On the art-design continuum, many of the show’s projects veer dramatically into "art." Artúr van Balen bought an inexpensive chicken at the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s then mass-produced casts of it in porcelain from Berlin’s famous Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur, which once produced dishes for Frederick the Great. Inexpensive chicken is in many cases the result of slashing the cost of raising the animals by shortening their lives (on average, they are fattened for slaughter in just 39 to 42 days). Here, Van Balen reverses the economic chain by creating the most expensive possible versions of these cheap chickens.

An installation shot of van Balen’s pricey chickens. Swiss design duo Honey & Bunny to exhibit the results of their investigation into the production of everyday foodstuffs. Their work shows how a design idea lies behind every pretzel, bagel and piece of macaroni.

Dejana Kabiljo used footballs, cotton jersey, Alcantara, and polystyrene pellets to design FAT, a "punching bag or cuddly toy, depending on the user’s mood," according to the exhibition text. "FAT symbolises, on one hand, the comfort we derive from food and the protection fat affords against the cold and, on the other, the social stigmatisation faced by the overweight."

Dutch designers Driessens & Verstappen made plaster molds of produce-aisle rejects to highlight the beauty of diversity--and to point out the absurdity and wastefulness of using climate control to engineer perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables.

In Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow, British artist James King examines how we might customize the aesthetics of our meals in the not-so-distant future when in vitro meat and other laboratory inventions allow us to whip up any kind of food, without the expense and ethical transgressions of standard farming.

American artist Julie Green used plates as a canvas on which to paint the last-meal requests of 100 death-row inmates. The Last Supper: 100 Texas Meals is designed as a protest against capital punishment. Green plans to add 50 plates each year until the practice is abolished from the U.S. justice system.

Title: The Last Supper: 100 Texas Meals
Year: 2012
Materials: paper, paint, wire, video projection

The cost of the last meal of a death row prisoner in the United States usually doesn’t exceed $20. No prisoner is permitted a last alcoholic drink; some are allowed a cigarette. After living for years in Oklahoma, the state with the most executions per capita, Julie Green, always interested in food, became fascinated by the last meal requests of condemned prisoners. As she paints the plates in her Last Supper series, Green thinks about the crimes, the victims, and the permitted margin of error within the US justice system. Green, who opposes the death penalty, says she hopes her work will spark discussion. The series now comprises 500 plates illustrating prisoners’ final meal requests. Green says she plans to add 50 each year until capital punishment is abolished.

Marre Moerel designed a set of tableware from casts of animals’ entrails. Diners pour wine out of earthenware cow hooves and eat off of porcelain liver plates. Fittingly, the collection is called Food on the Table.

These vegetables have no practical function. They were hand-sewed, -dyed and -modeled by Dutch designers Scholten & Baijings for the sheer pleasure of making something.

An installation shot.

In Food Design XL, the Swiss design pair Honey & Bunny investigates the production of everyday foodstuffs to show how a design idea lies behind every pretzel, bagel, and piece of macaroni.

An installation shot.

The common admonition to children, “Don’t play with your food," inspired Dutch designer Tomm Velthuis to develop what might be the world’s least fun game. It lets kids play with pigs’ lives and offers a cold, hard lesson in the realities of the food industry, covering everything from pig castration, to hormones to the link between manure and acid rain.

An installation shot.

Uli Westphal’s Mutato photographs document the dazzling natural variety of everyday produce--something mainstream agriculture engineers out of the fruits and vegetables we snap up at the grocery store, in the name of commercial viability.

Mad Harvard scientist David Edwards partnered with French food designer Marc Bretillot to develop Le Whaf, a device that lets you taste food--whiskey, chocolate, cheesecake, you name it--through inhalation. Pour a liquid into the compartment under the glass bowl (shown here) and its flavors are converted into tiny droplets you can "smoke" through a small pipe.

During Milan design week this year, Spain-based GGlab presented a 3D printer that can be used to make food at the press of a button. The printer allows chefs to maintain tighter control over the shape and flavor of each dish, which makes for a less wasteful cooking process.

Food Culture: Eating by Design is on view at Designhuis in Eindhoven until September 30.

Food Culture: Eating by Design is on view at Designhuis in Eindhoven until September 30.

Co.Design

12 Design Ideas For Improving What We Eat

Designers attempt to tackle the world’s thorniest food problems with inhalable whiskey, 3-D printed meals, and the world’s most expensive Sainsbury’s chicken.

Few of us realize how much design goes into the food we eat. Behind every bone-straight carrot and every mass-produced chicken thigh is a carefully executed idea about how those provisions should look and taste. On one hand, that makes design complicit in the ritual inefficiencies of the food industry. On the other, as a new exhibit at Designhuis in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, suggests, it is an opportunity: for designers to help assuage some of the industry’s darker instincts.

Food Culture: Eating by Design showcases more than 20 projects by designers from all over the world, who toil at the grease-stained crossroads of design and global food production. Each proceeds from the notion that the complex processes involved in stocking our grocery stores (and ultimately, our dinner plates) can be improved through design, whether it’s distilling whiskey into an inhalable “cloud of flavor,” 3-D printing cupcakes, or growing produce in the shapes prescribed by the greatest designer of all, Mother Nature. Above, we’ve compiled 10 of the show’s best ideas.

Food Culture: Eating by Design runs through September 30. More information here.

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