"People put my designs inside their bodies," says Marije Vogelzang, which isn't nearly as unpleasant as it sounds. Vogelzang trained as an industrial product designer but has chosen food as her canvas. She does some unconventional food packaging, such as her project to create imaginary animals as part of a development of vegan products with the texture of meat, but her real genius lies in unconventional art installations with food as the theme. In Vogelzang's hands, food becomes something avant-garde and strange, but also deeply intimate and familiar. Witness this cryptic, yet totally accessible tweet she sent out in June: "Working on my new installation for DordtYart. It will be about feeding each other drops of flavor, and it involves 5 kilometers of rope!!"
From her home base in Dordrecht, Netherlands, Vogelzang stages workshops, eating experiences and interactive performances that would make Willy Wonka proud. Chocolate walls you can lick. Marshmallow clouds that rain. She watches from the sidelines as people move through her creations and sees proof of her instinct: "Food goes to the stomach, but it rouses strong memories and emotions."
In 2009, for instance, Vogelzang constructed a "pasta sauna" at a performance exhibition in New York City. She described it as a "space you can enter and enjoy a bowl of freshly cooked pasta, while the boiling water steams your surroundings, creating a sauna." She considers all aspects of the eating experience--color, texture and food culture. In 2012, she fabricated something called "Bastard Bread," which combined dark German sourdough, French baguette and a Swiss plaited yeast bun into a shape that asks to be broken and shared.
"Taste is very important because otherwise you'd waste the food," Vogelzang said in a 2012 interview with the website Vitra. "No one will eat it if it doesn't taste good. But most importantly, I want to investigate what food does to people, how they react to the food but also to each other or even memories and sensations that food can evoke."
Vogelzang often works with marginalized populations, like Gypsy women, trying to bring dignity to their food experiences. A few years ago, she revived a group of recipes from World War II and fed them to people who had survived a difficult "Hunger Winter" in 1940s Rotterdam. "Flavor was not important in a sense that I was not going to make the dish taste better," she says. "In this case, it had to be authentic, so that the dish stimulated their memories of situations, of their mother or siblings from more than 60 years ago."
Of course, with work this experimental, not everything always works out for Vogelzang. Some food design ideas end up going unrealized. "I was just thinking of doing a breastfeeding performance for a milk exhibition in Paris," she said in 2011. "I am pregnant right now, so this could be one of the few times that one could do something like this in life. But unfortunately they had a budget problem."
This video from Dark Rye was produced by Kelly LeCastre and edited by Joel Fisher.