Sensuous Materials – Food


The diner is served from the right with a plate containing some black olives, fennel hearts and kumquats. From the left he is served with a rectangle made of sandpaper, silk and velvet. The foods must be carried directly to the mouth with the right hand while the left hand lightly and repeatedly strokes the tactile rectangle. In the meantime the waiters spray the napes of the diners’ necks with a conprofumo [perfume] of carnations while from the kitchen comes contemporaneously a violent conrumore [music] of an aeroplane motor and some dismusica [music] by Bach.

from the Futurist Cookbook by F.T. Marinetti c.1932
more about Marinetti’s book at Maria Popova’s blog

The innovation foundation nesta asked post graduate students at UCL to consider how we might devise a research programme to think about social dining. Do people eat together more … or less these days? Under what circumstances do they want to do it?

The Futurist Cookbook by artist and poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti inspired a sensory workshop to think about these issues.

The following interventions were proposed and tested:

aural interventions – eating with various sounds being played through earphones.

unusual tools – using items not normally associated with food and inventing new sorts of eating implements

gustatory challenges – strange food combinations

discomfort – trying to eat while balancing on a wobbly surface or being fed by another person

how does it feel to be fed by someone you don’t know very well, how can noise be made more or less bothersome and how do physical difficulties affect the eating process

The workshop is playful and challenging. This is embodied learning; performing an action as opposed to simply imagining it. When participants are all from different cultures the experience reveals valuable insights into human reactions to the sensual qualities of food and environmental conditions