FOOD: BIGGER THAN THE PLATE | London, V&A

This major new V&A exhibition encourages us to scrutinise our relationship with food and examine the journey from production to plate. Moving through several themed areas – from farming, to trading, to eating – we are challenged to rethink how we approach all forms of consumption.

One highlight shows examples of designers reframing the narratives around waste, wanting us to see human waste as “the beginning of the food story”. — as shown by a toilet that seals human waste in biodegradable bags to be used again as compost. Waste is made visible and beautiful in coffee cups made from used coffee grounds (deep brown in colour and with a faint scent of coffee), and a table and chairs made from a beautiful terracotta clay made from cow manure called ‘mercadotta’, which literally translates to ‘baked shit’.

The exhibition is huge and the content varies wildly, from YouTube videos of “food influencers”, to a reimagining of cities with agriculture embedded into their architecture, to cheese made from extracts of pubic hair…! Every aspect of the food journey is explored, from artists criticising the cost of consumerism through food packaging, to ways in which our eating and recycling habits can create stronger communities, to amazing innovations – Ooho! is a water bottle made from seaweed that dissolves in your mouth. Because each exhibit requires careful reading and attention, visitors should dedicate a whole afternoon to digesting the plethora of information available.

It is incredibly heartening and inspiring, in a world that seems to be seeing unprecedented social and environmental decline, to see the work of designers, artists and activists striving to change and reframe how we view food and consumerism. There is even the opportunity to sample a ‘snack of the future’ at the close of the exhibition, and, like every aspect of this show, it is absolutely excellent.

Booking online until 20 October 2019. £10 tickets available every Friday in August.

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