Welcome to Semicopia where the future of meat consumption is ambiguous and uncertain.
The production and consumption of meat raises a number of environmental and ethical concerns. There are many positions on how to ‘solve’ the complex issues surrounding increasing meat consumption: from stricter regulation and rationing, to technological fixes such as producing meat in a lab. Semicopia explores the cultural implications of lab grown meat and the history of food-futures that relate to human’s insatiable appetite for meat.
While in-vitro or ‘cultured’ meat currently exists in laboratories, its production on an industrial scale, and the cultural acceptance of it as a foodstuff still poses many problems and questions. Whether or not it ever becomes widely available, in-vitro meat already tells a story. It enforces a belief in the power of science and technology to feed a growing population. This story regularly makes the headlines, framed either as an innovative ‘victimless’ solution to the issues of meat production or as a new type of ‘frankenfood’. Although the technology needed to make in-vitro meat real is not figured out yet, the stories and mythologies surrounding the idea are old. This is the latest chapter in a long history of food-futures, dating back at least to the eighteenth century and the opposing predictions of Thomas Robert Malthus (overpopulation and famine) and the Marquis de Condorcet (progress and abundance).
Semicopia aims to add to the discussions around in-vitro meat by looking back the history of fantastical food forecasts. The project re-visits a popular format for showcasing visions for the future of food: the world’s fair exhibit. Throughout the 20th century, these spectacular events have been the stage for celebrations of abundance and breakthroughs in food technology; from giant statues made of grain or butter, to the popularisation of the hamburger and the wonders of the modern domestic kitchen. In Semicopia, dioramas inspired by the 1939 New York World’s Fair are used to tell more ambiguous stories which embrace the complexity of issues surrounding in-vitro meat, the economics of its production and the aesthetics of its consumption.