While I type these words on my laptop at a hawker centre, I can’t help but notice the uncles looking over from the next table. They are not the only ones. Passersby stare curiously, including the cleaner who slows down whenever she pushes her trolley by.
Maybe it’s how my sleek laptop stands out from the gaudy mustard table. Or how I had casually plonked this shiny aluminum slab on a plastic surface stained by kopi and teh. As the only customer using a laptop in the hawker centre, I stand out like a sore thumb. My back certainly feels that way from sitting on the stiff stool.
It is the simplest of features found on many food packaging. A tear, a jagged edge, or a perforated line—a godsend to anyone who has struggled to open a packet of chips. These designs conveniently replace the need for brute force, and are considerate gestures from food manufacturers that have thought carefully about how we eat.
Eating, or the journey that food takes to get into our mouths (and even within our bodies), is a logistical issue many of us take for granted. This global movement of crops and livestock, from a farm through a processing facility, to a market, into a kitchen, on a dining table, and finally, entering as food inside our stomachs, is one facilitated by design at every turn. We don’t have to travel far to see examples: start with the plate, spoon, and fork, on the dining table, the most ubiquitous tools the world eats with today. They stand in for our bare hands and function in ways we cannot. Plates divide food into portions, spoons let us sip hot soup, while forks help us pick out the tiniest of ingredients.
Commissioned for the inaugural FoodCine.ma 2016, this showcase presents 15 objects, speculative designs and installations that arise out of observations of how design facilitates the ways we eat together in Singapore. Whether it is consuming forever “fresh” food, having meals at our hawker centres, dining in both life and death, or eating with digital devices, we invite visitors to look at eating beyond a mere ingestion of food, but as a consumption of values and cultures.