Project 1: Cookbook Workshop

How can design, and in particular editorial design, generate a space for reflection and intimacy around food?

For this first project I wanted to explore the relation that we have with food creating a space that is intended to bring reflection and awareness around our personal and emotional attachment with food and memories.

Food is a complex concept that relates in so many ways to humankind. Not only biologic but profoundly social, and also very deeply to our emotions. We keep in ourselves so many experiences related to food that even their representations can sparkle old memories. For Marni Reva Kessler, professor of art history, says that:

“This has to do in part with the singular importance of food. We require it to survive, regardless of where—or when— we live and who we are. It sustains us. It is deeply personal in ways that can make it both gratifying and fraught.”
Marni Reva Kessler, Discomfort Food.

One of the many challenges that we face in this century has to do with food. Their production, distribution and consumption, has become, probably, more complex than ever. How we manage something that huge and yet so intimate, so we can improve our relation and practices with it? It is important at least to generate a closer relationship with food and how we build a discourse that it is represented through all kinds of visual representations. To also bring me

I consider the personal relation with food a crucial point. The personal-emotional attachment is key to take care not only about food but about ourselves—being aware of our bodies and our routines. Often, we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the flavors of the dish we have in front, in a pace that is focus only on the productivity, not in contemplation. This experimental workshop that eventually will take the form of a publication is form by many voices that shared a moment of contemplation and emotionality. Even when they don’t eat any prepared dish, they were invited to bring their own memories as the plates that we all share. Herny Notaker in A History of Cookbooks suggest that in any cookbook there are two characters: a writer and a cook. In this case we were all cooks, and writers, sharing a space that it is open to continue reflecting around the way we eat, share and think about food.

Prompt 4: Inquiry

“The way we eat is biologically predetermined, but rather molded by our culture”
Sonja Stummerer & Martin Hablesreiter

For this prompted we were asked to define a research process conducted by our inquiry in a specific area of design that sparks our attention. For me, this meant to centre my practice in one specific theme. I previously had worked some projects related to self-care, anxiety, mental-health and meditative practices. However, for this prompt I wanted to also explore another topic: food. This is a huge field and it touches so much of our complex life, but also, I think that there are specific areas within this field that can be explore deeply, or with other perspectives. In this case a wanted to explore the intimate relation that we have with food and how this relation overlaps with design, especially with the graphic representation of food. Images that are building our relationship with food, and that are shaping our experiences when we get, prepare and eat food.

I started this research defining the framework in a way that I could explore this particular interest. I consider to frame the project with autno-ethonagrphical and phenomenological methodologies. The first ones would allow me to investigate an intimate and domestic space, taking my own habits and practices as the objects of study; the latter ones would let me put special emphasis in the experiences and personal perspectives on how I interact we the language of food.

For this I used different methods: I made a photo documentation, and also wrote some of my reflections and experiences as a journal, I also wrote a recipe, and made a photo session, called Food Portraits, to explore the way food representation can be express. This last exercise also brought a reflection about how my identity and a personal was reflected there.

Prompt 3: Discourse

Bizarre, yet quite common and familiar to all of us, is the relief we feel, and the sudden influx of energy, and courage, when after a long time of uneasiness, anxiety, dark premonitions, days full of apprehension and sleepless nights, we finally confront the real danger: a menace we can see and touch” Zigmunt Bauman, Liquid Fear

For our third prompt we had to choose a reading and then interpret it as something that embodies the ideas behind the text. I started looking for something that generates interest in me. Although the readings that we have done throughout the term, in the design research and contemporary dialogues classes, has brought me a lot of interest, and actually they became the starting point of many reflections, I wanted to took a different route for this project. I wanted to do both a review of an academic-formal reading, but also a very personal exploration. That’s why I chose a book named Liquid Fear written by Zigmunt Bauman, a sociologist and philosopher that broadly explores the live in modern and post-modern societies. In one of his most famous books: Liquid modernity he describes the modern society (and probably more the pos-modernity) as an age of constant change. This is reflected in vast range of aspects including relationships, identities, economies, mobilities, entertainment, etc. This also touches topics as fears, which he explores deeply in a subsequence book: Liquid Fear.

This book opens with a statement, which became the basis of my prompt, that says that the “fear is at is fearsome when it is diffuse”. This unshaped form is the essence of the uncertainty, a feeling where we don’t know what to do or how to face the thread. I initially worked with this idea, the aim of the project was to “shape” in some way your own fears so these were more “physical” and less blurry. The more shaped the less terrifying. This could be understood as an strategy to manage those fears: if we know what they are, we probably know what to do, and if not at least we know where to explore.      

Prompt 2: Material

When I started this project, I was trying to define what material I was going to select. This process also came with a reflection of what can be consider as a material.  I began working with some pictures I was taking of some common materials: earth, wood, concrete, etc. I connected these pictures with some typographic exploration, in a way I was trying to translate the notion of materials, to the written language. After this first approach, I talked with Cameron, and he suggested me to keep working on the typographic exploration. I also realized that simplifying the work could be a good way to get deeper and more freely in the exploration. After all I needed to keep this as a daily practice, so I stopped taking photos and centered my attention to the letters.

I soon discovered that the graphic expression of the language had become the material of my project. I did this as a daily practice. Every day I took a word and play with the letters, with its details, its expression. I detached the world to its rigid structure to use the material in a different way. This, I thought, could evidence the material in a purer form. I also took some of the ideas around the Concrete Poetry. In particular, it brought me curiosity the definition that Jasia Reichardt wrote about concrete poetry: “language is used as a material more than as a means of personal emotive expression”.

However, my exploration became personal and emotive. I was not trying to suppress all the meaning of a world, I was trying to observe it in a different way, more playful. How far could I go separating the word from its original form but no so far that it just transformed in an abstract graphic? I was thinking that playing around with the shapes and the details that builds our drawing language.

The exploration also took another route more related to the process itself. I noticed that this daily practice was intended to be a meditative exercise, that’s why the way I approach to the process of making those exploration was also meaningful. I realized that repletion was a great mechanism to achieve this, so I keep using it as a guideline. After I realized this rhythm, I began to call them mantras. Probably this word put so much sense of what I was doing.

(Visual Poem), Mathias Goeritz, El Eco´s patio, 1953

Prompt 1: The Gift

“Ther’s no such thing as a gift in a vacumm […] The whole cultural thing must be taken into account.”
Dr Michal Laver

There are different meanings attached to the gift-giving practice. For me, one of them is a sense of empathy, appreciation, or understanding of the other person. In this exercise we have to make a gift for a person we just met, in my case Jade. If it is often a challenge to make (or choose) a gift for a person you know very well, it is even more challenging to make one for a person you just met.

I started this prompt trying to define a strategy to generate a unique gift for Jade, a gift that was suited in her own “culture”. I had read that the act of gift-giving is always attached to a cultural aspect and that it can’t be separated from this aspect. But for me, understanding the culture of Jade was not about understanding a social connection between she and her social environment. It was more about how she interacts with her own daily life, that means her hobbies, activities, passions, and also the things she doesn’t like.

In order to do that I wrote a questionary to get some basic information. The kind of questions you usually ask when you meet someone: What you like to do, what are your hobbies, what are your passions, what color do you like, do you have some pets, etc… I thought this was going to be a good way to get known Jade a little more. I also thought it was a quick way because we only had 1 week to develop the project. Not enough time to get know someone very well, and even less to create a gift that was very specific for that person.

Questions made for the interview to get to know Jade better

As many times happens the direction of the project took a different route for the expected. I was going to meet Jade and ask her the questions. We both agree to go to the Nemesis café outside the school and she told me she could answer all the questions there—I had already sent all the questions previously. When we were at the café and order some breakfast before class we just started talking like a very casual conversation, and after the two first questions we forgot about the questionary, this was actually a good thing since the conversation became more casual and also, I think, more relevant (specially for the gift), Also because she eventually sent me the quiestionary answered so I had even more information . After that meeting I had some information to work with. I took this information and use it as the guidelines to making the gift. One of the things that she told me, the way she had found a shelter in nature, became the inspiration of the project. I designed a postcard that was related with this story, a gift that was related to the moment we share getting know each other. The idea of two raccoons hanging was an interpretation of what she had experienced when she moves to Vancouver and particularly to Squamish, the felling she felt when she was surrounded by nature. The hug is also a very common gesture when you give and receive a gift in the Mexican culture.