Soylent Green is a 1973 dystopian thriller, set in the year 2022, that depicts a future of poverty, overpopulation, pollution and depleted resources. The film centers around the wealthy soylent corporation’s highly processed food substitute for the masses, a square green wafer, called soylent green, which at the film’s conclusion is revealed to be processed from human remains, with the famous line “soylent green is people!”. My work borrows themes from the film, using experimental casting methods to process a typical 3 course meal into 9 edible 3cm cubes of equal dimension. However, rather than traditional additive processing methods, such as in the film, the food undergoes processes of deconstruction to separate it into its elemental parts, resulting in the production of the building blocks for a meal.
This meal consists of three courses. Entree is a ratatouille with rice pilaf and yoghurt sauce. The main is a tomato beef ragu with spaghetti. And dessert is a vanilla tart with passionfruit coulis and a blueberry cream. Experimentation was required to develop ways of processed and altering typical meals to ensure they would take the form of the cube mould.
The work’s semiotic meaning is entirely contingent upon its context, with its setting aiding in generating varying interpretations for the work. The work has been photographed in three different contexts to demonstrate this, and more broadly, to demonstrate the relationship that exists between food and the setting in which it is presented.
The first context is at a fine dining restaurant, where the unorthodox form pairs with a consistency in presentation, to result in a perception of high quality, avant guard cooking, affecting the patron’s impression and judgement of the meal, before it has ever been tasted. The second context is within a gallery, where the form and process of production is respected as the work is left to be appreciated. However, the form and the meal’s appeal quickly deteriorate as time passes and the meal begins to spoil, allowing the work to raise broader questions around the temporality of art. And the third context is within a takeaway container, drawing attention to the highly processed, convenient form that the meal takes, raising questions around the industrialised commodification of the modern diet and highlighting the increasing value we place on convenience in food. In all three contexts, the serving plate acts as the plinth for the meal. This, paired with arrangement, contextualises the work and assigns it value, which in turn generates meaning.