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Kindle Nexus Update

April 4, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Kindle Project’s Nexus blog. The Kindle Project have been amazing and generous supporters of our work.


RECENT WORK

It has been a little less than a year since our last blog post for Kindle Nexus and a lot has happened. This is a visual report of some of our most recent work, and an update on research mentioned in our last transmission.

COBALT-60 SAUCE

In last year’s blog post we described the Cobalt-60 Barbecue Sauce that we were in the process of making. This project dives deeper into the untold history of mutation bred crops.

Here are some image of the bottles of sauce that we produced, an image from the party that helped pull it all together, and the final installation of the work at the San Jose Museum of Art’s “Around the Table” exhibition. 

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Our research into the history and future of mutation bred crops continues, and we are exploring the possibility of working with a research scientist to put one or more mutation-bred crops that are currently in our food system through the same rigorous screening process that new transgenic crops undergo. 

Based on our literature review on the subject thus far, no one has returned to these somewhat unusual crops and used contemporary scientific tools to get a clearer understanding of how their genotypes were transformed by radiation.

We believe this research into mutation breeding research is important in order to better understand how scientific and political decisions made in the recent past (1950s – today) are effecting our current food system, and the contemporary choices we make. 

As wider range of techniques are employed for transforming the genomes of food crops (selective breeding, mutation breeding, transgenic breeding, CRISPR techniques), and seed cultivars are increasingly swapped in and out of the food system at a faster rate, humanity would benefit from a more thorough and nuanced understanding of what has happened in the past. 

 

FOOD PHREAKING

After much collaborative effort, we finally rereleased Food Phreaking issue #00 in July of 2013. Since then it was named one of Gizmodo’s and Edible Geography’s 2013 books of the year. This has meant that we are almost completely sold out of the first print edition!

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A free .PDF of the book is available here, and for those people that want to hold and flip though hard copy, a few are still available for purchase here: foodphreaking.com.

As we work on Issue #1 of Food Phreaking (due out in April 2014) we continue to strike a balance between free information and beautiful book design. Both the printed books and digital copies are creative commons licensed, and we ourselves are drawing on the commons significantly in the creation of these publications. Visit www.foodphreaking.com in late April to take a look at Issue #1 “A Culinary Atlas of a Few Curious Botanical Fruits”.

 

PSSC LISBON

In 2013 we were commissioned to design a pop-up restaurant in the dining room of a historical palace as part of the Lisbon Architectural Triennale. After many months of planning and collaborations with Turismo de Portugal, we finally launched the restaurant with a series of 3 meals. Culinary students from three local food colleges ran the restaurant for 3 months, and we were able to make connections with interesting producers and food thinkers throughout Portugal during the run of the restaurant.

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THE CENTER TURNS 3

Finally, a video that summarizes our first 3 years of activity (2010 – 2013). The video gives a comprehensive overview of all of our activities for the last three years:

This video was used to apply for the VIDA 15.0: Art & Artificial Life awards. The Center was selected as the People’s Choice awardee. This meant that we were able to travel to Madrid, Spain in March of this year, and install a new archival library of all of our work to date. The library was conceived as a shipping container that can be sent and pop up any where in the world, and it is currently looking for it’s next home. 

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The container was fabricated in collaboration with Matthew Williams, a craftsperson in Portland, Oregon. 

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Center for PostNatural History Entrance Hall

February 11, 2014

Extremely zoomable Gigapan photo of the entrance hall to the Center for PostNatural History in Pittsburgh, USA. Some of our posters are in the upper left. 

Culinary Hacking Workshop NL

January 21, 2014

On December 2013, the Center for Genomic Gastronomy held a 2-day workshop called “Cooking with Constraints: Leaks, Databases & Policies” for 50 undergraduate students from the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam. The workshop concluded with a 10 course meal event where each student-group presented their work.

Each student-group was assigned one database, primary source document or policy document. They were asked to sift through the database or primary source documents looking for inspiration and leads, in order to create new ingredients, recipes or menu items.

Group 1: Wikileaks cocktail

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Group 2: Not Amused

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Group 3: Noah’s Angels

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Group 4:  Respect Radiation

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Group 5: Google Patents Monopoly

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Group 6: Behind the Salmon

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Group 7: Artificial Superficial

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Group 8: Another One Bites the Crops

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Group 9: Consumars

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Group 10: Project Propagate

Propogate

 The workshop and dinner were generously hosted and put together by Anja Groten and  Selby Gildemacher who run the De Punt artist space in Amsterdam.

Event description: 

Designers used to define their practice (and some still do) by the medium they use. Nowadays more and more designers are thinkers who develop strategies. They do research. Designers are social; they consider process as design and create systems, which design for them. The medium seems to become secondary. The attitude and approach gets relevant instead. Designers are involved in think tanks, community and participatory projects, interventions in public space and so forth. They are investigators, journalists, editors, coordinators, advisors, … One can think of a designers’ practice as a set of mind, which demands flexibility.

In the spirit of the current editorial and research project “Culinary Hacking – Another cookbook” we invited Center for Genomic Gastronomy to guide a 2-day workshop/ food lab for all 2nd year graphic design students.

Zack Denfeld and Cathrine Kramer, the founders of Center for Genomic Gastronomy, will come to Amsterdam on 16th and 17th to give us some insight in their independent art-, design and cooking practice. Furthermore they will investigate with us how a designer, can tell a story with food.

The venue for the workshop will be artist-run project space “De Punt” in Amsterdam. At De Punt you will collectively design new recipes in order to investigate the topic of food in relation to politics and cultural change.

Each group is assigned one database, primary source document or policy documents. You should sift through the database or primary source documents looking for inspiration and leads, in order to create new ingredients, recipes or menu items.

Spice Mix Super-Computer @ CultureTECH

November 21, 2013

More than a year after its construction, The Spice Mix Super-Computer is still on the road! Its latest journey was to Derry, Northern Ireland for CultureTECH 2013, a festival of digital technology, media, music and art. From September 12-14, visitors of all ages and backgrounds designed and tested their own spice mixes with the help of the Spice Mix Super-Computer. As the newest member of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, I had the privilege of hosting the caravan and watching as visitors engaged with this new space. 


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The Spice Mix Super-Computer is part of the Mobile Republic, a fleet of traveling, interactive caravans, each designed by different artists and each offering a unique experience for visitors.

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At CultureTECH Festival, the Mobile Republic was located in a central city square, particularly accessible to anyone passing through. From uniformed school children, to unknowing tourists, to tech industry enthusiasts, hundreds of people prototyped new spice mixes and engaged with the Spice Mix’s process of exploration.

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The Spice Mix Super-Computer was commisioned by the AND Festival
Photo Credits: Craig Oates, Ruth McCullough, Emma Conley
 

Old Craigie Road Allotment

November 20, 2013

The Center is currently in Dundee, Scotland for an Artist Residency as part of the Nil By Mouth project. We will be here for the next two weeks, doing research into multiple food related topics.

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Yesterday we visited Tom Walsh at his plot in the Old Craigie Road Allotments. There were hints of frost visible on the soil surface, and a handful of hardy plants still in the ground: kohlrabi, brussels sprouts and giant turnips. Inside his greenhouse the wood stove kept the dahlia bulbs and us warm. Tom told us that the allotment is one of about ten in in Dundee. It was established in 1933, and he has been there for 50 years.

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Before visiting, I was trying to find out more about Old Craigie Road Allotment, and while digging around the internet I found a report called “To all the Ingenious Allotment Gardeners in Scotland” written by Caitlin O’Brian DeSilvey in 2001. She outlines a tour she did of allotments across Scotland and the article gives a good overview of allotment gardening practices. She wrote the following about the Old Craigie Road Allotment “when my host Alistair Bain propped a ladder against his shed so that I could take some aerial photographs from his roof, I saw the site in its gritty glory—a horticultural shanty-town of makeshift sheds and productive plots.”

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You can glean Tom’s plot through the fence in the left of this image. Visiting the allotment in winter, the green was replaced by brown soil and Tom was busy with digging – getting the beds ready for spring before the ground gets too hard. He often saves seeds, although he also orders from seed catalogues, and he showed us a picture of what his garden at home looked like one season.

 tom-garden

Tom also showed us a the potato varieties he grows: Blue Bell, Rooster, Osprey, Kestrel, Cultra and Celine(? Not sure about the last one, since my note taking was a little messy). It’s curious how many potato varieties are named after birds. After our visit I discovered the British Potato Varieties Database which catalogues the huge variety of potatoes in the UK.

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Being complete novices to the culture surrounding allotments, we were surprised and interested to hear about ‘the shows’. These are competitions held by the different allotments both locally and nationally, where growers compete for awards in multiple categories, from “Six Vegetables” (the image below shows the type of vegetables you can choose to present) to “Most Unusual Exhibit”. This seems like a great way to encourage biodiversity. Judges need to be certified and it seems to be taken very seriously. We hope to speak to a judge during our stay to find out more about the competitive side of gardening.

show

We have lots more to explore over the next couple of weeks, and look forward to sharing our observations and discoveries.

The Nil By Mouth project is organised and supported by Crichton Carbon Centre, Creative Scotland and Wide Open.

 

AND Festival 2013

November 19, 2013

On October 5th The Center for Genomic Gastronomy had a great time participating in the Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival in Liverpool, England. This year we took part in the AND fair.

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The AND fair was the perfect setting to fabricate and demo a new project called DeExtinction Deli.

“The De-extinction Deli is a fantastical market stand designed to highlight the emerging technologies, risks, and outcomes of the growing movement to bring back, and possibly eat, extinct species.” 

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 During the day long fair we spoke to people who had wide range of opinions about DeExtinction and eating DeExtinct animals. (Flickr Set)

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Visitors to the deli were able to vote on whether they thought DeExtinction was a good idea or not, and whether they would eat DeExtinct animals.

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We even met one participant that completely challenged our assumptions about the rhetoric of DeExtinction. This visitor to the D-Deli self-identified as a Creationist who “doesn’t believe in Evolution or Dinosaurs”, but thought that bringing animals back from extinction was doing “God’s work”. And he would definitely eat them, too. Fascinating. 

The DeExtinction Deli even has vegetarian options:

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More information on the DeExtinction Deli.

Atomic Zoo: Radiation Bred Animals?

September 28, 2013

The Center is continuing its research on mutation breeding that we began back in 2010. In November we will install a triptych installation at the San Jose Museum of Art which will display the past present and future of radiation breeding. 

Most of our research has centered on the history of radiation breeding in plants. There is an enormous set of records in the IAEA’s Mutation Variety Database. Many of these “useful mutants” are commonplace in human food systems all over the planet.

In comparison we have found relatively less information about radiation-bred animals. While we have not completed an exhaustive literature review, we have not run into any documented radiation breeding / animal husbandry programs in the U.S. or elsewhere.

 However, while conducting this radiation breeding research we ran into this curious film documented in the Prelinger archive:

MagicOfTheAtomAtomicZoo

The Magic of the Atom: The Atomic Zoo
Produced by Leo H. Handel with the technical assistance of the U.S. Automic Energy Commision and the Atomic Energy Project at UCLA

The first line of the film is “Peace time atomic energy has found its way into the Animal Kingdom.”

 Two of the questions posed in the video “relating to our daily living” are 

“How does food, containing radioactive material, effect animals?” and  “What effect, if any, has an atomic processing plant on the vegetation and livestock in its area?”

The narrator goes on to explain that: “The overall atomic biological research program includes both plant and animal work and it is hoped that it will result in major gains toward understanding plant and animal life processes and soil-plant relationships, which combined, give you improved agricultural production.”

EXPERIMENTS IN THREE CHAPTERS

Chapter 1: Experimenting with Sheep

“Scientists at AEC’s (Atomic Energy Commission) Hanford Works are gathering vital information to safeguard the important lamb and wool indsutry in that area. Since waste products, such as radioactive iodine from chimney stacks of atomic plants often settle on soils and vegetation eaten by sheep, it is important to know, the exact effect this has on them.”

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“Sheep are feed food pellets containing varying amounts of radioactive iodine…..the offspring of the sheep will also be studied for several generations to determine the physical changes that may have been caused by the effect of radiation on the first group of sheep.”

One wonders if the AEC scientist were keeping their eyes out for “interesting” phenotypical variation in the lab subjects for the purposes of breeding. Noting and back breeding mutants is what mutation breeding in plants is all about. However, there are ethical and (one would guess) morphological / developmental differences in exposing plants and animals to radiation for the purposes of creating “variation”. Were any of the genetic lines of the later generations of sheep retained? If anyone knows of any historical radiation breeding experiments on animals we would love to be informed. Please email us. 

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Yum…….radioactive sheep blood being transferred through the use of  a MOUTH PIPETTE! 

Chapter 2: Egg Formation

“This hen is receiving a feeding of radioactive calcium and phosphorous….”

“These experiments are aimed at gathering vital data about eggs, universal food products. Perhaps the knowledge may lead to better methods of feeding hens, so that some day we have a bigger production of more nutritious eggs.”

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“Such fascinating research is attracting more and more young scientists and technicians into the atomic energy field.”

 

Chapter 3: Radioactive Fish 

 FishAutomicHanford

“At Hanford a small fraction of the Columbia River water is pumped through the giant Plutonium producing reactors to carry off heat generated by the production processes. This activity makes the minerals in the water slightly radioactive.”

“After being stored in retention basins long enough for most of the radioactivity to dissipate, the water is dumped back into the river. What effect do the remaining radioactive materials have on the river and its plant, animal and fish life?”

“From this and many more tests the effect of radioactive material upon fish and aquatic plant life will be determined for the benefit of all mankind, through the magic of the atom.”

 

Lisbon Dinner Menus

September 24, 2013

Recipes for Disaster Lisbon, 1755.

A turning point in history. Earthquake, tsunami and fire. Out of the wreckage, a new way of seeing and being in the world emerged. Our contemporary disasters are harder to see because they are complex, diffuse and effect humans indirectly. Overfishing. Colony collapse disorder. The clean water crisis. Climate change. There is a sense that a catastrophe is heading our way. Doomers, preppers and hoarders the world over are stocking their cabinets with preserved food and hunkering down. This set of dishes tells the story of disasters new and old. However, it is not all doom and gloom with disasters. During times of crisis the world is turned on its head. We are forced to invent new social and environmental relationships. Enjoy the journey because the destination is not predetermined. 

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Slow Expectations

After a century of speed are we ready for a radical slowing down? If we keep accelerating, humankind will either go extinct or reach escape velocity: uploading our brains to computers, or leaving this planet all together. For those of us still attached to our bodies and the planet, now is the time to pause. Can we choose to slow down on our own terms, or must this be enforced by austerity measures imposed from above? Can we slow down our global food network to reconnect with food that is fair, local and delicious or must we cope with unrelenting speed of global capitalism? There are forgotten flavours and complex methods that are worth retaining, even if they cost more and are inefficient. This menu will serve food that is the result of the most inefficient processes of growing, preparation and consumption of food. We invite you to turn off your mobile phone. Take a little longer than you think might be necessary to savour each of these dishes.

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Decadence for All

Should truly decadent experiences only remain within reach of the privileged few? Is universal access to hedonism a goal worth fighting for? The Modernist agenda paved the way for optimization and standardization, strategies that have consequences when applied to food systems at a planetary scale. We share the Modernist aspiration for social equity, but we propose that desire and pleasure are also universal needs. This menu presents many views on decadence and indulgence, the pertinence of their universal access and the hidden consequences that might arise from their implementation. Is it more opulent to consume meat daily or to eat it less frequently making each rare occasion truly sumptuous? There are many varieties of decadence: this menu emphasizes the close, the slow and the social. We invite you to loosen your belt, get your hands dirty and express your pleasure in public. Feel free to close your eyes, lick your fingers and define decadence for yourself.

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CURRENT & UPCOMING

March 11 - April 19th 2014
VIDA 15.0 Award Show
March 28 & 29, 2014
Future Everything Festival
06 OCTOBER
ArtMeatFlesh
28 SEPTEMBER
RECIPES FOR DISASTER
JUNE–DECEMBER 2012
DA4GA exhibition at Naturalis
JUNE–JULY 2012
MK Gallery. England.