Monthly Archives: November 2015

A Visit to the British Museum of Food

The notion of curation has expanded beyond the museum and art world, encompassing other cultural economic realms such as fashion and food. In my own research on exploring diasporic Iranian identities in commercial food spaces in London and Vancouver through the ways in which diasporic Iranian identities are marketed, curated and designed, and how these identities materialise through the foods themselves, I use the notion of ‘curation’ as a way of expressing a different relationship between commercial actors and the materialities of their retail spaces. Hunt (2015) explores this in further detail where shop keepers act as curators of the material culture of their stores. Furthermore, writing on how local foods are curated in the marketplace in Uppsala, Sweden, Joosse and Hracs (2015, p.207), “argue that curators are thus crucial in helping consumers to find products but create new ways of food sourcing”. However, more recently the worlds of food and museums have combined (it should be noted that food museums, focusing on a niche subject as the Cup Noodle Museum in Japan have been open for several years), with the opening of the Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) in New York and the British Museum of Food in London.  Here the museums act as curators providing a pedagogic role in showing the wider roles and embedding of “culture, history, science, production and commerce of food and drink” (MOFAD, 2015). In this blog entry I will focus on my recent visit to the British Museum of Food.

The British Museum of Food:

The British Museum of Food opened in October 2015 and owned by Bompas and Parr, who are known for their culinary installations and experiments. The museum is located within the renowned Borough Market, further emphasising the prestige of the market and its role in London’s urban landscape. The museum features a range of interactive exhibitions embodying the motto “From Field to Table, Mouth…and Beyond” (Bompas and Parr, 2015). The exhibitions aim to showcase a journey of food through various ways in which consumers act with it. I will now take you, the reader through the five exhibitions hosted at the museum.

The Exhibits:

Be the Bolus:

This exhibit is film based where visitors are exposed to how food is digested. Here the visitor is exposed to the “science aspect” of food, which is equally as important in the consumption chain.

Choco-Phonica:

This is one of the more interactive exhibits where visitors are invited to partake in an experiment determining the correlation between taste and soundscapes. Four pods are set up each with different sounds, such as sounds of the rainforest. Here the visitor is asked to sample a piece of chocolate as they listen to the sounds to see if there is any difference between the four samples in terms of bitterness vs sweetness and creamy vs dry.

Atelier of Flavour:

In this exhibit the realms of art and food merge, in the sense that food is portrayed as art in the literal sense that is showcased as one would find, such as framed photographs in an art gallery. Here food was treated as an object of humour kitsch, for example a traditional English breakfast is presented as knitted piece of art.

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Knitted full English breakfast

The British Menu Archive:

Menus can be treated as cultural texts as not only do they provide obvious information such as prices, meal structure and the foods available, but also form narratives around the histories and cultures of. Menus provide a rich insight into social relations between communities, in addition to the modification that occurs to dishes as they travel through time and space.  The collection includes a range of menus dating from 1907 to 2014.

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A display of menu

The Butterfly Effect:

On the top floor there is a room which has a tropical aesthetic, filled with luscious green plants and lots of butterflies. At first I was unsure about the connection between butterflies and food; here the connection is pollination. There is a buzz (pun intended!) on the importance of bees and their impact on pollination, but less so on butterflies. This exhibit aims to focus the attention on butterflies and their importance in the global food system, especially in the propagation of bananas.

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Feeding time!

Final thoughts:

Overall the British Museum of Food does what it sets out to do, by taking the visitor through a food journey “From Field to Table, Mouth…and Beyond”. The size of the space does limit what is on display, nonetheless the ways in which the materials are curated allows the museum to simultaneously becomes a pedagogic and entertainment space.

References:

Bompas and Parr (2015). British Museum of Food. Retrieved from http://bompasandparr.com/projects/view/british-museum-of-food

Joosse, S., & Hracs, B. J. (2015). Curating the quest for ‘good food’: The practices, spatial dynamics and influence of food-related curation in Sweden.Geoforum64, 205-216.

MOFAD (2015). Vision. Retrieved from http://www.mofad.org/

 

Priya Vadi (PhD Candidate)

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Introducing the MA Cultural Geography Students 2015/6

Chloe Asker
PastedGraphic-1Before finding myself at Royal Holloway, I studied human geography at The University of Southampton. Here, I began to cultivate my passion for cultural geography and the more-than-human aspects of the discipline. I completed my undergraduate dissertation on the gendered domestic geographies of dog keeping, and found my interest for nature-cultures and embodiment under the guidance of Dr Emma Roe.

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Adam Badger

UntitledI arrived onto the MA cultural geography course having just finished my BA Geography degree at Royal Holloway earlier this year. My primary research interests concern social mobility/justice, the city and (rather differently) the digital world. I believe we now stand at a point where online worlds can interact with the built environment and provide the agency necessary for social change. In my opinion, part of our role as geographers is to research these issues in a democratic way to help towards creating a fairer society.

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Ed Brookes

edHaving spent the past two years traveling and working abroad I have returned to the world of academia. I have a previous geographical background graduating from Southampton with a BA in Human Geography. I have developed broad interests in geographies of the home, memory and mobility. I am especially interested in the politics of home and memory spaces, and how individuals navigate the spaces in which they live, previously researching elderly experiences in sheltered accommodation.

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Georgina Collins

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 10.57.13I graduated from Royal Holloway in the summer of 2015 with a BSc in Geography. Throughout my undergraduate I became very interested in Historical Geography and the Geographies of Museums and Collections. My undergraduate dissertation involved engaging with objects from the V&A Indian collection to consider the changing attitudes towards displaying India from the Colonial and Indian exhibition 1886 to the present day Nehru gallery. This allowed me to explore the method of object biography; which I wish to investigate further during the Cultural Geography MA using material culture to explore the concept of cultural genocide.

 

Dan Crawford

557834_4866521881537_879988634_nI completed my undergraduate degree at Royal Holloway this year, and am now studying for the MA as part of an ESRC 1+3 studentship. Broadly I am interested in the relationships between architecture, religion, heritage, landscape and sacred space. My research aims to investigate the ways in which sacred spaces are understood and experienced in the contemporary city, how they undergo material change over different timescales, and how these changes are implicated in wider social and cultural processes.

 

Jo Howes
unnamedComing to higher education later than most, my journey was via horticultural training and practice, followed by a History degree. My research interests include the Victorian imperial networks of horticultural knowledge and exchange and the spaces that have permitted or restricted this flow of knowledge across gender, class and ethnicity.

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Katy Lawn
katyAfter completing my undergraduate degree at Durham University, where I focused on cultural and literary geographies, I have joined Royal Holloway with a general interest in philosophies of living and emotional/psycho-geographies. Through a particular focus on the geographies of work and the workplace, I hope to uncover some of what it means to live a fulfilled life in a contemporary urban setting.

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Anthea Zhang 

mmexport1443952928294I am a visiting research student from South China Normal University. I major in geographical information science. And I have strong Interests in Cultural Geography. I focus on the intersection between Cultural Geography and GIS. At the moment my research is concentrating on the everyday practice of migrations in Guangzhou city, China. Using a qualitative GIS method.

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HELEN SCALWAY ON GEOGRAPHIES OF LAB MICE

On November 3rd 2015 I made a presentation to the Landscape Surgery group at Royal Holloway concerning a collaborative project between a geographer, Professor Gail Davies of Exeter University, and myself as an artist. The subject concerned the geographies of lab animals, specifically lab mice. The presentation was an attempt, as the collaboration is now drawing to a close, to situate the work in a wider context, within a set of histories.
Sadly Gail could not be present. However, I began by looking briefly at one of her papers to which she had drawn my attention early on in our long conversation, one I have found riveting, titled ‘Writing biology with mutant mice: the monstrous potential of post genomic life’ (Davies 2013).
In this paper Gail explores the ways in which the science around lab animals is subject to different forces: a version of science is at work, characterised as modernist – i.e. reductionist, spare, ‘pure’, looking for uniformity and repeatability on the one hand; and in contrast, a ‘post-modern’ version characterised by excess, undecidability, unforeseeability – what in Derrida’s terms might be called ‘the monstrous’. She writes:
‘Rather than searching for the normal, the ideal type, or the singular genetic code from which variations are defined, here difference is of central interest and value … it is monstrous in the sense that it is oriented to the production of a variety of possibilities, not all of which will become facts. It is open to the future – to the monstrous arrivant – in a way that the sequencing practices of human genome project were not…’

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Arrows

There are some interesting parallels between these suggestions of ‘excess, undecidability, unforeseeability’ in post-genomics – characteristics of ‘the monstrous’ – and these qualities in some approaches to contemporary drawing. Crucially, in the context of the work which became Micespace, we might say that drawing which welcomes the not-yet-see-able partakes of ‘the monstrous’, understood in this way. Drawing research scholar Vinod Goel has suggested that, in certain phases in a design process, thoughts and their representations need to be ‘intersecting, undifferentiated and ambiguous’ (2014: 4) and that freehand sketches are useful because they facilitate lateral transformations (ibid., p. 218). Another leading drawing researcher, Steve Garner remarks: ‘Drawing is an immanence, always pointing to somewhere else’ (2008: 37).

Drawing as begetting the unfixed and ambiguous, the future-bearing – this seemed to offer fitting approaches for a project concerned with the begetting of ‘the monstrous’.

So, at Landscape Surgery I presented some works from Gail’s and my collaboration in the light of these earlier comments – not looking for closed conclusions but for further discussion. All the visual experiments were predicated on the idea that while there is an object of study, the lab mouse, there is no fixed agreement as to what kind of entity – or process – this might comprise. The visual approaches all began with some variety of drawing but ranged from a form of charting combining linear pen drawing with writing, to the most hands-on explorations with other materials, to dematerialisations of projected light.
Why so many approaches, so many methods? I think the answer lies somewhere in this: that materials and means radically inflect outcomes and their implications, so that working with different materials opens up a corporeally-imbricated, rich variety of ways of ‘thinkings-through’. Truly method changes meaning; and this became fascinating to me in itself.
Some interesting questions emerged from the session.
Many questions concerned the ‘lab diagram’, initially based on an American National Institute of Health recommended lab design. Instead of requiring people to look at this as a projection or even a series of fly-ins, the diagram, which contains a certain amount of text, was printed out and twenty copies handed round: superficially the work looks like a neutral architectural plan, but the labelling confuses categories. The labelling evokes hope and fear and finance, pain and ‘sacrifice’, ‘dirt’ and ‘purity’, suggesting the metaphoric, moral and emotional complexities of place. A question I need to consider further is why this particular diagram on paper was so productive of questions whereas the projected images in the powerpoint provoked some, but fewer.

3 Lab - the 'clean' and the 'dirty'The clean and the dirty

Various points were raised:

That the lab diagram drawing functions partly as a building plan and needs weighting for frequency of action
That text is a part of an aesthetic
That diagrams do things, capture and create positions – (the implications from this seem vast)
Leaving the questions arising from the diagram for those around the whole website, the question was asked, could the website develop into a form of drawing research?
In what ways are hyperlinks on a website, a version of direction-giving arrows? (Arrows in diagramming having come under discussion for their suggestion of highly selective ‘causality’.)
It was asked whether the tracks made by animals might be considered a form of drawing? – If so, what would the word ‘drawing’ mean in this context?
Could this kind of approach be used to map other human/animal relations, e.g. those with farm animals?
What is the difference, if any, between an unfamiliar hybrid and a monster?
What might be the viewpoint of any audience for this work? How might it be given voice?

Such questions continue to resonate for me.

Helen Scalway

4 Monstrous mouseprintMonstrous mouse print

References

Davies, G. (2013) Writing biology with mutant mice: the monstrous potential of post genomic life, Geoforum, 48: 268-78.

Garner, S. (2008) Writing on Drawing: Essays on Drawing Practice and Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goel, V. (2014). Drawing as a Research Tool, Studies in Material Thinking, Vol.10, February.

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