sonja stummerer & martin hablesreiter

FOOD sustainable DESIGN


date: October 2015

client: Joint Research Centre / European Commission

partners: Frank Raes, Adriaan Eckeels, Christian Rammel



FOOD | sustainable | DESIGN was an interdisciplinary experiment. The aim of the project FOOD | sustainable | DESIGN is to publicly produce new insights produce new and unprecedented insights We want to make people aware of the political and ecological consequences of food consumption, and for this we we will force artists, scientists, and activists from various disciplines to cooperate with each other.

Sustainability is based on moral-ethical values. Food is an everyday cultural act that follows more or less sustainable ideals. Each change in our eating habits impacts the ecosystem and socioeconomic processes. It makes a difference whether a society chooses a monotonous, centralized, industrialized food supply or a biodiverse, multifaceted, sustainable one. At the present time, Western societies mainly consume industrial design. The question is how we can provoke changes in our eating habits. To this end, sustainability and food must be brought together, that is to say science AND culture must engage in discourse.

Each bite is a political act. What, when, how, and why we eat can trigger inhumane working conditions in Spain, soil erosion in Central Africa, or slash and burn practices in the Amazon. The questions that interest us about daily food consumption have nothing to do with diets, recipes, or gourmet reviews but rather with CO2 emissions, fracking, or genetic engineering. Each bite is culture. Each swallow is politics. We want to position food as an essential, political theme at the center of society because daily calorie intake is not just a matter of pleasure and taste; it also reflects a society’s attitude toward life and how it thinks. Supposedly food comes first, then morals. In fact, though, food is almost always linked with moral perceptions. Every society, every culture chooses its food according to moral or ethical rules, designs its edible products based on ritual ideas and ordering systems, and consumes these in compliance with set rules within the community. The rules and design parameters in Western industrial countries follow the notions of a centralized, industrial society. We eat industrial design. This system of monocultures, mass production, warehouses, and fully stocked suburban supermarkets was neither created nor is it suited for sustainable food products. The system of food supply in the Western, civilized world contradicts biodiversity, sustainability, and our responsibility to future generations. The team of artists, scientists, and political activists submitting this proposal seeks to challenge the prevailing system through performance art. We do not believe the rules and design processes that govern our food are predetermined by nature or science but that they are shapeable.

Food brings life. Food brings emotions. Food makes culture. What and how we eat is an expression of culture, socialization, gender, age, society, wealth, morals, and philosophy of life. And yet Eat Art is only a fringe movement amidst the international art scene. Only very few artists work with this life-essential medium and with this ritualized act of mankind – eating.

It is high time we take the attempt to prove climate change and justify sustainability a step further and initiate, by means of design and intervention, changes in our habits and ways of thinking in respect to food. Since eating is a highly emotional process that cannot be readily accessed with a rational approach, this project attempts to use artistic intervention to stimulate thought on an emotional-sensory level.