Imagine a world where chocolate, cod, sushi, peanut butter and many other foods have been rendered non-existent by climate change. GhostFood, a new installation by artists Miriam Simun (of Human Cheese fame) and Miriam Songster, does more than imagine it: it conjures up the image of a dystopian future where certain tastes, smells and textures can only be experienced by means of technological assistance.
The GhostFood truck, which was recently set up outside the Robert Rauschenberg Project Space in New York City, works like this: you place your order from the list of extinct foods at the ordering window. Guided by a member of the trained GhostFood staff, you will then be given an “edible textural substitute” made from climate-change resilient foodstuffs, and have a special device strapped over your head that will release the scent of whatever food you desire.
The artists collaborated with the Japanese flavor and fragrance company Takasago (whose tagline is “Scent, taste, and future”), to create a scent profile that, when added to the existing flavor of the ghost food analogue, will simulate the sensation of eating fried cod, peanut butter and a chocolate brownie.
In 2011, the runner peanut – the main variety used in the manufacture of peanut butter – had its worst harvest in three decades, after a summer of severe heat and drought. Cod are under threat of extinction because of overfishing and rising salinity levels in the oceans. The cacao tree, meanwhile, whose beans are used to make chocolate, is producing lower yields as a result of increasingly unstable weather patterns.
Simun explains, “We’re not interested in scaremongering, and making people panic and tear their hair out about the end of chocolate. We don’t have a climate change agenda, although inevitably we’ll end up raising awareness. Rather, we’re extrapolating a possible future, given current trends, and then exploring how we might respond to it and what that might mean.”
GhostFood is just the latest example of a rising trend among artists: the tendency to investigate problems within our modern-day food supply chain by means of artistic expression. We previously reported on how street artist Bansky is using sculpture and art installations as a way of drawing attention to factory farm abuses and the overwhelming power and influence wielded by the McDonald’s corporation.
Perhaps, as Simun suggests, “The thought of no more edible chocolate is frightening enough to make you take an environmental action.”