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How This Table Art Created a Dialogue About Our Food System

How, as social designers, can we best communicate pressing issues and engage others in a healthy dialogue?

One way is to put on a gallery show. And that’s just what our class at DSI did.

Teamed up with the renowned Kevin O’Callagan and his supportive team, we expressed and exhibited 24 different views of the global food system by ‘Putting It All On The Table’ at the SVA Gramercy Gallery.

The catch? We each had to present an issue using a simple IKEA table and chair.

Caught In A Maize by Gina Kim

We dove deep into the global food system. The topics embraced a diverse range of issues including the US Farm Bill, GMOs, food security, waste, environmental impacts, public health, and corruption. At every level of every community, food is essential to our lives.

The beauty of the exhibition room was not only how each table told a different story, but also how they all tied into a larger narrative. Donella Meadows, a pioneer of systems-thinking, describes this well, ‘“We can't impose our will on a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.”A system is dependent on all of its parts.

Our food system is broken, and so are many other systems.

Our goal was to create an experience that opened peoples’ eyes to the realities on their dinner plates. As social designers, we want to understand not only where they’re twisted, but why they’re twisted, and by whom. If the elements of a system aren’t in sync, it risks being thrown off balance and compromising its beautiful complex resilience.

In a Bind by Kate H Nicholson

We watched as each art piece was given their time and attention, and created what we could only hope to be new connections towards the sustenance in our lives.

We were thrilled that this show hit the NY times and celebrated with wine and Six Foods while inviting others to ask answer the question: What element of the food system would you want to dissect if given the chance?

Garbage Tornado by María Fernanda Pérez Tello

Dine Alive (Aquaponic table) by Robin Newman

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