This year’s Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) presentation for Salone del Mobile in Milan will be a shit show. Literally. Showing work in progress from DAE’s new food design program alongside projects from alumni, the Eat Shit exhibition explores the topic of poop as waste, poop as lifecycle and poop as political vehicle. On the eve of Milan design week, MOLD chats with the head of DAE’s fledgling undergraduate food design program, Food Non Food, and curator of Eat Shit, Marije Vogelzang. Vogelzang has been an active practitioner and champion of food design for over 15 years. The designer, curator and educator shares insight into the first six months of the Food Non Food program, a bit of toilet humor and why food is the most important material in the world.
MOLD: You are in your first year of the Food Non Food program. What are some of the topics/questions that your students are exploring? Have these topics been surprising for you as instructors?
Marije Vogelzang: We started last September and the first year at the Design Academy is a general year. After the first year, the students can choose from eight departments. Food Non Food is one of them. The students are a structural part of the building up of the department and very much involved with defining what food and design could entail. The first semester is really meant as an exploration of this wide open field.
Just to name a few examples: We’ve had students working on researching intimacy through feeding and exploring the future scenario of digesting grass (cellulose) like cows are able to, with an external stomach. A student made a fermenting-manifesto and considered fermenting as a political act. Another student designed a ritual and situation to give attention and care to hospitalized people by cultivating the act of making a peanut butter sandwich. There was a design for an alternative burial of a dead body, research into the relation between our body size and the size of what we eat through bread and ceramics, research into turning all foods into powder and a future scenario of what the world would look like if we would erase all food culture and get food from a ‘food-tap’ in your house.
There were many more very interesting ideas. The students have genuine creative minds and frequently come up with surprising links and ideas. The other tutors: Arne Hendriks and Mara Skujeniece also help them to stretch their brains even further. I do see them coming up with great fascinating ideas sometimes and then choosing another path while not picking up their gems. That’s something we need to train them more on—to see the true value of their work.
Why did you decide to share the program work now, just a few months into the program?
Thomas Widdershoven (creative director of DAE) decided to have an exhibition about food because this is the moment: This (school) year we started Food Non Food and this year the World EXPO will be all about food. It’s such a relevant and important topic. Even though I have been working of food and design now for 15 years, it’s still a very new and unexplored field.
And even though the Food Non Food department is new, food as a subject has always been in the DNA of DAE. In Milan we will show a timeline of graduation works dealing with food (and shit) from 1976 until now. Here you can see how it developed through the years and how it makes sense that Food Non Food came into existence. We will show food-related graduation works together with the student work. So the students might be in their second year but they are accompanied by graduation work and a strong heritage within the academy’s history.
Why explore the topic of poop? Why now?
When Thomas asked me to help with this exhibition I started to think about how I wanted this exhibition to immediately show that Food Non Food is not about cooking or making beautiful food on a plate. Food Non Food is about the full scope of food and all it’s implications. It’s about biology, energy, psychology, sociology, culture, rituals, science, waste, logistics and politics. What better way to make this clear than by taking the ultimate non food: shit. Without food, there’s no shit. And without shit there’s no food. Everybody eats, everybody shits. At first glance, this might seem banal but if you really start to dig into the topic you find so many relevant and fascinating aspects. If you take a closer look at the mindmap here, the subjects related to shit are serious issues and can both be problem and solution.
What are your personal associations with the topic of poop?
I really am a fan of toddler-humour so I very much enjoy the hilariousness of poo and pee. And while making this exhibition we were joking around with it a lot. But why I really like the subject is because I know there’s an intelligent discussion lying underneath. As a mother of three, I know shit in all colors, textures and smells. Isn’t it fascinating how we try to distance ourself from this most basic human feature? I feel there’s also a relation to how we are distanced from our food as well.
Without food, there’s no shit. And without shit there’s no food.
What do you hope that the public will come away with after they’ve seen the exhibition? And other designers?
I hope that visitors can see the full scope of the possibilities that food and design (eating design) can create. I hope that visitors can see the value of designers working with food and that they can see what an exciting new field of design this is and how the food world needs creative minds. I hope that other designers will start to realize that food and design is a serious subject and a subject with huge potential—food is just the most important material in the world.