How do we design a more responsible food industry?
Wallpaper|August 2021
Cooking Sections: The Turner Prize-nominated duo seek to critique what we eat and explore how we can do so more sustainably. Priya Khanchandani, head of curatorial at London’s Design Museum, talks to founders Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe about the politics of food, and fixing broken structures of consumption
Priya Khanchandani

On a bright white stage in a black room at Tate Britain, the frail, white silhouettes of creatures – a penguin, a flamingo, a dog, a shrimp and a fish – fade eerily into the backdrop, accompanied by the quiet, expectant gargle of water. It’s a haunting sight, devoid of colour, movement or life, frozen in a desolate seascape.

As we reflect on how it came to this, a voice begins to speak. Its script reveals that this scene is a metaphorical representation of the exploitation of salmon through industrial farming in Scotland. Farmed salmon – which are denied a natural diet of krill and shrimp are deprived of astaxanthin, which gives their flesh its pink or reddish colour and protects them from solar radiation and stress. They are genetically modified, subjected to year-round summer-like atmospheres so they grow faster, and often suffer from physical deformities and parasites. We are told that ‘salmon is the colour of a wild fish which is neither wild, nor fish, nor even salmon’. Fusing design, art, activism and community work, the founders of Cooking Sections, Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe, explore how and what we eat, as well as ways in which we can do so more sustainably in the interests of wildlife, our own health and the ecosystems we inhabit. Their solo exhibition at Tate Britain, titled ‘Salmon: A Red Herring’, ‘is a continuation of the project we’ve been doing in Skye in Scotland for the past five years’, says Pascual. ‘We started looking at the impact of salmon farms across the island, and creating a structure to rethink agricultures across the island, but also to start transitioning from salmon farming to other ways of eating.’

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