Ghost Food

GhostFood truck (all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

A changing climate could impact the food that we eat, as alterations to the chemistry of the ocean or the world’s weather have the potential to make some animals and plants extinct. The GhostFood truck simulates what this reality might be like, where the tastes of vanished foods are resurrected through an apparatus-based eating experience.

Ghost Food (courtesy Ghost Food)

Sampling a delicacy at the GhostFood truck (courtesy Ghost Food)

GhostFood was parked outside the opening of Quiet Earth at the Rauschenberg Project Space, one of the focal exhibitions of the Marfa Dialogues / New York series of events happening this month and next month around New York City. This year’s Marfa Dialogues is the first since it started in 2010 to take place outside of Marfa, Texas, and the 2013 iteration presented by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Ballroom Marfa, and the Public Concern Foundation is examining climate change and the environment from all angles through art and culture.

While Quiet Earth is a sleek presentation of environmentally-responsive art by big names like Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, Agnes Denes, and Maya Lin, GhostFood, presented by the Newark-based Gallery Aferro, is much more experimental and participatory. The project is a collaboration between artists Miriam Simun and Miriam Songster.

Ghost Food

GhostFood menu

“Our goal was not to spur action, although that would be wonderful, nor was it necessarily to raise awareness, although that was often a byproduct of the experience,” Simun told Hyperallergic on the genesis of the project. “We created GhostFood to give people a personal and sensory experience of this complex and loaded term ‘climate change,’ by bringing to life street food in a world where ocean, rainforest, and grasslands climates have continued to shift as they have in recent years.”

Ghost Food

The GhostFood apparatus (courtesy GhostFood)

“Reactions were as varied as the audience we served,” continued Simun. “One reaction stands out in my mind — a recent father who spoke at length with one of the GhostFood servers about his childhood memories of peanut butter, what it meant for him, and his feelings about possibly not being able to share this memory with his grandchildren.” The Quiet Earth opening including three items: “Atlantic cod, beer-battered and deep fried,” “Arizona peanut butter, served with grape jelly on white bread,” and “Chocolate milk with delicious cocoa from West Africa.” The “ghost food” is experienced through a specially made device you wear on your face that delivers the scent of the endangered food, while you eat a climate change-resistant foodstuff.

“We have been hoping to create an emotional response that might act as a seed for reorienting awareness around the impacts of climate change,” Songster explained. “I believe that the variety and specificity of the public reaction really supports the effectiveness of the project. That is, people took to heart and perhaps realized for the first time what it will mean to them if certain foods are no longer available.”

Ghost Food

GhostFood is served

Simun and Songster are considering a cross-country tour with GhostFood, but for now you can continue contemplating the impact of climate change at Marfa Dialogues / New York, and be sure to eat plenty of your favorite foods. They may not be around forever.

Ghost Food

GhostFood truck outside the Rauschenberg Project Space in Chelsea

GhostFood was at the Rauschenberg Foundation Project Space (455 West 19th Street, Chelsea) on October 15, and the Quiet Earth exhibition there continues through November 30. Marfa Dialogues / New York continues through the end of November throughout New York City. 

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print and online media since 2006. She moonlights...