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A Future Without Your Favorite Foods: GhostFood Lets You Smell The Soon To Be Extinct

An art project explores a world where climate change has eliminated key produce, and the olfactory ghosts it’ll leave behind.

As scientists have firmly established, our sense of smell is inextricably linked to our long-term memory. As a form of nasal nostalgia, we are actually able to conjure vivid memories of the distant past associated with memorable scents. Grandma’s cooking, anyone?

As long as we have our most beloved olfactory stimuli—which can now be recorded—we also have a portal to our most cherished impressions. But what happens when elements of our global food supply disappears due to climate change? Collaborative artists Miriam Simun and Miriam Songster have created GhostFood to help participants picture the bleak future sans-food that awaits us.

Another angle of the smell-emitting device.

By way of a wearable device and an edible textural interface, users are able to experience a simulation of food how it might exist in future days. Phantom food or ghost food, sort to speak. The headset is a 3D-printed model based on sketch designs of Simun’s making. As you can see, it sits on the face much like a pair of athletic sunglasses might. From the bridge of the nose extends a scent pod that was inspired by the intricate antennae of insects, and that also resembles the luminous appendages of certain deep sea fish. It is made durable enough to withstand repeated use from various patrons.

A digital rendering of an early device model.

Those patrons are able to access the device via a Ghostfood food truck staffed by Simun and Songster and their dedicated team. On menu are three items: fried cod, peanut butter, and a chocolate brownie. The three are made possible by the existence of cod, chocolate, and peanuts—all of which, for various reasons, are foods threatened by the changing global climate.These endangered scents are then paired with climate change-resilient foods, juxtaposed to create a dialogue on biodiversity and the environment.

The project is part of an art series that explores climate change through the focused lenses of art and science, and just like GhostFood, intends to strike up a necessary dialogue on the issue. Apart from its sustainability themes, GhostFood also hopes to explore our imbalanced relationship with foodstuffs, the ever-evolving dependence we have on technology, and the intriguing way our perception—and our senses and memory—responds to flavor.

Above is an example of the GhostFood branding: Each image corresponds to the three ecosystems from which the available menu items originate. The rainforest, in this case, is representative of chocolate.

Ghost Food was commissioned by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation for Marfa Dialogues/NY, GhostFood will be accessible at the Robert Rauschenberg Project Space, located at 455 West 19th Street New York, NY on October 15, 6pm-8pm.