Living in My Belly
- There is great temptation to explain something as something else. We find ourselves saying “oh this is really this”. An alternative approach could be to place two things side by side and let the light of each illuminate new aspects of the paired objects. When a sugar cube is paired with a building block, or a unit of construction, we see new aspects of food consumption and the built environment. It might seem absurd to consider the sweetness of a building, or the potential of dwelling within a piece of bubble-gum, but absurdity as a mode of thought can be appropriate if living has become absurd.
By putting mass-produced, processed food in conversation with motifs of modernist design, we question the constructed nature of food, and the element of hunger apparent in our consumption of designed products. In both instances a mark of nature moves further and further from the facade, with only our mechanical touch left. An imprint of the production process tells an abstract story of how an object came to be, with all semblance of nature drained from its form. George Bataille writes that our “techniques have in short made it possible to extend – to develop – the elementary movement of growth that life realizes within the limits of the possible.” We have become masters of our own environment, but not necessarily of our needs, or our desires, and certainly not of our nature.
A core ideal of modernist design is to solve a problem. How many units can fit here to satisfy what we need over there? How do we design this to satisfy that? Food feels different, doesn't it? Food wasn't designed, it has grown with us. Our diverse diet reflects the diversity of the varied human environment. But as we grow estranged from our sources of sustenance, it seems food also becomes less and less like food. The stifling homogeneity of mass production is now ubiquitous with all aspects of life. Now food doesn't grow, it is moulded, printed, stamped and poured.
Can we say food has utility value in the same way that a chair might? Do minimalist aesthetics satiate our need for nutrition? Maybe it is more appropriate to describe eating as a problem that necessitates a modern solution, and our built environment should be considered a menu to choose starter, main and dessert from a list of possible designs. Both inclinations move us into a space of mass mechanisation.
The patterns of mechanisation are inscribed into the things we consume. A cylindrical block of reconstituted meat probably has more in common with a cement building block than it does with an animal from whence it came. In a desperate clamber to become more organised, and better-designed beings, what imprints will start to appear on our bodies and brains?
The Futurists celebrated this process. By affirming the beauty of a new fast-paced, mechanized world, we pull ourselves further and further from our environment – our relation to our surroundings becomes one of alienated and cold hostility, drained of any life blood. A continual removal from forms of sustenance places us in a sterile and macabre environment, where the looming shadow of a potato waffle towers over us like some kind of Brutalist housing project. Units are compartmentalised, be it living spaces or sugar lumps, we are connected by raised walkways and communicate through spaghetti.
When looking at the cold organisation from which we feed, the passion for a creatively organised life becomes apparent. When things are so frenzied, the endless possibilities of choice become a daunting chore rather than a luxury. In the future frenzy will also equalise. In this future landscape, our bellies will require the same level of attention as our living conditions; pasta sheets are as important as bed sheets, and our choice of biscuit is levelled with our choice of home. Under these conditions, independently of our conciseness, eating will become a great luxurious detour that ensures the intense consumption of energy.
In a contemporary flux of commodity, a production line will satisfy our feeding frenzy, but this feeding will be on anything and everything. Our dinner will be stylish, and our bedrooms delicious. “Henceforth what matters primarily is no longer to develop the productive forces but to spend their products sumptuously.”
The more we invent and automate, the freer we are to choose and consume, but all that is left is the drive to consume more as it becomes easier, and invent new ways to make that consumption more effective. But this is an abstract projection, a grave premonition of a dystopic future where we are units on a production line with nothing to distinguish us from the things we eat and places we live. It is an absurd prediction, isn't it?
 Bataille, Georges., 1988, The Accursed Share Vol. I. New York: Zone Books. Page 36.
 Marinetti, F.T., 1909, The Futurist Manifesto. Paris: Le Figaro.
 Bataille, Georges., 1988, The Accursed Share Vol. I. New York: Zone Books.
 Bataille, Georges., 1988, The Accursed Share Vol. I. New York: Zone Books. Page 37.