Best before: unlimited
2017 - 2019
multimedia installation: garden sculptures, inflatable pool, salt, a running line, digital picture frames.
This project sprang from a deeply personal narrative rooted in a childhood trauma experienced during my time on a farm long time ago.
In 2019, I had the privilege of participating in a photographic museum residency focused on consumer culture, specifically the production of lab-grown meat as an animal-friendly alternative. Coincidentally, news emerged of a meat factory in Russia claiming to have successfully created the first lab-grown meat.
Motivated to authenticate this information, I reached out to the meat factory's management, seeking collaboration and further investigation. Unfortunately, my requests were met with refusal, and my inquiry hit a roadblock. The research report from their lab yielded no fresh insights beyond the initial press release, and the images provided bore striking resemblance to those found in online image banks. Regrettably, I was unable to verify the veracity of the media coverage or obtain a sample of the product for examination. It seemed as though a fabricated news story had been orchestrated solely for publicity purposes.
Uzbek pilaf is one of my favourite dishes. My stepfather used to cook it. He was a Tatar, which is probably why his pilaf was so tasty: always moderately greasy, not dry, grain to grain, the meat tender, soft, juicy. Pilaf was usually prepared for guests, on holidays or when a cow was slaughtered. A specialist from Bashkiria, for example, was hired to do the slaughtering. On that day we all cried and the cow cried, but the pilaf was still very tasty. Then the haymaking season would begin and we would go out to gather hay. I was always dissatisfied with this arrangement and began to fantasise, creating my own ideal world where there was a law: 'NO ONE EATS ANYONE'. "That world would collapse immediately, of course, because everyone would die," my stepfather would say.
As an adult, I came across Paul Shapiro's book Clean Meat, which tells the turbulent story of inventors and investors trying to bring to market the world's first true animal products, made without breeding or killing animals. Instead of animals directly, we will be able to tame and grow inanimate meat from their DNA. The story Paul Shapiro tells of this 'second domestication' is nothing less than domestication at the cellular level.
I was incredibly inspired: the book described the possibility of creating hybrid steaks from beef, salmon and turkey. The only thing separating the science fiction from the real world was the question of finding investors and a well-functioning marketing department to bring this product to market.
"Hypnosis of a plant by a pseudo-scientist." Video 03:55
Once again I began to fantasise. What might this new world look like? Where would "clean meat" be grown, perhaps directly in the fields? Who would be the people who would cook and eat this new product? Which professions would emerge, which would disappear, would the butcher become a chemist-technologist, changing his former status from image to hero? What will the packaging of the new organic meat look like? How will we be able to monitor product quality? What themes will appear in literature and art, and what will become of food traditions and habits? Who will we become? What will be the basis of our choices when buying animal meat and lab-grown meat? Will we have a choice, or will we be forced to take a course of pills containing our daily protein allowance?
Perhaps Clean Meat is another commercial move by the meat companies to carve out another niche. A niche created by consumer awareness and the desire to change the object of choice: soy sausage, vegetable protein steak, insects, limiting consumption or avoiding meat altogether.
What is an informed choice, is food a fuel or a culture? The average person chooses food based on a combination of reasonable price, quality, weight and nutritional value of the food, rarely thinking about the sustainability of a particular product. For many of us, food culture is the ability to quickly and cheaply replenish the body's protein and carbohydrate levels, with taste taking a back seat. The idea of conscious eating is a future yet to come.
"Strange Agents", Victoria Underground Gallery / Samara, curated by Anastasia Albokrinova.
Thanks to the team of the Metenkov House Museum, Eugene, Anton, Nastya, Zoya and Petya, Sasha, Kristina, Alice, Eleonora, Vera, Tatiana and Sasha, Dasha, Anya, Svetlana