Issue 2 Mapping Conversations Spring 2001
In the history of architecture and design there have only been a few "effects"—electric light, forced air—that have had the capacity to cause massive environmental and behavioral shifts. Last year at Barcelona's annual design fair, the Catalonian designer Marti Guixe presented another—breathable food. "Pharma-food, a system of nourishment by breathing," is an appliance that was developed by Guixe to explore the transformation of food into pure information.
Pharma-food joins the work of other, primarily European, designers who are exploring alternative regimens for such activities as washing or eating. One of Guixe's Catalonian contemporaries, Ana Mir, is exploring a technology that allows one to wash without water. Like Guixe's approach, this project would allow washing to occur anywhere. In their work, these designers not only free regimens from their fixed location in relation to certain products; they also free these activities from their traditional engagement with the body. Unlike designers such as Philippe Starck or Richard Sapper, who strive to revise traditional technologies, Guixe has discovered that the problem of eating does not involve the design of a new type of stove, sink, or refrigerator—the problem of eating requires finding a new mouth.
Guixe, who has been studying alternative forms of eating for several
years, realized that the breathing of "food" already occurs via the
inhalation of dust that hangs in the air at work and at home. Guixe
hypothesized that this form of eating, from which one gains a miniscule
amount of minerals and vitamins, could be trans-formed into a more
potent meal, a "dust-muesli," that would supply a powerful dose of
nutrients. The Pharma-Food appliance, which sprays this ærosolized
nutrition, connects to a computer and requires Microsoft Excel to enter
exact values for such things as riboflavin, vitamin C, and protein. The
combination of these nutrients are saved on the computer as documents
with names such as "SPAMT," which has the nutrient "language" of
tomatoes and bread, and "Costa Brova," a "seafood" dish that is heavy
on the iodine and light on carbohydrates. Guixe imagines diners
composing these "meals" and sending them as e-mail attachments to other
owners of the Pharma-food emitter. "Like MP3," says Guixe.
David Gissen is associate curator for architecture and design at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. He is currently developing an exhibition on human conveyance (elevators, escalators and moving sidewalks) and one on flying buildings.
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© 2001 Cabinet Magazine