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We are what we eat. This old time saying sums up our long-standing relationship with food. Food is an exigent issue in urban contexts: while food consumption decisions are made many times a day, most food interaction for urban people occur based on convenience and habitual practices. This situation is contrasting to the fact that food is at the centre of global environment health, and social issues that are becoming increasingly imminent. The project presented a unique challenge of employing design and art as a tool to re-examine the significance and relevance of food, in our current social and cultural and individual milieu, celebrate its intrinsic connection with our bodies and our selves, and explore it as a primary ritual that fosters engagement, interaction and collaboration. A critical examination of issues surrounding ‘food’ through the intersection of food, culture and technology, the final installation offers an opportunity to engage in stimulating conversations around the discourse of food through employing food as artistic medium. Through carefully crafted interactions and an element of humour the people can interpret the story of the urban food chain. Using ubiquitous objects and interactions of our daily life, the objective being to subconsciously alter the perceptions of individuals, and inspire them to question the existing urban food culture and make informed decisions as a consumer. It’s all about humans. Food is simply used as a medium to interact, explore, engage and enjoy.

The role of a designer in the ex-industrial society is to break the rules and the boundaries among the disciplines by investigating the concept of critical design. Critical design uses designed artifacts as an embodied critique or commentary on consumer culture. The project scope is to provoke, inspire, makes us think, and questions fundamental assumptions; contributing to a dialogue about the role of technology / food in everyday life. The area of concern will be within diverse socio-cultural contexts, in order to cultivate and promote sustainable food culture, with a reflection on already existing practices. Considering food as an edible product of mass consumption, designed and far from tradition and gastronomy, it can be used as a means of information dissemination. Investigating ubiquitous technologies, the designer’s role would be to use interaction design with a conceptual approach. Whether actively or in subtle ways, things talk to us, and designers help develop and improvise the dialogue. The project focuses on objects that involve direct interactions, such as tangible interfaces, visualization and communication devices that establish an emotional or intellectual connection with their users. The outcome should evoke the need for constant evaluation of the parameters of consumption, active engagement and reinvention on the part of the consumer by using design as a platform for questioning, visualising and influencing contemporary human behaviour. The playful, critical and provocative attitude of the work will lead to numerous possibilities and responses.

Purpose of the project

Apple Character: The superstar Concerns: Cosmetic nature of food, through branding and marketing Interaction: When you come close, the apple tweets on it’s twitter account Few Dialogues: “#Flying business class from California to India”, “Just got my waxing done, #polishing coming next”, “Now I have my own #brand sticker”, “Preservatives make me rotten inside, I look my best outside”, “Have you seen my #carbonfootprint... its huge!!”, “If looks could kill”, “Bite into the Snowhite’s poison”, “Everything is consumable with consumerism”

Tomato Character: The relative Concerns: Chemical and toxic content in food due to fetilizers and pesticides. Interaction: When you pick one to taste, triggers voice output Few Dialogues: “Food chooses your bloodline”, “I am a recipe for slow death”, “I commit murder with a smile on my face”, “It is just some neurotoxins, organophosphates and carcinogens”, “I am red with cancer and mental retardation”, “Goodness of sunkissed tomatoes is hormonal disruption”, “Apple might have kept the doctor away before the industrialization of food”, “Industrialized food is a slow poison”.

Mint Character: The scientist Concerns: Science and its role in Food, GMO & GMF etc. Interaction: It picks up your phone’s EMF and triggers visual output on a green LCD screen. Few Dialogues: “Science can rearrange life molecule by molecule”, “There is no evil in science but only in a man’s soul”, “Radiation selection is the new way of evolution”, “Government turns science into a biological massacre”, “Eureka moments can change into food tragedies”, “Science can change the world for better or worse”, “Genetic modified food is the answer to world starvation”, “Consumerism pays for the science”.

Onion Character: The politician Concerns: Politics, its role and control over our food Interaction: Chop the onion to reveal secrets by triggering a voice output Few Dialogues: “Politics has no relation to morals”, “Do you know who I am”, “Right to food... is it a right??”, “I promise you... as always”, “Inflation is a necessary evil”, “Farmer suicides will be compensated”, “We are there for the common man”, “Corporates and politicians collaborate for the people”.

Corn Character: The corporation Concerns: Corporate control over food, industrialization and Mcdonaldization of food Interaction: Insert a coin to get a printout / bill, explaining the installation and the dialogue Few Dialogues: Show me the money”, “I’m going make you an offer you can’t refuse”, “Greed is good, now it seems it’s legal”, “Capitalism at its finest”, “It’s a zero sum game somebody wins, somebody looses”, “We make the rules pal, the news, war, peace, famine, revolution, the price of per bag of corn”, “You’re not naive enough to think we are living in a democracy”, “It’s a free market & you’re part of it”.

Bonsai Character: The farmer Concerns: Farmer plights and suffering Interaction: The plant gives a voice output on touch, it senses the pressure / place of touch. Few Dialogues: Your wish is my command, increasing fertilizer demands Suffocated by the corporations Government schemes scheme against me Fields of gold exist no more Ignorance is bliss in a farmer’s paradise Once my land now your parking lot Caught in the vicious cycle of demand and supply We need your help not your sympathy Food for millions starvation for me

It is an art installation made for displaying in art galleries and public places, where such issues can be discussed and debated. The installation is the final year project of Simran Chopra, student of New Media Design, National Institute of Design, India. The work is still undergoing documentation and will be completed shortly.

Story of the urban food chain  

The project presented a unique challenge of employing design and art as a tool to re-examine the significance and relevance of food, in our...

Story of the urban food chain  

The project presented a unique challenge of employing design and art as a tool to re-examine the significance and relevance of food, in our...