Martí Guixé's body of work often explores the role of consumerism, and this collaboration with the NGV is no exception. At face value it's a bright and bold playground for kids, but it's also a stab at the unwitting consumption of processed food.
Guixé studied industrial design, but bucked against the strictures of the discipline to start an anti-establishment practice. Food is his niche area and he's worked up Willy Wonka-style concoctions including vapourised food molecules (meaning that you can literally inhale your food) and lollypops with orange seeds inside that can be buried, then sprout into a tree.
For this exhibition, Guixé has designed repeating prints of black and white veggies and colourful fruits reminiscent luridly-coloured foods popular in the ’50s and ’60s. The entrance to the exhibition, which is part of the NGV’s program targeted at young art enthusiasts, features large cut-outs of produce that make their way around a conveyor belt. It’s so striking that one kid is compelled to yelling “moving fruit!” over and over again before his dad drags him off.
The front half of the exhibition is decked out like a giant diner with booths lining the walls. Computers at each booth invite kids to enter their name and take a photo of their face. Once uploaded, fruit and veg obscure the viewer’s eyes and mouth – a reminder that we are what we eat. The ensuing activity allows little peeps to design and decorate foods in colours outside the norm, using unusual combinations of food (we were asked to draw an omelette made with grapes). Once complete, you can download the result and email it to yourself for keeps.
The other half of the exhibition is more of a food processing plant than a kitchen – kids are encouraged to wash their hands (at a sink with pretend water), pop on an apron and grab a bowl that they can fill with foam, suede and felt objects that bear little resemblance to real food.
The bowls then work their way down the manufacturing line, where heat, smells, textures, sounds and flavours are added. Cleverly, the smell function blows air over granules that waft odours that are spicy but otherwise indecipherable.
At the end of the line, kids take their bowls and plate up their food. A fake camera overhead converts the faux-food into a photo of a dish that’s edible, but hasn’t been within a bull’s roar of a farm. It’s an off-putting reminder that supermarkets are crammed full of “food” absent of anything from a plant or an animal. It’s also a good starting point for discussion about what we eat and where it comes from.