Food Forward: Arne Hendriks

15 January - 1 April 2012
Location: Hogewal 1-9, The Hague
Main page Food Forward: click here

Arne Hendriks is a Dutch artist and curator who initiated the project The Incredible Shrinking Man. The Incredible Shrinking Man is a speculative design research project about the consequences of downsizing the human species to 50 centimeters. It has been a long established trend for people to grow taller. As a direct result we need more energy, more food and more space. But what if we decided to turn this trend around? What if we use our knowledge to shrink mankind?

Most people are aware of the fact that there are currently more than 7 billion people on earth, and many of them also know that the average person is getting taller. Not everyone seems to realize, however, that this increased length translates into a significant additional pressure on our food supplies. In terms of housing, transportation, and many other things, an increased body length means a proportionate increase in resources required. Fortunately, and this is the good news, the shrinking of people has inversely, the same major consequences. The human of 50 centimeters needs, in theory, only 2% of what we use now.

For Food Forward, The Incredible Shrinking Man focuses on the implications of smaller human beings for (urban) food supplies. A man of 50 centimeters will not only need less calories (probably between 60 and 200 calories per day), but his smaller size will also lead to a dramatic change in his relationship to the ingredients we know and use.

The presentation at Stroom consists of four parts. A Speed Crop Balcony will be installed on an "old format" city balcony now filled with baby vegetables. A person of 50 centimeters can keep a large vegetable garden on the surface of an average city balcony. After all, the smaller people will live for a long time in the "ruins" of our cities. On the balcony so-called micro greens are growing, tiny sprouts that grow easily and quickly, and contain a very healthy dose of concentrated nutrients. On several posters in the gallery space, a speculative study is outlined that looks for suitable farming grounds within the city limits of The Hague, and the possibilities of using vacant recreational green areas for subsistence farming in the city.

Behind the Speed Crop Balcony we find the Somatostatin Zebrafish Farm, a fish farm for zebra fish. Zebra fish are widely used in genetic research. Recently the first zebra fish has been developed with medicinal properties. The zebra fish in the Somatostatin Zebrafish Farm are manipulated in such a way that they contain large amounts of somatostatin. Somatostatin is a natural growth-reducing hormone that also delays digestion. By regularly eating a fish from this farm, one suppresses both hunger and the tendency to grow.

In the adjoining room we find the Sunflower Table, a table based on a large mature sunflower that can accommodate five small persons who can sit around the table while they pull the seeds from the flower. Sunflower Table explores future possibilities in the relationship between people and ingredients. How do you relate to a banana or a pomegranate when you are 50 centimeters tall? And can we, by means of objects such as the Sunflower Table, be transported into a future scenario in which this has become a reality?

In a sense this is also what the Poultry House aims at. This project investigates the relationship between man and micro-livestock, chickens in this case. What kind of tools do we need to prepare a chicken? How do we capture, slaughter, and cook a chicken when we are 50 centimeters tall? To better understand this relationship, we organized an Ostrich Dinner on December 22, 2011 at Stroom where an ostrich was prepared as if it was a chicken. This process was filmed and the film is now shown in the exhibition space alongside a chicken coop and ostrich eggs.

On Hendriks' website his research on the growing and shrinking of humans is brought together and new developments are regularly posted. The Incredible Shrinking Man is based on research that has been conducted for years now into the benefits and ways in which humans and animals could be shrunk.