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Review: ‘FOOD: Bigger than the Plate’ exhibition, Victoria & Albert Museum

Supernatural (detail), Uli Westphal, 2019, commissioned by the V&A

Supernatural (detail), Uli Westphal, 2019, commissioned by the V&A

I have to say that the V&A is quite possibly my favourite museum in London, so to hear they were exhibiting the politics and pleasure of eating had me there in a flash! I was curious to understand what connection food might have with the arts. As the Live Well Project Coordinator, I work closely with food and its journey from seed to plate. Food as fuel, food as pleasure, but food as art?

From the moment I stepped in, it seemed clear that food is – naturally – art.

Fruits from the Garden and the Field (Purple and Yellow). © Fallen Fruit, 2019.

Fruits from the Garden and the Field (Purple and Yellow). © Fallen Fruit, 2019.

The exhibition, sponsored by Baxterstorey, maps out the production of our nourishment. Starting with the organic waste we produce daily, and transitioning to the innovative way we must look at food as a resource; from the production to the table. 

Above all, this exhibition shows that many industries are now prioritising recycling regimes and food and organic waste reduction (Hurrah!). For me, this showcased a positive amalgamation of production, design and technology with environmental issues.

What’s encouraging is to see the ways in which world-wide projects are pushing the generation of sustainable materials; as well as the beautiful designs that have been created from food waste, the art created is fuelled by an initiative to reduce plastic use.

Another thing that I really liked was the connection between food and technology. I’m a gardener, I produce local food in a very direct way, but sometimes I forget the amazing processes that are occurring to produce something organically. The idea that food production can be transformed with technology, whilst prioritising sustainability, is exciting.

The exhibition wouldn’t be honest if it was all the good bits. Pieces also draw attention to our farming and trading systems and how they threaten the quality of produce. There’s also a glimpse in to the fractured social and environmental system at the foundation of mainstream food production. There are clear ways to improve these ill-performing, unsustainable practices in order to produce quality food – seeing it in a gallery makes it all seem so obvious.

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Last but not least, food is such a good intercultural and social link.  Preparation and serving food is key while approaching the “big table” at the end of the exhibition. The table is covered with meaningful and unique pieces of dinnerware from every part of the world, every piece is telling a story about our society. This resonated with me: In our food workshops in Tower Hamlets, we see people from multiple cultural backgrounds coming together in food preparation. Clichés aside, it really does bring people together.

During my visit I was also able to taste some herbal drink produced by Company Drinks with local resources from the East London area (Barking and Dagenham) and to “compose” a fingernail snack instantaneously produced by Loci Food Lab. Based on my very own food values, I was asked to select on an iPad three characteristics of “Good food”, from this combination they created my snack. And it was quite tasty!

My three markers of good food: Zero Waste, Vegan and Nutritious. What would yours be?

You can visit “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate” until Sunday 20th October, tickets are £17. Concessions available.

Urban Mushroom Farm © GroCycle

Urban Mushroom Farm © GroCycle

This review was written by Clyo, Coordinator of WEN’s Live Well project. Clyo holds workshops on growing, gardening and cooking in Tower Hamlets which are free to attend. They are very popular and the current programme is fully booked. For information about future sessions or to find out more about Live Well, contact clyo@wen.org.uk. 

Clyo, Live Well Co-Ordinator

Clyo, Live Well Co-Ordinator

Food, glorious food!

Food, glorious food!