Inspired by Gaggenau’s 333rd anniversary, Disegno turned to food designer Francesca Sarti to devise a project that could tease out the links between food and time. The result was Food and Time, a series of five recipes that explore food preparation processes in which the passage of time is essential.
Sarti, who founded her London-based studio Arabeschi di Latte in 2001, looked into specific processes: melting, maturing, ripening, slow cooking and fermenting. Narrated through a series of still-life photographs displayed as GIFs, Sarti’s project illuminates the ways in which food can be transformed and shaped by time.
Food and Time was led by Gaggenau’s history. Founded in 1683, Gaggenau invests extensive time and research into product development and design. The resultant products are highly considered and highly engineered, drawing on the expertise accrued over the brand’s 333-year lifespan – they are the result of meticulous process and deliberation, rather than quick, easy ideas. Food and Time is an effort to show that these same forces are also at play within wider food culture.
Below, Sarti discusses the inspiration behind the project, as well as offering reflections on the significance of time to food and the freedom afforded to food photography by the advent of GIFs.
Can you explain the concept behind the project?
The idea is to show food’s relationship with time. There is a bond between these two things, so we thought it would be interesting to make that visible through a series of recipes. Time is becoming the most precious thing we have and the idea that you can have time for food is a luxury. Luxury is the possibility of growing your own food, baking your own bread, preparing your own pickles. It’s about recovering the pleasure of making. Making something slowly means something, because it shows how food can transform as you work with it. Moving slowly makes the relationship between food and time visible.
But how do you evoke that in a visual sense?
Food is a lively matter, so it’s interesting to focus on preparation processes and see the transformations that happen naturally during those. Ripening, for instance, lets you see the passage of time and its effects. You can see the food changing.
That’s very different to the dominant trend in food photography, however, where food is made to look hyper glossy and ultra seductive. Food is presented with all the sheen and smoothness of Apple products.
The last few decades have seen people try to present food products as if they’re the Snow White apple - shiny, with no imperfections. But food is the opposite of that – it’s full of imperfections and variety. I think people are now starting to appreciate food for its true character. We’re more and more interested in food waste, for instance, and the need to avoid that. So something has changed, but we’re undoubtedly still influenced by the decades of trying to produce the Snow White apple. Looking at time is an opportunity to address this, because it’s engaging with how things can change and the changes they can go through.
The imagery you produced for the project has quite a classical quality. Why did you adopt this visual language?
I don’t know if “classical” is the right word, but we were able to obtain a quality of light that you can find in some paintings. It’s quite a soft light that very gently touches all the elements in the picture. Nothing is too patinated or pop. It’s like Flemish natura morta or still life – quite dramatic but at the same time filtered.
There’s an interesting tension between still life, which is about freezing a moment in time, and your aim, which is to depict the passage of time.
I think there’s an opportunity to go a step further than the natura morta, in which you can see a lot of examples of rotten fruit or meat. So those paintings show a certain state of food that is suggestive of change, but not the process of change itself. By using GIFs we have the possibility of showing the passage of time. It emphasises that food is matter and that something happens to it as matter. At least in theory, a GIF is the perfect medium to express a recipe or a food image.
A lot of the processes that you’ve worked with in this project are ones with very long histories.
Which just demonstrates that a project looking at food and time is a good idea! Every time I work with food, time is one of the factors I have to consider. You have to remember this quality of the material. When you’re an artisan working with glass, you cannot ignore the characteristics of glass and the same is true for food. Food is alive and so you need to deal with time. In this project we’ve tried to make food less static. We’ve made time seem like a game.