Ausstellung "Future Food"

Utopia on a plate Exhibition „Future Food“

B eef or soya? Fast food or slimming diet? Insects or in-vitro meat? “Future Food”, an exhibition at the German Hygiene Museum, poses the question of how our eating habits might change in the years to come and, at the same time, looks back into the past. An interview with the curator Dr. Viktoria Krason.

17. September 2020

Selly Häußler

Will we all be eating insects instead of beef in the foreseeable future?

Not any time soon, I shouldn’t think. Insects are still relatively expensive to source and only available in a few restaurants and supermarkets.

When might that change?

It might be the case at some point that large meat companies decide to invest in the production and marketing of unfamiliar foods and thus lower the price. However, insects are not an integral part of the Western diet – the inhibition threshold is high. For vegetarians and vegans, food made from insects would not be acceptable for ethical reasons, because they too are part of the animal kingdom.

So, what do you think is about to come onto the menu in Western societies?

That’s not so easy to answer, because Western culture is so diverse. It depends on the priorities that each country sets for itself in the future. If climate change continues to be at the forefront of policy making, this will reinforce the move towards a plant-based diet. But if the issues of national identity and economic growth predominate, this will promote a high-meat diet. Social trends and political objectives as well as individual interests have an impact on people’s consumption patterns, regardless of whether they eat fast food, become vegetarians or go on a diet. What we eat depends on many different factors, and that is the fascinating aspect.

At the moment, more and more people are going vegetarian or even vegan.

It’s true that, in Germany at least, a point has been reached where less and less meat is being consumed. The high demand for organic and fair-trade products is driving supply in the discounters. This shows that many people are in favour of it. But we have seen similar developments in the past. For example, the ‘life reform movement’ of the 19th century and the student movement of the 1960s, both of which came in for some ridicule from wider society at the time. Today, there is increased social awareness of nutrition and climate change, and of the responsibility we all bear as individuals. So it can be argued that a turning point has been reached. Nevertheless, meat consumption is still relatively high. I hope that the current trend continues, but every movement can trigger a countermovement. And right now, there are populist parties in Europe that are pushing the agenda in a different direction.

It's about how eating can become more sustainable, healthier and fairer.
Curator Dr. Viktoria Krason

Is this trend only observable in prosperous societies?

It is primarily a phenomenon of wealthy societies. In all cultures where meat has traditionally had an elevated status, higher incomes have led to an increase in meat consumption. This could happen in the future as poorer countries become more prosperous. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way. The wealthy countries could set an example by demonstrating that a plant-based diet is both practicable and desirable. It would be nice if such a breakthrough could be achieved.

How have you incorporated these ideas into the Future Food exhibition?

We present different ideas for the food of the future which have been developed by business, science and private initiatives. These show how food can become more sustainable, healthier and fairer. We have grouped them under three headings: Food Production, Food Trade and Food Consumption. And because the global food system is so abstract and multi-faceted, we have used appropriate visual settings: a greenhouse, a logistics centre and a supermarket. Visitors will be given information and get impressions on different levels by means of exhibits from agriculture, technology, science, industry and culture, interviews with experts, information graphics, interactive stations and also contemporary art.

Why is art in particular a suitable approach to the subject?

Art offers the opportunity to reflect on individual aspects of the issue by means of sensory perception, which is to say in a different way from documentaries or factsheets. One exhibit is a film by the Polish video artist Wojtek Doroszuk. He shows agriculture as an actual utopia, a kind of love affair between man and nature. In doing so, he raises an extremely important question: what kind of relationship with nature do we want? But art is just one of many approaches. At the same time, the exhibition is highly informative, presenting many facts as well as arguments for and against.

What happens at the interactive stations?

At a station, visitors can take problematic products such as chicken, sugar and soy from a conveyor belt and scan them. This provides a range of information about the value chain and conditions under which the item was produced. There are also stations dealing with organic and fair-trade seals of approval, and visitors can try out new food apps.

Is meat consumption the focus of the exhibition?

No. It plays a major role, but it’s just one issue among many. It is part of the big central questions of how to produce food more sustainably in the future, how trade can be more equitable and how consumption can be made healthier. To encourage a reduction in meat consumption, for example, other foods are discussed, such as algae products or in-vitro meat.

The early vegetarians around the year 1900 were concerned about animal welfare but also intent on becoming a better person.
Curator Dr. Viktoria Krason

 

So, the exhibition also comes up with solutions?

That’s the point. Various projects will be presented: digitisation and robotics, new methods of organic farming, creative regional fair-trade companies, legislation that could prohibit or increase the price of certain products, and political concepts on a global scale. These are all different approaches, some of which may be mutually contradictory.

Some of the exhibits are historical. Why is it important to look at the past when we are considering the future of food?

There have always been ideas for the future, and when you compare those ideas with the ones of today, when you consider the reasons why they were implemented or failed, you begin to see similarities and differences and to understand what was so original about them. The early vegetarians around the year 1900 were concerned about animal welfare but also intent on becoming a better person. Today, climate change is part of the equation. You can better understand the present by studying the past.

The exhibition “Future Food” will be on view in the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden until February 21, 2021.

Dr. Viktoria Krason studied Art History, Modern German Literature and Philosophy in Münster, Venice and Berlin. She is curator at the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden.