The first project of the new term involved the students creating a design, product, or dish building on the idea of the human body as a source of nutrition. Drawing on recent research into the human trophic level, which puts us roughly equal to anchovies or pigs, we started by thinking about the nutritional value of the human body and the calorific value of different human organs. The human body is a source of nutrition in a wide variety of ways. Breast milk is now widely accepted to provide a range of health benefits and can now even be bought and sold online. We are also hosts to many parasites both external and internal to the body, for which we are a source of nutrition. We consume ourselves in unexpected ways; placenta eating and the drinking of urine are two examples. In culture, vampirism is seen as a way of controlling desire through eternal youth and transformation. Examples from medical science include human derived vaccines, fecal transplant treatments, and human growth hormone – these can all be thought of as providing nutrition.
Yasmina Salame produced a series of dishes including a chilled skin eclair and grilled fingers. The scenario was a future society where the disadvantaged poor are prepared as food for the higher ups to consume in elaborate dining settings. The design of the food itself was alarmingly realistic looking and the careful arrangement of cutlery and printed menus helped to position the design as part of a carefully developed vision of society. Taking this further might involve a more performative aspect with diners in a formal restaurant or dinner party.
Andrew Dhesi designed a system for the recycling of human waste as fertiliser for plants. The project was well thought through with collection methods for faeces and urine and the positioning of the product in a post meat society where plant nutrition would be the sole source of nutrition. The closed loop recycling of human body fluids was carefully integrated with solutions for smell, spillage and distribution. As a commercial product, communicating to users would be a major challenge, future iterations could develop a more sophisticated set of marketing materials.
Jaz Affleck posed the question of how to reclaim water from the human body in a water scarce future. This design suggested that recently dead bodies would be placed in a harvesting device, their body liquids processed and cleaned and then made available for people to drink. The model and video xxx made was a great demonstration of the system and explained physically and visually how it would work. Some deeper thinking about the ritual qualities of water in culture and society would lift the work further.
Ashley Zhang prepared a bowl of chewed chewing gum in a bowl of water. Telling us that it was all the gum she had chewed in the preceding week she invited us to touch or eat it. The appearance and presentation of the gum evoked a carefully prepared dish that could be handed round – such as pickled onions or lychees. By the end of the presentation we were all touching, stretching, squashing and squeezing the individual pieces. Although xxx did reveal too early that she had not in fact chewed them she certainly managed to break down some taboo barriers about touching something someone else had already eaten. An interesting side effect was the distinctive smell of peppermint and stickiness of sugar on our hands afterwards.
Petra Ritzer and Felix Scholder created a metaphorical model of society in which a single individual determined the fate of many others. Using magnets, black thread and a perspex cube they carefully arranged the relationship of differently sized magnets to illustrate lines of influence and domination. Alongside were some delicate illustrations of how power relationships evolve. The box was very well finished, reminiscent of Gaudi’s rope and bag architectural models, and overall the project was very well presented. Some deeper thinking about systems and networks of power rather than individuals would lift the concept as would some attention to possible user interactions.
Alexander Taylor designed Antidetox, a set of medical products in the form of pills and powders intended to remove the beneficial additives in everyday foods. For example, the food industry routinely adds calcium and riboflavin to bread and cereals, and many other foods are enriched with vitamins and minerals. Reflecting the long standing debate around the addition of flouride to toothpaste, this design featured some great attention to detail, from the foam packaging to the label design. The level of realism in this project extended to the production of working medicines and manufactured capsules.