The Exhibition To Book – FOOD: Bigger Than The Plate
This week sees the launch of FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, a major new exhibition exploring how innovative individuals, communities and organisations are radically re-inventing how we grow, distribute and experience food. Taking visitors on a sensory journey through the food cycle – from compost to table – it poses questions about how the collective choices we make can lead to a more sustainable food future.
Throughout the exhibition, over 70 contemporary projects, new commissions and collaborations by artists and designers working with chefs, farmers, scientists and local communities are centered around four sections: ‘Compost’, ‘Farming’, ‘Trading’ and ‘Eating’. ‘Compost’ examines diverse projects which aim to create a more resilient food system by closing the nutrient loop and changing our perception of waste. We like the work of designer Fernando Laposse, who works with the discarded husks of colourful heirloom corn varieties in Mexico to create a new marquetry material, Totomoxtle, which supports agricultural biodiversity. Meanwhile GroCycle’s Urban Mushroom Farm installation illustrates a circular economy by using waste coffee grounds from the V&A Benugo café to grow edible oyster mushrooms. Once fully grown, these will be harvested in front of visitors and served in the café.
‘Farming’ explores innovative urban, open-source and social farming projects, as well as new technologies that might change how we grow and farm. The area features a major new commission by artists Fallen Fruit. This bespoke 12-metre squared wallpaper draws on the horticultural history of the V&A – which was once an important nursery for fruit trees – and its collection to explore the past and contemporary role of fruit in creating shared culture.
Elsewhere, ‘Trading’ poses questions about more diverse ways of buying, selling and transporting food. Early food adverts shine a light on trading history, while modern exhibits bring together projects which make supply chains more visible. On hand is Company Drinks, a community enterprise in east London which brings people together to pick, process and produce drinks. The team has a bar stationed in the gallery serving drink samples to visitors.
Our favourite section, naturally, is ‘Eating’, which focuses on the pleasure of cooking, and how a meal connects us culturally, socially and politically. This section explores the role of the table, the challenges we face in feeding the world, and the power of deliciousness, as well offering a look at scientific experiments, ingredients and recipes pushing the boundaries of cooking. Examples include Carolien Niebling’s The Sausage of the Future, and Christina Agapakis and Sissel Tolaas’ Selfmade project, culturing cheese from human bacteria. Unique ‘microbial portraits’ of Blur bassist and cheesemaker Alex James, chef Heston Blumenthal, 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.
Exhibition visits should, in our opinion, always be paired with something to eat. Therefore, we were pleased to see that the final exhibit in the show is the LOCI Food Lab by the Center for Genomic Gastronomy. This travelling food cart provides each visitor with a unique bioregional canapé based on their answers to a quiz on what food future they would like to see. And if you’re still hungry post show, we can heartily recommend stepping into the museum’s Courtyard Café for a bite to eat.
Victoria & Albert Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, SW7 2RL; until 20th October
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