By Jessica Herrington
For many people, buying a meal is cheaper and more accessible than purchasing conventional forms of contemporary art. It is no surprise then that contemporary artists are leaning towards food as a creative medium to communicate ideas. While the concept of food as art is not new, the fusion of art and science together within food is more recent.
Dr. David Edwards, an artist, Harvard Professor and biochemical engineer, has recently opened Café Artscience in Cambridge Massachusetts. In addition to serving more conventional food, the café is an environment where visitors can choose to experiment—foodies can inhale vapors that taste of cotton candy via a Le Whaf device, or text-a-scent using an o-phone.
Photo credit: http://genomicgastronomy.com/work/2011-2/smog-tasting/ Photo caption: Artist from the Centre of Genomic Gastronomy with beaten egg whites, sampling air pollution (2011). Participating artists for this project included: Anchana Kota, Koshy Brahmatmaj, Kamini Rao, Indrajeet Deshmukh, Meghna Saha, Tanushree Agarwal, and Vibhuti Kanitkar.
Perhaps it is the interactive possibilities of food that we find so appealing, i.e., the relational aesthetics. This interactive nature also lends itself to communicating political and environmental issues. In India, a group of artists from the Centre of Genomic Gastronomy have completed a Smog Tasting project. By using whipped egg whites (which are naturally 90% air) the artists are able to trap and sample air from different parts of a city. Through this method, the artists have mapped air quality in polluted areas.
Other artists, however, are opting for a more direct approach. Kevin Van Aelst for example, is an American photographer who uses food to illustrate scientific themes. His work explores various concepts from chromosomes to the complexity of a human fingerprint.
While there are many exciting developments in food, art and science, food as an art form has been widely criticized. However, this attitude is slowly beginning to change. Audiences are now going to food events to think about art, and art events to think about food.
Food can be evocative, expressing themes of life, death, disgust and politics. Artists worldwide are beginning to experiment and take risks that many restauranteurs might not dare to try. The result is a delicious chemistry experiment that inspires contemplation.