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Break-up by Ewa Zak
Break-up by Ewa Zak | © Ewa Zak
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‘Art Food Project’ Turns Eating Into an Art Form

Picture of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor
Updated: 5 July 2018
Merging the lines between form, function, and pleasure, Art Food Project—a retrospective showcase at the Pratt Institute’s Manhattan Gallery—unites the conceptual and pragmatic experience of eating with collections designed to challenge all five senses.

When it comes to fresh, innovative designs, it’s not always the big names that you should look out for. Some of the best work is coming straight from university students. Art Food Project highlights 48 collections of experimental ceramic dinnerware by students from around the world. The show reimagines culinary objects with an impressive sense of originality and sociological curiosity.

Aleksandra Kuta_Fold_2
Fold by Aleksandra Kuta | © Aleksandra Kuta

Slurp by Hanna Litwinowicz, for instance, features spoon-like bowls that curve ever-so-slightly in the center, and encourages users to—yes—slurp their food. “It’s about touching and experiencing the food, as you’re in direct contact with the ceramics,” says Daga Rogers, the head coordinator for Art Food at the exhibition’s opening.

Hanna Litwinowicz_2
Slurp by Hanna Litwinowicz | © Hanna Litwinowicz

Justyna Chodnikiewicz’s Foodalation, a collection with undulating, cupped forms made to fit the user’s nose, was also inspired by the sensory act (and pleasure) of eating. “They’re very emotional, sensual shapes,” Rogers says. The multi-functional vessels allow the user to focus on the food’s aroma (the design was inspired by herbal infusions used in household healing remedies).

Justyna Chodnikiewicz_Foodalation (3)
Foodalation by Justyna Chodnikiewicz | © Justyna Chodnikiewicz

The vessels in Michał Bilinski’s Ritual are perhaps the most intriguing objects in the show. They resemble large masks, similar to elongated bird skulls, but their function isn’t quite clear at first. There’s a sacredness to them, a devout sense of antiquity. It’s only after examining them closely that one understands their purpose: they are drinking containers. Inspired by ceremonial vessels from the Mayan and Aztec cultures, Bilinski imagined users of these ornamental containers “intuitively striking a pose to consume the wine” in a refreshing, contemporary style.

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Sonic by Richie Chen | © Richie Chen

Each year, selected international students from three different universities travel to the Cmielów and Chodziez porcelain factories in Poland to be part of an intensive, three-week workshop. The cohort clock in nearly 12 hours a day to complete their final products.

“The concept was to take the students outside the school and put them in a real environment so they could learn the process and experience how things are made in reality,” says Rogers. “[The project] was about finding solutions for new food displays. They were also working with chefs from different restaurants and sociologists, so there were different angles to the project.”

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Break-up by Ewa Zak | © Ewa Zak

Different students had very different approaches to the design process. “Students from Pratt would come with models made in 3D programming, while Polish students would be more into carving. However, the level was the same, just different ways of transforming knowledge,” Rogers says.

One of the main criteria for the competition was that each design had to be able to be replicated in the industrial environment, which also meant the designers had to use a limited color palette. Most objects in the show are either white, grey, pale pink, or light blue, because these colors do not burn out in the high-firing or pollute the white coloring of the porcelain used within industrial confines.

“We were focusing more on forms. We didn’t want to focus on application or graphics… it was more about the material itself,” Rogers says.

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Foodllery by Dorota Ziaja | © Dorota Ziaja

Some of the more experimental designs include Filip Nizynski’s M015 Juicy Teapot, which resembles a mix between a thorny fruit, a juicer, and a ceremonial Japanese teapot all in one. “I think he was digging into other cultures for this piece,” explains Rogers. The Juicy Teapot is not just a cool conceptual design, but a multi-functional object: the spikes are meant to help the user grip the teapot and the opening was designed to hold the cap steady while juicing.

Other highlights include Aleksandra Kuta’s Fold, which features delicate, triangular appetizer dishes; Nicholas Koscinsku’s Slo Flo, which encourages the user to slowly drip the liquid into the mouth through a series of tiny holes; and Richie Chen’s geometric, stackable dinnerware set entitled Sonic.

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Slo Flo by Nicolas Koscinski | © Nicolas Koscinski

Here’s hoping we’ll start seeing some of these designs in restaurants soon, because they’re too tantalizing to not try at least once.

Art Food Project, presented by Marek Cecula’s Modus Design and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, will be on display at Pratt’s Manhattan Gallery at 144 West 14th Street until September 8, 2018.