Download my food
Ongoing project (2019-2020).
With modern chemistry and the introduction of technology for gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), the 20th century introduced a means of deconstructing flavor into its constituent chemicals and – with it – the vision of a chemical age. Commercial production and food chemistry helped establish a feeling that flavor had become democratized and accessible for all to taste . As a food manufacturer in Lucy Kavaler’s 1963 book, The Artificial World Around Us, remarks, “There are still luxury foods, like caviar and guinea hen, but there are no longer any luxury flavors”. More recently, new waves of media democratization has struck us thanks to digitization and the presence of the internet, such as last decade’s “democratization of filmmaking”, which enabled a low barrier of entry to produce multimedia files. Still, the Internet’s influence on the democratization of flavor remains elusive. No commercial analog to GC-MS exists that fits into our pockets for us to easily digitize flavor, let alone download or taste a flavor at the ease of a URL click. Most contemporary attempts at flavor digitization by the masses rely on solely audiovisual experiences (mukbangs, food blogs, cooking shows, food porn, written recipes, anecdotes) to “digitize” and “communicate” flavor.
Download my food is a flavor project that features two components. The first is an offline installation featuring vegan jellies in a mini-fridge with a computer set on top of the fridge. In an attempt to use crowd-sourcing as a means of digitizing the flavor information, visitors must try a jelly, and – while tasting – are commanded to fill out a Google Form attempting to collect information on the jelly’s flavor: taste, smell, texture, etc. In turn, their submissions are gathered into a dataset that is made publicly available online. Online visitors access a webpage with a single link that reads “download my food”, which triggers upon clicking the download of both the recipe as an XML file and the current version of the dataset.
For those interested, I especially recommend reading Dr Nadia Berenstein‘s phenomenal thesis, Flavor Added (2018).
Kamp, Justin. “The ‘Wrong Biennale’ Seeks to Create the Right Conditions for Digital Art.” Hyperallergic, February 27, 2020. Archival recording.