Arne Hendriks

Post-Google food

Martí Guixé talks about Food Facility

Martí Guixé is a notorious deconstructor of traditional reality. Among his many designs are a liquid piece of furniture consisting only of a puddle of gin and tonic, an ordinary green tape simulating plant life to stick to dreary office walls and various kinds of sponsored free food. For Mediamatic he recently created the parasitic restaurant Food Facility. Not wanting the trouble of running a kitchen of its own Food Facility uses the infrastructure and logistics of nearby take-out restaurants. Guests are invited to order food from these simple places and a scooter delivery guy brings it to the restaurant, plastic bags included. Keeping in line with the take-out concept Food Facility even demands you pay for the food up front. To make things even more puzzling the whole project acts as an abstraction of Google. By outsourcing its kitchen and using a very neutral, functional design, the restaurant mimics certain basic Google features like its non-hierarchical, non-locative and non-responsible character. And like Google Food Facility adds no value or content, it just provides its users with information and a space to spend time and money. In a short interview Martí Guixé gives a few more clues about the digital character of the project.


Food Facility, a prototype food platform by Marti Guixé - Mediamatic Exhibition 2005, photo by Bea Correa for Mediamatic

Food Facility in appearance is a completely analogue project. Why do you stress the connection with the Internet and search engines like Google?

It seems analogue but the way of thinking or perceiving reality comes from a digital perspective. A search engine is a mechanism that provides a collection of existing things organized in a certain way but it does not provide content itself. This is a kind of parasitism, like the success of the DJ over the music composer. If you think in an abstract way these phenomenons are completely digital.

So what is different about the way people consume their food at Food Facility?

I think that Food Facility requires more interaction and a more active approach. The place provides the guest with very little typical atmospheric structure. You have to choose a food typology, which is difficult in the neutral environment. It is like reading general information in a newspaper where you are passive in someway as opposed to reading for instance about politics in Catalonian through Google, where you need previous knowledge, and the skills to search, and then the skills to know what is real and what is promotional. The way you consume this information is completely different, but finally you read. In Food Facility you eat.

You’re saying that the action of eating itself is deconstructed into bits of information; some bits referring to the actual meal and some bits to the way we arrive at our choice. How is all this different from choosing and consuming the traditional meal?

In a way the traditional meal is closed to a circumstance, and you don’t have this many possibilities. Food Facility proposes a very complex mechanism that allows you to consume a very specific meal, without having the circumstance of an specific context and time. In this way it is meta-territorial but at the same time it refers to territory by importing the basics, in this case the food, from takeaways that basically rely upon selling the romanticism of an idealized geographic location like Surinam, Japan, Morocco or Italy. To come back to the newspaper example; if you are in Barcelona and you take a local newspaper, apart from the language problem, you will be confronted with local news, and fresh news, if you are interested in some specifics you have to reach in the net. That’s why Food Facility breaks the limits of time and territory and is meta-territorial and extends and controls the moment as a contextual influence.

How will this effect patterns of consumption in the future?

I think we will see a growth in the number of consumer-curators, personal consumer assistants or, speaking of information, interactive consumption interfaces. What is actually happening at the moment is that some of the people doing this are becoming the brand. It is the interface that is supposed to give you confidence in what you consume and not so much the product.

You seem to want to take the romance out of consumption. Why?

Because it is generally based on a false image of reality.

Food Facility is an ambitious project, at the same time functioning as an artwork and a real restaurant. Is it important for you to create this experiment in an art environment?

Not really, I think Food Facility is a good business model, the art environment makes it possible to test the prototype, similar to a commercial car being tested in a F1 circuit, in complete freedom and with full power.

Your design for Food Facility allows mistakes, food arriving at different times, dessert arriving together with the appetizer etcetera. People having food at Food Facility need to deal with these things otherwise they'll have a problematic evening.

I think mistakes are very nice, they represent the real. If everything is perfect you forget. It is inevitable that the guest will try to solve these problems. The idea of tradition attracts people to return the mistake to the convention. It is nice when through these situations, this moment of transparency, new perceptions of reality are set.