The new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum looks at the past and future of food, asking plenty of tough questions about waste and sustainability
It is a pivotal moment for food, according to the V&A, which is growing its own mushrooms in leftover coffee grounds for this exhibition. The fungi are joined by edible water bottles, designer chickens and experiments at every stage of the gastronomic system.
The exhibition has been designed around four themes: ‘Compost’, ‘Farming’, ‘Trading’ and ‘Eating’. Compost looks at global solutions to the problem of food waste and includes the home-grown mushrooms as well as exhibitions such as a textile, Totomoxtle, made in Mexico from the husks of discarded heirloom corn.
Farming looks at the ways food production is being transformed globally through technological innovation, and at energy-efficient ways of creating sustenance for a growing population. This section also features a special commission by artists Fallen Fruit, who have created a 12-metre wallpaper inspired by the V&A's history as a nursery for fruit trees, exploring the place of fruit in culture.
Other highlights for visitors include the opportunity to try a range of samples – from Company Drinks, a community enterprise in east London that picks produce and produces drinks locally, to a 'bioregional canapé' based on the person's answers to a quiz about the future of food, created by the Center of Genomic Gastronomy.
During the exhibition, the museum will host a variety of events, including curator talks and food styling and photography workshops in the opening weekend. During June, there will also be a festival in South Kensington involving many of the museums and galleries in the area – as well as talks and performances, there will be workshops and food stalls at the V&A, which is the host of the foodie part of the festival. To kick off the Great Exhibition Road Festival on 28 June, the V&A will hold a Friday Late event with demonstrations and edible experiments linked to the themes of the exhibition.
Ultimately, the exhibition is designed to get everyone thinking about where our food comes from and where it will, or could, come from in future. Co-curators Catherine Flood and May Rosenthal Sloan said they hoped the exhibition would 'explore food as rich ground for citizenship, subversion and celebration.'
It's a taste of the future: sustainable and hopefully delicious.