Salmon

interrogation

2021

Humans are highly visual creatures that have learned and evolved to interact with the world using visual cues for survival. Our brains have evolved to react to visual information in increasingly effective ways and designers have uncovered deceptive and clever tactics to manipulate and persuade. The food industry is driven by pretty food, from the marketing billboards to commercials we see daily, revealing how society has gotten used to seeing propped figures and associating them with a healthy statue. Cooking sections and the text Salmon: A Red Herring, have exposed a greater impact on the ecosystems which condemn unseasonal products for consumption. The presentation and discussion were the most intriguing to me as they questioned the agency and participation of individuals more so than other series expressed in the semester. It entangled conversation between what is natural, who is responsible, and the modes of knowledge. It also most importantly questioned what an architect is, and instead used spatial practitioners as a cornerstone for the research conducted.

 

Understanding the modification of food for human benefit is difficult, especially when we have become accustomed to an accessible lifestyle. Our grocery stores now hold an abundance of food and items that are not native to the region or are in season. Some items are even offspring from human experiments such as the orange which was explained by Daniel Fernandez Pascual and Alon Schwabe as a hybrid between a pomelo and mandarin. The deceptive reality of color thus begins to take a form similar to the bright tint of an orange, we learn the color salmon pink is synthetic as pigments are added to their feed, and only wild fish gain their pink color in a very specific setting when migrating in the wild. Color, as an indicator of material fitness, an object’s Platonic resonance, embroils its consume-ability and its means of production in its pigmented traces. “What is natural” runs through my thoughts as I walk past items that are staged in my grocery store, reading labels that say natural and are colorless, reading labels that say natural and are vibrant in color, reading labels as a means of quantifying and subjecting an item. It is with this dualism that marketed goods are indicative of an ethical and sustainable moral lifestyle. Color has been manipulated as an entry point that has corrupted the notion of the natural, and more importantly its nutritional values. 

 

I eat salmon at least three times a week; I am a big fan of its low saturated fat, protein value, vitamin B12, and other nutrients like iron and vitamin D. I enjoy the taste of the bright orange/red skin which is usually associated with wild-caught. I have friends who only like the taste of pink color with the higher fat concentration, and these are usually associated with farm-raised salmon. It wasn’t until after reading Salmon Island that I understood the unethical conditions of farm-raised salmon and the capitalistic agenda of profiting from a supply and excess demand that has resulted in these manufactures working in these conditions. There is an entire history of infrastructural planning that has resulted in the need for salmon farms as wild-caught salmon is no longer viable due to the changes in the river's flow. Salmon are gathered in excess, exposed to diseases, UV Light, and paralyzed to the point of disability. So, what does responsibility look like in this field? Not everyone is equally responsible for this change and when you pose this question in terms of its local context, it can be traced to cultural or regional aspects. These distinctions are very important to inequality and questions of access, since the price for toxic salmon is more affordable than organic, and these businesses profit off low-income households where their only affordable option is to buy into a non-sustainable practice. Along the lines of Pascual and Schwabe thinking, the responsibility falls on the governance that allows contaminating our food. With their installation “Oyster Table” they highlight the disappearance of traditional fishing which has pushed for seasonal menus in local restaurants. It is allowing us to regain agency in food as a tool to understanding our environment and what we are consuming.

 

Thinking about the agency obtained through knowledge, one can make a more reasonable decision, especially when there is a privilege in access to eating healthier. But the participation that validates science as knowledge is fundamental to the clarity and integrity of rules and frames that conform to the truth. It is here where I believe Daniel Fernandez Pascual and Alon Schwabe lack in their exploration of salmon. Prompted by this idea and long-term project Climavore explores the relationship between how we eat and the climate emergency through exhibitions, installations, and performances in privileged museums. Food is one of the biggest contributors to emissions, from the beef industry to the corn industry each realm producing toxic gasses or utilization of resources. But it's access to this information from the lower class and even the middle class that results in decisions that help grow this unscrupulous business. There will never be a complete haul of ingestion of these foods but the solution in simplifying nutritional labels or giving a short description of the additives included can alter behaviors drastically as the invisible is becoming visible.

 

Overall, understanding the negative impact eating animals has on the environment and your health starts with the increase in consumerism. The text and examples from the presentation and conversations in the Argument series have led to condemning and receiving negative connotations if you choose to pursue this habit of eating “unnatural”. As designers or more appropriately spatial practitioners, it is important to question if the term Architect receives no agency in reducing carbon and putting ecosystems first. It is also important to question the role of architects as they manipulate their conditions to design healthy behaviors and attitudes in our designed spaces. Behavioral economics and social interventions are very similar to the marketing of food to alter our experience in buildings and the selling of a product. Grocery stores decorate their aisles and stage their products like how a project is conceptualized, using photorealistic renders with pretty and organic materials that are unlikely to be viable. The food industry and architecture are very similar, and we must reevaluate our urban environment if there will be any change.