Critical Cooking Show
Project
Softening Cultures
Designer
Ben Goldner and Emma Leigh Macdonald
Synopsis

Consider the space of your kitchen. Who do you share it with? Are they human? Non-human? Could others be let in?

Softening Cultures takes its time to engage with the process of fermentation. Yeast and other microbes exist on the surfaces of almost everything we eat, yet they only thrive in certain environments. In the process of fermenting, we do not so much create them, as create environments for their futures. These microbes bump up against the walls of human empathy, but design can create supporting structures – scaffoldings – to soften this barrier to our interdependence. In reintroducing bacteria where they have historically been expunged, through the demonisation of ripening food, and their alienation from the modernist Western kitchen, the process of fermentation defies assumptions and encourages an expanded understanding of empathy in the kitchen.

Given that these processes cannot be limited to the bounds of a digestible episode, Softening Cultures employs footage compiled over time. While the project communicates with viewers through instructional formats, its multiple authors create unknowns that do not allow for tidy conclusions, but instead suggest a collaborative way forward that continues long after the episode ends.

Biography

Ben Goldner and Emma Leigh Macdonald began their shared research as students of the Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture program at Columbia GSAPP, based in New York. Goldner’s work involves engaging with the potential phenomenological aspects of food products and their respective infrastructures, and in particular their usefulness as an educational apparatus. Macdonald’s research focuses on the meal and the instructional format as generative of new conceptions of communal space, particularly in artistic practice and activism. The 5th Istanbul Design Biennial is the first formal instance of their practice together.

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