetary wellness. I consider that public funding for R+D on food systems should be enhanced in that direction.

Closely related to food delivery systems is what Nicola claimed at the very beginning of the conversation: Food Justice. In this case debate necessarily goes from geopolitical implications and equity subject of our consumption system, in which the western world access to food is granted by the perpetuation of unfair relationships with developing countries as shown in documentaries as Darwin’s Nightmare; until arriving to the right of cities inhabitants to access healthy, low carbon impact food.

-Who should be receiving funding?

It would be desirable that research funding may be oriented to enhance the suppression of extra energy consumer agents into the food chain system (e.g. massive crop fields, transportation, warehousing).

As examples of local initiatives that can be subject of funding we can mention Food-Justice in California or Slow Food movement in some countries of Europe

Related with creative incubators mentioned by John at the very beginning of the debate we can list La ciudad Jubilada on the urban gardens tended by retired person at the margins of the rivers of Barcelona or the activist-like approach of Food+Tech Connect

Finally; we all haven’t mentioned another key question while talking about public research funding on food systems: Who will get the ownership of the knowledge generated? Practices such as Monsanto’s had shown us that big corporations can take advantage and get profit of ancient agriculture knowledge (maize is a domesticated plant). This fact makes us think that it would be fair that all this kind of research should be open source oriented, to avoid private profit of social funded knowledge.

Friday, December 17 at 1:23pm

carlyhagins

Carly Hagins

designer, adjunct professor

I’m not sure what the benefits of public funding for food design R&D would be…

Overall, it would be most beneficial to use the resources that are already out there to increase food education. While the definition of ‘healthy’ can be contested (vegan vs. vegetarian vs. Atkins etc.), comprehensive (and effective) food education in schools would help children and adults become more conscious consumers. That one step could have a dramatic impact on all the issues you mentioned. Jamie Oliver’s food revolution, I think, has the right idea.

I believe that food design R&D will continue at a steady clip even without public funding. People are interested and connected to food; food brings us together and has a way of creating bonds that few other things can emulate. People will continue to play with their food as long as we’re still eating it.

Monday, December 13 at 10:23am

sarahrich

Sarah Rich

Writer, Editor, Co-Founder of Foodprint Project and Longshot Magazine

In theory, I think it’s a great idea to make public funds available for food design R&D. As you say, though, food system (and product) innovation is happening in so many contexts and with so many different goals, it’s hard to know whether public funds would be able to simultaneously support diverse approaches while still driving research forward. I would be concerned that the money would either get concentrated among a few recipients (possibly leaning away from experimentation) or would be so distributed that it would not make a great impact.

I agree with Carly that the R&D that’s already taking place—particularly at the more radical fringes—will continue simply because of the fervent interest in the topic. And we’ll continue to glean useful lessons and tools from the more far-out work, as well as from more “mainstream” initiatives like Obama’s and Oliver’s.

The other thing I wonder is whether the concept of “food design”—the term itself—really has enough of a commonly understood meaning for potential funders (ie, the government) to want to support it. It strikes me as a term that could be interpreted many ways, and which could be viewed as too esoteric to promise concrete results. Maybe it needs to be broken down into systems design, agricultural design, behavioral design, nutrition design, product design, etc—or maybe we need to write up some sort of formal definition of “food design” and delineate the many human and environmental issues that it touches and why it’s critical to shaping the future.

Monday, December 13 at 12:31pm

I find myself in concert with Carly and Sarah’s thoughts. As Carly rightly points out, the food’s contemporary development already has huge momentum and innovation in market-oriented spaces. And, as Sarah outlines, there are inevitable, built-in issues with public funding (goes in the wrong amounts to the wrong places). This leads one to be reserved about imagining public funding as *the* big solution in the food-innovation space. However, given the breadth of what food design might include, the dynamism of the field, and the rigidities built into public funding, I do think there is one format, initially publically-funded, that could really add a huge amount of value, which is the “food entrepreneur incubator.” Incubators in all sorts of fields take young talent with amazing ideas and connect them to the financial and social capital required to turn that idea into a thriving, independent venture. Public money focused on a food design incubator would deliver results, over the medium- to long-term, that would dwarf the initial investment. Not only would it foster exciting new businesses, the network of these businesses would develop a culture and a critical mass that could really shift things in the directions we seek. This model can scale up infinitely, as successful alumni businesses repay the incubator’s initial capital investment and the incubator reinvests those fund in another cohort of up-and-coming food geniuses. Instead of the zero-sum game of NIH or arts council grants, incubators create a virtuous cycle that motors along on its own.

Monday, December 13 at 12:51pm

I’m glad Sarah questioned the term “food design,” since to me it sounds like the very opposite of what most advocates of changing the way we eat want. It is important to realize that we were messing with our fruits and vegetables long before Monsanto, and to question whether genetically altered apples (for storage, or whatever) are any more or less creepy than molecularly altered salt (for taste).

I’d argue that if the government should be funding any aspect of food design r&d it is delivery systems. What seems much more important to me than education is things like redesigning the lunch line (as in a recent NYT Op-Ed) in ways that make kids pick up more apples, making (local) apples available in more places at more reasonable prices, and so on.

I can understand the pushback from people in places like West Virginia, site of Jamie Oliver’s show, who feel like they are being lectured and told to throw out all their old recipes. The reason food is so interesting and emotional is that it is our culture and our families, and I think the government should get involved in expanding options and affordability, not backing specific food design products or reducing choice.

Monday, December 13 at 1:42pm

    Comments so far situate food design in the context of issues such as such as education, health and social inequality.

    In it’s current manifestation “food design” is more happily placed within the arts sphere. Practitioners tend to share the same aims, methods and enthusiasms as artists. Though their work can act as social commentary it is primarily consumed by the design community and gallery going public.

    Perhaps any funding should be along the lines of arts funding.

    Monday, December 13 at 6:14pm

    carlyhagins

    Carly Hagins

    designer, adjunct professor

    Alexandra: could you elaborate on what you mean by ‘delivery systems?’

    I question whether it is better to redesign lunch lines so kids pick up more apples, or to teach the kids that apples are the right choice and encourage them to seek healthier alternatives on their own? Childhood obesity is a huge issue, but so is adult obesity, particularly in the US. I would argue that giving kids the knowledge to make good choices as opposed to just giving them a better laid-out lunch line would have the greater long-term effect.

    In the same vein, wouldn’t many people, informed of the benefits of buying locally, make the choice to search out local produce (even at a sometimes higher price)? Farmers are already heavily subsidized by the government, and I am not sure that more public funding is the answer in that arena, either.

    Monday, December 13 at 7:13pm

    ethelbaraona

    Ethel Baraona Pohl

    dpr-barcelona

    Nice point Alexandra:

    I agree with Sam that in current situation food as design is related mainly within art sphere. In fact, private corporations mainly communicate their R+D results to the consumers in the [difficult-to-understand] nutrition facts that appear at one side of the food packaging, where the expiration date is the only “relevant” information we finally look for.

    Going back to the “designed” approach to the subject, it comes to my mind two recent experiences like e-pintxo where cooking, artificial intelligence and avant-garde art are combined in an interactive interface in order to invent “pintxos” (small Basque appetizers)

    The second one focus on gastronomy and nutrition under scientist’s eyes; the exposition Cooking Science: Condensed Matter
    bringing out the debate of cooking as an art manifestation while also a scientific subject.

    By the way delivery chain system is another tough question while deals with our transportation models and the resulting infrastructure defining the shape of our cities… but let’s write on it below.

    Friday, December 17 at 7:45am

timhayward

Tim Hayward

Editor, Fire & Knives magazine

It’s a tough question, particularly as I find the idea of industrial scale involvement in food production fundamentally unpleasant.

But…we have now gone past the point where we could ever return to a pre-industrial scenario of producing and trading our own food – even if such a scenario were desirable. Food production is industrial and technological and will remain so forever and there’s, on the face of it, no logical reason why the food produced shouldn’t be good, healthy, affordable and universally available.

Except that, leaving food production to market forces and to the desires of a consumer base led, sheep-like by mass marketing, has led to appalling results.

Food has to be ‘designed’; funding by the market has failed signally; it seems, therefore that public funding is all that’s left

Monday, December 13 at 6:14pm

    Where do you think it should go to Tim?

    Monday, December 13 at 6:19pm

To respond briefly to Carly. I guess I think most kids and adults, whatever their income level, already know apples are a healthier choice. If obesity is an epidemic, don’t we want to find the way to get more people eating more apples and less French fries, rather than focusing on creating a cultural shift (trickier, definitely non-governmental) that would make apples more appealing to the majority than French fries? A lot of food education efforts I have seen (about recycling as well as eating) do an excellent job laying out the problem and the right thing to do, less good a job at easing the path to the right thing to do.

And no, I don’t think “many people, informed of the benefits of buying locally, make the choice to search out local produce (even at a sometimes higher price)?” I don’t think it is an option for many people, particularly those most vulnerable, for reasons of time and money. See, for example, this recent article from Newsweek (http://bit.ly/aeSgMf).

I agree about public funding for farmers. But many new food solutions suggest more funding for the “right” kind of farmers: smaller, fewer or no pesticides, distributed locally. The recent effort to make food stamps accepted at farmers markets comes to mind as a delivery system that makes a lot of sense.

Monday, December 13 at 8:57pm

Soylent Green is people!

Kidding aside, I’m wondering where to begin amidst the vast palette of possible notions of what “designed food” is or could be. At what might be one end of a putative spectrum, we’re already surrounded publicly-funded food design, if we include the processed food industry ranging from the agribusiness produce of the green revolution to fortified and processed staples like flour and milk to chemically-engineered flavorings and nutritional supplements, many of which can trace their roots to publicly-funded labs, and all of which certainly are shaped by regulatory initiative, which undeniably express a kind of urge to design. Many aspects of this food design paradigm had their origin in progressive impulses, from engineering an end to the scourge of pellagra to easing womens’ load of kitchen-work (or in lieu of progressive origins, ameliorative post-hoc justifications were conconcted).

And then at another end there is food design as in “designer food,” the culinary equivalent of Gucci or grunge or acid-washed jeans, a perfectly recognizable spectrum of capitalist invention. When I see Marije Vogelzang’s sugargun lollipop and marshmallow icebergs, their invention makes me smile–and then I can’t help thinking of the sort of decadent, ritualized ironies of the banquets enjoyed by the Bourbon kings, with towering Bastilles in marzipan and goose eggs nestled terrines of swans’ tongues warmed until the eggs are ready to hatch. There is a much finer line than we like to think between “end obesity” and “let them eat cake.”

Somewhere between those two is poles, we find the salt crystals engineered to combat heart disease. Science in the public interest, ameliorative and palatable, at once liberating and coercive. But isn’t heart-healthy salt essentially the perfect and necessary complement to sugar-free sweeteners, decaffeinated coffee, fat-free ice cream, to all of these products that say, have as much as you like, that act as this kind of parody of soma, promising more and more while giving less and less, maintaining all the while our relentless juggernaut of toiling to consume.

I’m not finding a happy way out here… let’s see. I’m not terribly hopeful about food design that make us better consumers. I like the arts-and-humanities funding notion for fine-arts food design–but then projects like that have to be allowed to fail, right? The very protection that public funding offers them will likely serve to domesticate them, to limit their paradigm-shifting potential to a small dining table of hungry (but not too hungry) cognoscenti. I should end with a question, then. Where is the world-changing power of design to be found in food? Is it in systems of production, in culinary invention, in nutrition, in dissemination of knowledge? Or is it in collective, convivial, small-scale acts that retrieve the simple original meaning of consumption?

Tuesday, December 14 at 12:15am

    michelechampagne

    Michele Champagne

    Designer and writer

    Matthew, I like your term “designer food”. It’s perfect; It’s what I meant when I put “food design” between brackets.

    Friday, December 17 at 6:36am

chrishamby

Chris Hamby

City Planning Student

High tech foods are part of the problem. If public funding goes into any research, the research should improve food networks to better provide healthy whole foods across incomes and geographies.
Reshaping salt crystals is exciting technology, but we shouldn’t be focused on creating a healthier potato chip. The market as it stands today is focused on re branding and reselling prepackaged food. Eating habits need to change, not the food itself.
Food infrastructure and funding should be aimed towards making fruits and vegetables as affordable and accessible as a Frito-Lay product. Since the largest private companies today do not have public health as their top priority, there is definitely a role for public funding here.

Tuesday, December 14 at 11:31am

adamlerner

Adam Lerner

Museum Director

I think it is interesting that so much of this conversation has focused on language.

“Food Design” is a term that speaks directly to youth culture and the DIY generation. It inspires creative people to think about how they might be able express their individuality and their values through food. Also, because design is an active term is helps people think about how they might act to improve their world in relation to food.

“Food Wellness” might be a better term when speaking about public funding and R&D. Whatever term it is, it would have to speak to a broader audience and engage in the discourse of social welfare.

Tuesday, December 14 at 3:49pm

nicolatwilley

Nicola Twilley

Food Editor, GOOD / Author, Edible Geography / Co-founder, Foodprint Project

Really interesting responses so far — thank you!

I like Sarah’s suggestion that food design needs to be better defined, and even categorised in some way, in order to identify the best funding opportunities, as well as Alexandra’s reminder to consider food infrastructure and distribution R&D as an overlooked category that might offer better return on investment.

Carly, I am interested in the way your response raises a question of the balance between consumer responsibility and government regulation. Is money better spent “nudging” consumers toward environmentally-sustainable and healthy choices in a marketplace filled with tempting alternatives, or would it be more effective to invest in hybridising climate-change resilient crops or micro-nutrient enriched “food-ceuticals”? I tend to agree with Alexandra that placing too much weight on educating consumer to make the “right” choices does not take into account the obstacles that lie in the way of making those choices, and thus can’t succeed on its own.

I heartily agree with Sam that sheer speculative artistry has a huge value, and that the arts funding model, which doesn’t necessarily seek to quantify use-value or impact, could work well applied to food. I’d still like to see that integrated into a larger future food design R&D portfolio making investments along a spectrum, from hard-core science to speculative scenarios.

I’m interested in the public/private partnership model articulated in John’s incubator proposal. It offers the opportunity to channel market efficiencies in the service of social and environmental goods. In fact, Toronto has been a leader in this area, as John, Sarah, and I discussed at Foodprint Toronto… Are there more opportunities to tie public funding to positive outcomes within a corporate framework? Does that risk overlooking ideas that could have a big impact but offer no realisable financial returns, such as the lunch-line redesign that Alexandra brings up?

I should also add that I asked the question from the position of thinking that there should be public funding for food design R&D. Like Tim, I think there needs to be an alternative to corporate investment. I also think the potential benefits of smart food design are significant enough to warrant public investment. If Kraft or PepsiCo think it worth their while to invest vast sums exploring and shaping the future of food, shouldn’t we have an opportunity to set research priorities too — as citizens, rather than consumers?

Keep it coming!

Tuesday, December 14 at 4:36pm

I think the word design is being taken too literally by some of the other respondents here; “design” also needs to be understood outside of the more openly scifi-inflected scenarios presented here, with things like new salt crystals and bioengineered synaesthesia. “Design” should also be put back into the context of things as basic as “the color of carrots,” mentioned in the initial framing of the question. After all, food is always already being designed and redesigned, every time a low-tech fruit or vegetable is harvested and every time an animal is cut down through particular butchering practices and served on the table. A useful but by no means unique example is Eiswein, a fully “designed” wine because the exact same grape, deliberately harvested later in the season, results in a radically different wine.

In any case, I say all this because, if we understand food design to refer to a much larger set of practices, and not just to faceless scientists in lab coats, then we see that it is literally happening everywhere, all the time, and that food design R&D is, in fact, coextensive with all human eating practices. The raw and the cooked, indeed.

But there are two specific things I want to throw out there.

One is that the original question’s reference to “the layout of supermarkets” brings up the spatial, immersive, and even performative dimensions of food design. If the architects of supermarkets—not to mention restaurants, bars, even 7-11s and so on—were to take on the issues of food design, food security, future foods, a healthy populace, etc. as serious spatial challenges, what effects might result? How would the everyday spaces in which we encounter food be altered and adapted? Indeed, would anything different happen at all?

The other thing I want to drop in here is simply a reiteration of the point that, whether we want this to be happening or not, food is being redesigned—it doesn’t matter if it’s Frito Lay redesigning salt, Perdue redesigning chicken breasts, or the U.S. military redesigning lightweight energy bars, radical examples of food design R&D are already happening. In fact, the most recent TV advertising campaign for Sam Adams appears to be nothing but a backstage glimpse of that company’s beer design R&D strategies—and recent ads for Domino’s Pizza, in which a “focus group” is unwittingly driven out to visit a Domino’s tomato-supplier, also seem to indicate that today’s corporate food-design world is trying to reveal itself to the public (or at least give off the illusion that it wants transparency).

We needn’t look very far to see that there are already massive amounts of funding for food design R&D, even that money it does occasionally go to groups whose ambitions are less than morally commendable.

With this in mind, then, I don’t think it’s useless to wonder what might yet come down the pike—what future foods are being designed out there, by whom, and where their money is coming from. When I mentioned this particular Glass House Conversation on my own blog, a commenter joked that DARPA might yet involve itself in what could be called the intestinal redesign of U.S. soldiers so that more foods—that is, more material substances—would become metabolically available to them on the battlefield. Whether or not this particular vision becomes true, it seems like a very real and valuable question here to ask when and how tax-funded organizations like DARPA might involve themselves in the global food supply, and what they will do to it once they get there.

Similarly, if there were to emerge something like a food-themed X-Prize, who might sponsor it, why, and what might this hypothetical prize seek to produce? Would we just see more TV dinners and microwavable trays? Nonperishable vitamin capsules? More GM crops that outbreed native species? Or something wonderful, globally affordable, and humane? Who knows.

Being inclined toward dystopia, I don’t necessarily think that any of these things—DARPA foods, X-Prize nutrition—are good ideas, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be thinking about them. Why not be intellectually—even legally and constitutionally—prepared for certain future food scenarios, no matter how dark or unusably science fictional they might at first seem?

Tuesday, December 14 at 4:54pm

maxcohen

Max Fowler Cohen

Executive Director, Parley Creative Group

I don’t think that there should be public funding for food design R&D. I don’t think that food design has been expressed here as a particularly workable concept, in that I think there have already been innumerable attempts at redesigning food in recent history, and the ongoing answer seems to be to just eat that which is naturally occurring, with minimal processing. By first adding the word design to it, and then by declaring it off-limits to non artists (or Frito-Lay salt engineers, or whomever else the “experts” are), we’re making food be something it just doesn’t need to be. Modernism has a big food problem, and this is that modernism encourages a certain level of social complexity which is often reflected in new commercial products, and food, at least at the grocery-store level, doesn’t always fit this model of consumption very well (ironic, right?). Over the millennia, humans have already designed their own food through cultivation even as they co-evolved with it. Why forego the results of thousands of years of ancestral “food design” (read: cultivation) which we already have access to?

The whole problem with food today is that instead of choosing and cultivating our own sources of sustenance, food choices are too-often made for us by some corporate food-provider somewhere else. Who ever even thought it was a good idea to produce potato chips? Clearly people will eat chips and soda, but there are entire neighborhoods of Washington DC where those things are all there is, and I understand that it’s the same in other American cities as well. Sure, chips had to get popular, so clearly there was some demand for them, but there are people growing up in the United States for whom potato chips, soda, and other highly processed “foods” are among the only consumable items on sale within walking distance of where they live. Redesigning potato chips does, in fact, miss the point.

I agree with Alexandra that food delivery systems are the real challenge here, and ultimately, beyond this debate, the subject worthy of more serious attention. One thing that frustrates me from time to time about design discourse is that while there’s a lot of room to design and redesign the physical in the world, people seem to have a lot more trouble with the design of complex systems that may have intangible parts, like food supply routes, which are made up of many discrete things: the food, the roads, the food trucks, the production and destination points, but all of these pieces are unified to form a larger- if more formless- thing by their common purpose, and that isn’t something you can see if you look at problems of malnutrition, obesity, and other health challenges, and say “let’s redesign the food again.” It’s not food design that we need more of, but perhaps “eating design” -something I could actually support. Ultimately, nothing substitutes for good judgment and good habits, nor for simple, good food.

Tuesday, December 14 at 6:51pm

In the west our media and commercial food industries are staking their claims on the last pieces of moral and aesthetic high ground in an effort to exploit our patterns of conspicuous consumption. Our tastes in food are being driven by our unprecedented access to global resources.
It’s hard to deny that form follows function in the food world (the one that includes other animals). The dominant critical discourses about food relate invariably to the use of design in the production, value adding, preservation, packaging, and marketing of food.
Commercial food producers, value adders, and retailers are the largest stakeholders in the food design sector. They have arguably used design to manufacture the consent of consumers thereby manifesting a pre-eminence of form over function.
Should there be public funding for food design? I say no. The government should be funding greater knowledge of the first principles of food production and value adding for the general public as only this will drive demand in a direction that can reform food design.

Tuesday, December 14 at 10:57pm

carlyhagins

Carly Hagins

designer, adjunct professor

Geoff brings up a really interesting point with the word “design.” As an industrial designer, I’m inclined to think design = mechanical, controlled processes and their products. That is in a lot of ways counterintuitive to what a lot of people believe healthy is today- fresh, local produce with minimal pesticides.

Another issue at hand, that I think has been alluded to, is ‘what is healthy?’ Regardless of food design, public conception of really healthy food has steadily shifted over the years. In fact, I would bet that when asked to describe a healthy diet, two people walking down the street today might give you different answers. This becomes relevant when trying to decide who (what projects) should receive public funding for food design. Again, getting back to what Geoff is saying, maybe public funding is best suited for R&D around specific audiences, like the army.

I feel like I should clarify that I think the lunch line redesign is an excellent project, and I love the idea of restructuring stores and any place where we make food decisions. My stance on education in terms of the big issues around food (food security, climate change, obesity) comes from the fact that my parents taught me, by example, how to have a good diet. I will someday pass that on to my kids, and hopefully they will pass that on to theirs. It becomes more than just ‘choose the healthy option;’ my parents taught me to choose the apple because it’s healthy but also because it will make you feel better in the long run. I realize there is no comprehensive solution for food education out there now, but I think it could still be developed and would be an exceptionally good use for public funding.

Thursday, December 16 at 10:18am

anabjain

Anab Jain

Designer & Founder: Superflux, Instigator: Project Lilorann

Yes, absolutely, I think public funding for food design R&D could take our love for food, our health and wellbeing to a whole new level.

I understand food design R&D as ‘informed work which will inform future generations, not only of knowledge of different kinds of food and their health implications, but also engage a broader set of people with the new possibilities that technologies such as synthetic biology, genetic engineering and molecular chemistry will bring to our dinner tables.’ And while lot of such work is done by experts, scientists and numerous food lovers out there, by creating a distinct body around it, we will be able to seriously ‘measure’ impact.

Who should be receiving it? Multi disciplinary teams of experts, researchers, scientists, nutritionists, designers, artists? People who bring their interest and knowledge of food, understanding of agriculture, permaculture, biotech, deep knowledge of the soil? (knowledge that probably comes from specific communities who have lived on the land where the food grows for a long time.)

Recently I heard about the ‘Miracle (Moringa) Tree’ discovered in Africa by camfed.org – in communities where the food was highly starch, this tree which grew in abundance – was found to have several nutritious quantities, in fact three spoonfuls of dried Moringa leaf powder was enough nutrition for a new mother. http://www.miracletrees.org/

I am sure there are several such examples… we will be exploring many such possibilities with an invasive tree called ‘Mad Tree’ in our new project Lilorann: http://lilorann.org/

Super exciting space!

Thursday, December 16 at 11:29am

projectonspatialsciences

Project on Spatial Sciences

Research, Action Group

Food is everywhere.  We are encouraged to eat healthy, buy local, buy organic; all this while under the temptations from a proliferated fast food industry. Food is not just what is edible, but also the systems that sustain human life: farms, factories, supermarkets, restaurants, drive-thrus, coffee shops, toilets, and waste management facilities. Food is spatial, yet invisible, camouflaged, and taken for granted.  Beyond just redesigning food, we propose an expanded definition for the very constitution of food. Besides the immediate effects of the food found on our plates, food has been incredibly influential in organizing the many spaces we live in.

Food has demonstrated its power to shape entire landscapes. It can bring people together and just as easily pull them apart; at a spatial level, food generates a conscious relationship to the surrounding environment. Food design cannot only be considered at the chemical level. It must be considered in an expanded way: as something that defines and organizes spatial relationships.  Experiments in how we think about and experience food spatially should play a crucial role in future research and development.

Thursday, December 16 at 3:40pm

kristentaylor

Kristen Taylor

Founder/CEO Galvanize.us, Adjunct Professor at ITP, NYU

I think back to Marije’s “Pasta Sauna” last year in NY, and it reminds that, more than ever in an age of overabundant information, memorable learning is experiential and can refasten us into a community.

Remember when you sat in a circle in kindergarten and the teacher put cream in a little glass jar with a lid, and everyone shook it and passed it to the right–that hyper kid doing a little hair dance as he shook it–and at the end there was butter?

Food design R&D can help us understand food processing at all levels of instruction and with varied levels of weight and seriousness, which I think quite valuable when commercial baby carrots in vending machines is lauded as exciting.

Thursday, December 16 at 5:48pm

    carmenwong

    carmen c wong

    artistic director

    I am completely on board with you Kristen (on experiences drawing community together), and am quite puzzled as to Michele Champagne’s opinion as to why conceptual-food-arts shouldn’t receive public funding. To someone like me, who has spun off the 1920′s Futurist dinners into modern experiential performance experiences that subtly challenge food relationships and champion local and sustainable food, I think that public funding can help create accessibility so that these food-art experiences are not then merely reserved for what Matthew Battles heralds as “decadent, ritualized ironies” and become what I like to think of as though-provoking avant-pop food-art experiences that has the ability to be political as it is playful.
    For me, conceptual food-art projects (by Vogelzang, and newer food-designer/artists like Sifakaki, Moebus and even mine and Michelle Champagne’s) draw the notion of eating/food to another dimension, where food at once becomes object/subject, thus bridging form/function in its very material and edible nature and its ability to feed one’s soul and senses, as well as the stomach.
    To me, these projects are defiant acts of food art (which fulfill a purpose, oftentimes educational!), that depend heavily on design, whether in a material sense (atmosphere, tableware, serving ware) or conceptually (via food and how one should consume it, and why and what and whether it even is food in the first place). Call me idealistic but I don’t believe for a moment that artists who use food as a medium ever lose sight of what their messages or concepts are and its amazing what kind of conversations are triggered from just that communal act of eating or playing with food (a nod to Carly Hagin’s comment on her kickstarting comment) because the feedback loop becomes complete in this dialogue of a meal/experience being served and consumed. This is a basic human experience on which these projects are based, and continually explore through artful play.
    Public funding would help remove the elitist tag on such food-art endeavors, and indeed, give it a more pronounced space from food served in restaurants (particularly conceptual cuisines based on molecular gastronomy) that can then be enjoyed by the foodies who make bank.

    Friday, December 17 at 10:10pm

namhenderson

Nam Henderson

nothing special

Along the lines of what many wrote, I think we are talking about two things. Food and food design. I would argue that food systems either production, consumption etc, should be designed and researched. Government here has a role to play. Not necessarily food (nutrition) though. In terms of genomic drought resistant etc. However, we obviously do fund this now.

My interest would be in expanding the current applied practices of food (read commodity/agricultural) funding to include broader concepts such as the ones articulated here by many.

Thus the answer is not new monies but re-conceptualizing flows of application. As Anab suggested interdisciplinary teams of HUD designers, CDC public health experts and Dept of Ag could perhaps study the next version of the food pyramid…

As for the role of art and the model of art funding. This seems to work best when applied to the socialized rituals of food production and consumption. For example I have heard urban agriculturalist suggest their efforts aren’t about agriculture or food but about social design.

Thursday, December 16 at 11:39pm

The development of new crop varieties (whether by plant breeding or genetic engineering) is INCREDIBLY market-driven. The only way you’ll get any significant adoption of any of these “designed” varieties by farmers is if there’s a massive new demand for them by the public (something on a scale much greater than the current demand for organic food, I’d expect) or of course by government regulation.

There’s already a big push for climate change adapted and biofuel crops by both public funding sources and private seed companies. You can hire more public researchers to push the development of more healthy or interesting foods if you want, but it won’t fundamentally change our food system.

Thursday, December 16 at 11:56pm

michelechampagne

Michele Champagne

Designer and writer

A few thoughts on what I think should not get public funding: the “food design” touted by the European design scene and magazines like Wallpaper, Frame, and dezeen with their Food and Design report for luxury kitchen appliances brand Scholtès. Take a moment to scroll through the report and see what I mean.

Here we’re talking about the design of food and food-related goods prepared for hyper-markup. From food items and accessories, to kitchen and dining furniture, as well as food artifacts and events that promote the luxury design paradigm.

For example, a project I did (with fellow designers Amelie Onzon and Martina Rosati): Pre-served, a food event for Dutch Design Week 2010. Projects like these, no matter how experimental or aesthetic or fun, should not receive public funding.

So, why not? Public funding has a special place in today’s political economy, especially when strategies of austerity are cutting public spending on all fronts.

Would it be more fruitful to see public funding go towards food design projects that promote the public good? That promote social justice, community health or food security? Or would it be more interesting to continue the R&D trend of re-funneling public funds to entrepreneurial hyper-markup ends?

Yes, we should better define food design. We should also better define the role of public funding today. Clearly, I have my own thoughts on this. Would be nice to know what others think.

Friday, December 17 at 6:06am

    Given that all public resources will diminishing from here on in, I would not fight to the death for the white-coats-in-laboratory kind of r&d. Besides, between us we know an awful lot about food already.

    My priority would be to expand the scope for people to learn-by-growing – in schools, in tenements, in prisons. This outcome can be achieved by re-balancing public procurement: For example, I learned from Mud Baron in L.A. that when new schools are built in the US, the budget per student for building, classroom and ICT runs into the tens of thousands – the budget per student for the garden is…about $1.

    What also works well are modestly-funded pilot projects that help citizens get started. Dott07′s Urban Farming in Middlesbrough in England was started as one-off ‘city-meal’ project http://tiny.cc/9dno9 but has grown over five years into a city-wide movement with real momentum.

    To state the by-now obvious, food [like health] is a complex of interacting systems. The ways that food is grown, prepared, eaten, stored and recycled can all be improved. The best way to affect change is by seeding modest experiments that, if they succeed, can influence the bigger picture.

    Friday, December 17 at 10:20am

ethelbaraona

Ethel Baraona Pohl

dpr-barcelona

Ethel gave the Final Word

-Should there be public funding for food design R&D?

Food as collective knowledge evolves. In this sense we can infer that it has a sort of “swarm design” implicit on it. Research has sense in order to register and describe food and pre-industrial systems associated (e.g. seed-bank)

It was pointed out above that “Food is not just what is edible”, but also all the linked activities (food systems as differentiated by Nam). Those systems, developed after the Green Revolution, have generated a series of problems due to its obsession on productivity. Systems should be designed in order to improve them under parameters of equity and non-monetary wellness. I consider that public funding for R+D on food systems should be enhanced in that direction.

Closely related to food delivery systems is what Nicola claimed at the very beginning of the conversation: Food Justice. In this case debate necessarily goes from geopolitical implications and equity subject of our consumption system, in which the western world access to food is granted by the perpetuation of unfair relationships with developing countries as shown in documentaries as Darwin’s Nightmare; until arriving to the right of cities inhabitants to access healthy, low carbon impact food.

-Who should be receiving funding?

It would be desirable that research funding may be oriented to enhance the suppression of extra energy consumer agents into the food chain system (e.g. massive crop fields, transportation, warehousing).

As examples of local initiatives that can be subject of funding we can mention Food-Justice in California or Slow Food movement in some countries of Europe

Related with creative incubators mentioned by John at the very beginning of the debate we can list La ciudad Jubilada on the urban gardens tended by retired person at the margins of the rivers of Barcelona or the activist-like approach of Food+Tech Connect

Finally; we all haven’t mentioned another key question while talking about public research funding on food systems: Who will get the ownership of the knowledge generated? Practices such as Monsanto’s had shown us that big corporations can take advantage and get profit of ancient agriculture knowledge (maize is a domesticated plant). This fact makes us think that it would be fair that all this kind of research should be open source oriented, to avoid private profit of social funded knowledge.

Friday, December 17 at 1:23pm

carmenwong

carmen c wong

artistic director

just to stir the pot, and for a bit of a giggle, should we handle it like this? http://su.pr/1xriFY

Friday, December 17 at 10:24pm