Dough with encapsulations, by Orkan Telhan. The artist and biological designer will discuss roles for microorganisms on February 19, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

Art Food, Designs for Different Futures, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Orkan Telhan is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher whose investigations focus on the design of interrogative objects, interfaces, and media, engaging with critical issues in social, cultural, and environmental responsibility.

Food as a subject of art is natural in a museum, Designs for Different Futures cooks up a feast of information and imagination with an entire section of the exhibition devoted to future foods. Orkan Telhan’s artworks are arrayed around a large round, white dining table with stations for disparate food designs for Breakfast Before Extinction: Better Salmon, 2019, Last Bananas, 2019, Human Made Vanillas, 2019, Simit Diet & B | reactor, 2019 (Designed with Biorealize), Pancake Bot, 2019, Ourochef Steak, 2019, Dough with encapsulations.

Breakfast Before Extinction
A series of mediations on the future of the human diet. From steaks made of human cells to extinct bananas and genetically-modified fish, this table stages a number of scenarios where our relationship with food is interrogated.

Breakfast Before Extinction

As an interrogative object, Dough with Encapsulations questions the authenticity of the object, which seems quite real, communicating with the semiotics of the imagery of food, the artist stimulates the senses with coded traditional art concepts like color, light, line and space, signaling the object belongs in a museum exhibition, while simultaneously sparking the yuck or yum response to a dough that could be sweet or meat, the decoration cherry gummies or blood capsules. The ambiguity of the object between sculptural and conceptual, useful and dreadful, pretty and creepy is a menu of contemporary art themes.

Semiotics is the study of sign process, which is any form of activity, conduct, or any process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. A sign is anything that communicates a meaning, that is not the sign itself, to the interpreter of the sign. Wikipedia

Dough with Encapsulations projects layers of meaning onto a pink blob adorned with red gel caps, the color combo vibrates in the high key, unctuous and in bad taste yet campy and fun, the form displays action, the idea of yeast, a life form, activating and changing the chemistry of the ingredients, the cook kneading and adding the ingredient of time and duration, the context of the exhibition space resonates on the wavelength between dystopian and utopian, it could be a recipe for disaster or a cook book for survival.

Even though the dough presents as a Useful Art object it is a critique on the institution of food production, failure of industrial leadership, the glamorization and commodification of food, while spotlighting those who are undermining the authenticity of food in the real world. The mad scientist is glamorized, feminized and made Instagram-able through being socially engaged with the concept of solving world hunger. That’s a lot of information to transmit.

“Give me yesterday’s Bread, this Day’s Flesh, and last Year’s Cider.” – Benjamin Franklin

The object functions on multiple levels of intellect and social signification; gender stereotypes are melted into the color, the bulbous shape mammalian, the urgency of passing time and following instructions is baked in to the cake. The male gaze with demands, commands, and needs are fulfilled with reassuring information embedded in the color and form; is the form feminine?

The use of food as source material for social commentary and engagement is contemporary in that the subject is relatable to everybody thereby ripe for commentary and critique on gender roles in a patriarchal society. This form of socially engaged art has been brought forward into the future and will continue to create memes, make things better for everybody, and create a dish of languages mixed without words.

Semiotics of the Kitchen is a feminist parody single-channel video and performance piece released in 1975 by Martha Rosler. The video, which runs six minutes, is considered a critique of the commodified versions of traditional women’s roles in modern society. Wikipedia

Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975

Designs for Different Futures

Philadelphia Museum of Art: October 22, 2019–March 8, 2020

Walker Art Center: September 12, 2020–January 3, 2021

Art Institute of Chicago: February 6 –May 16, 2021

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