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Community and Resilience: “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate” at the V&A

Community and Resilience: “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate” at the V&A

Installation image, FOOD Bigger than the Plate at V&A ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The timely exhibition, “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate” at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, asks how the collective choices we make can lead to a more sustainable, just, and delicious future. The sensory journey raises questions that are also important for architecture and design: community building, climate change, perceptions of waste, agricultural systems, landscapes, and infrastructures. The exhibition is on until October 20th and includes seventy contemporary projects.

Taking a fresh, experimental and often provocative perspective, these projects will present alternative food futures, from gastronomic experiments to creative interventions in farming, with several exhibits physically growing in the gallery space. The exhibition includes four different sections: compost (projects that aim to create a more resilient food system by closing the nutrient loop and changing our perception on waste), Farming (ideas to reinvent our relationships with landscapes, organisms, and people), trading (questions around more transparent and diverse ways of buying, selling, and transporting food), and last but not least, eating (how a meal connects us culturally, socially, and politically). The new contemporary projects are displayed alongside items from the V&A collection, providing a historical context to the exhibition.

Exhibition Highlight

The exhibition includes five cheeses cultured from human bacteria. Unique ‘microbial portraits’ of musician and cheesemaker Alex James (Blur), chef Heston Blumenthal, British rapper Professor Green, baker and food writer Ruby Tandoh, and Madness frontman Suggs are on display, recreated as Cheshire cheese, comté cheese, mozzarella, stilton, and cheddar respectively. 

The project, titled “Selfmade,” was conceived in 2013 by smell researcher Sissel Tolaas and biologist and artist Christina Agapakis. It was remade for FOOD: Bigger than the Plate by biodesigner Helene Steiner, chef John Quilter (AKA the Food Busker) and scientist Dr. Thomas Meany – an interdisciplinary team based at Open Cell, an open research centre for biotechnology in West London.  Aiming to challenge cultural squeamishness about bacteria, “Selfmade” draws on recent scientific studies of the microbiome and its importance in how the human body functions. Contemporary society focuses on cleanliness and hyper-sanitation, however our gut health and experience of the world around us – taste, smell – are dependent on the microbial world.

“Selfmade.” Installation image at “FOOD-Bigger than the Plate” at V&A ©the artist. Photo Victoria and Albert Museum, London

FOOD: Bigger than the Plate / Sponsored by BaxterStorey / 18 May – 20 October 2019 / vam.ac.uk/food

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