2012: Market Interventions

Submitted by John_O on Tue, 01/01/2013 - 21:32


2012 was the year in which The Meat Licence Proposal began to take pro-active steps towards investigating the relationship between the food marketplace in Europe and existing legal infrastructures surrounding meat production and consumption.

Exhibition in the Hague

In January, The Meat Licence Proposal was represented within an exhibition at Stroom Den Haag - Food Forward - curated by Karen Verschooren.  The exhibition was the culmination of a three year cultural research programme by the gallery in the Hague to investigate and explore the future of food and the city.


In order to enable visitors to encounter the complex dialogue which surrounds The Meat Licence Proposal, an installation of existing UK food and animal slaughter legislation was presented. Interviews were conducted on a UK high street (in the mode of consumer research) and recordings were made of public responses to a proposed Meat Licencing Law.  Researchers at Newcastle University's Law School helped to identify legal documents which would either support or refute the claims made by members of the public. and the idea was to try and create a space within which to experience the gulf between the public's perception of existing laws surrounding meat and the written reality.

Legal Document Interface

Artist Tom Schofield collaborated to build an interface which mapped projected light onto the physical legal documents whilst gallery visitors listened to the interviews on a handheld audio player. As differing opinions were voiced the corresponding legal texts were illuminated.  During 2013 we hope to devise further iterations of this installation:

The show in the Hague resurrected interest in the Meat Licence Proposal in the UK and an internet radio station - Monocle - conducted an interview, which fittingly ends with the song Licence to Kill:

Additional to the "legal document Interface" another completely new work which I was able to develop at Stroom was "Black Market Pudding".  

Black Market Pudding

As promised in my January message last year I had wanted to develop a product which could bring some of the ethical issues present in the Meat Licence Proposal direct to the European marketplace.  Along with dedicated workers at Stroom Den Haag (special thanks Peter de Rooden) I worked with Dutch pig farmers to produce a proof of concept for this entirely new product - made from the blood of a live pig. 

Black Market Pudding was presented, and consumed for the first time within the Food Forward show and it is my intention during 2013 that a wider range of people have the opportunity to encounter, taste and respond to this provocative product.  

The Meat Licence Proposal and Black Market Pudding both feature in a book - Food for the City - which was published to document the three year body of research done by Stroom den Haag (of which Food Forward was one part.) 

Black Market Pudding took on a life of its own as an investigative market product following this initial presentation - it has its own website here - and a short film was made by Mitan Mistry and Stephen Fortune for Shoreditch trendspotters prote.in:

An Evening with Symbiotica

During 2008, it was my work in relation to The Meat Licence Proposal which first brought me into contact with the science surrounding tissue engineering (growing animal cells in labs) through the works of Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr as TC&A (specifically Victimless Leather and Disembodied Cuisine.)  In my own endeavors to understand the limits of this technology I have been working for most of this year with the University of Liverpool Clinical Engineering department attempting to grow the World's First Bio-Engineered Football.  During May, I was invited by Oron be part of a European Symbiotica associate group and present at an event called ArtMeatFlesh!

(image: Thierry Bardini)

The premise of the evening, which took place in Rotterdam as part of the Dutch Electronic Art Festival (DEAF), was to explore the unlikely scenario of laboratory grown meat alongside several other practitoners with potentially divergent views!  I had the pleasure of working alongside Polish philosopher Monika Bakke to devise a menu exploring this subject and we prepared and presented our "Trans-Species Menu" in front of the live audience.**

Menu for Companion Species

The collaboration with Monika Bakke was very positive and we went on to expand our ideas into a standalone theatrical presentation "Menu for Companion Species" which premiered to a sell out crowd on the opening night of Krakow Theatrical Reminiscences

The production here was tremendous, taking place within the former Polish Natural Science Museum and amongst our audience were stuffed bears and eagles!  (The irony of this was not wasted on us.)  At this event we produced a whole range of novel recipes which subverted supposed food chains and species boundaries. Highlights included "Metabolic Soup" (living pig cells in a 37 degree vegetable medium broth), Black Market Pudding (only the second time in Europe this had been made) and "Darlin's Darlings" - an earthworm stir-fry where only half of the work is fried and the other half is released to regenerate.  The event culminated with festival director Anna Lewanowicz cracking opening an ostrich egg in order to make a huge meringue.

Thanks to the many collaborators*** this year and to all of those who have given their advice and help in the past - during 2012 the emphasis has been on bringing some of the core concerns of The Meat Licence Proposal to a broader base of individuals across Europe - and also of course, attempting to enter the marketplace  - and Black Market Pudding may just be the key to this in 2013.

Here's hoping also, that The Meat Licence Proposal can move a step closer to becoming a legislated reality in the coming year.

John O'Shea

1st January 2013


*Other works shown within Food Forward were: Christian Jankowski's "The Hunt" (a short video where the artist obtains his food in a supermarket using a crossbow.), Arne Hendriks' "Incredible Shrinking Man (A research project proposing the scaling down of the human species), and Michiko Nitta and Michael Burton's "After Agri" (a series of fictional narratives imagining human culture if agriculture were obsolete.)


**Other guests taking part in ArtMeatFlesh were US artist Zack Denfeld who worked with Kat Kramer (as the Institute for Genomic Gastronomy) to curate the show Edible at the Science Gallery in Dublin and also University of Maastricht Professor Mark Post who has regularly claimed to be in the process of developing the worlds first commercially available laboratory grown burger.


***Collaborators during 2013 (too many to list in full) Karen Verschooren, Peter de Rooden, Tom Schofield, Johan Van Gemert, Maaike Lauwert, Jane Huldman, "Dutch Pig Farmer" and family, "Dutch Vet", Rebecca Mulvaney, Theun Van Veen, Nick Bryan, Shirley Rawlings, Prof. John Hunt, Oron Catts, Monika Bakke, Dr. Niall Carson, Anne-Claire Leydier, Stephen Fortune, Mitan Mistry, Danny O'Shea, Anne Lewanowitz, Sandra Szaja, Katarzyna Targońska, "Polish Father and Son Vets", "Polish Farmer", Monika Bakke, James Walsh & Carl Brown.