Berlin’s Food& magazine returns with another serving of ‘Unusual encounters with food’ presented in a larger glossier format that marks a significant shift from its zine-y past. Aside from these physical changes, it’s business as usual, as highlighted by the image on page 23.
The theme for this fifth issue is ‘Food& Losers’, the cover featuring a discreet ouroboros, the snake that eats itself. Rather than signifying the infinite cycle of birth and death, this image illustrates the most distressing meal one can possibly conceive of. Above it on the cover sits the question: ‘If animals don’t want to be eaten then why are they made out of food?’.
Page 23 is just as unappetising: a burnt cheeseburger is artfully placed next to a spray of sooty fries spilling out of a mcDonald’s bag. The photograph appears to be a diptych of sorts, paired with an image of a blackened husk in the shape of a hotdog. Both are captioned ‘Polishing a turd’ by the photographer Kit Fletcher.
Considering the theme, who is the real loser here? Is it McDonald’s, a company responsible for large-scale animal cruelty and a collossal carbon footprint? Is it the person looking at the image, guiltily remembering the last time they enjoyed this lame excuse for cuisine? Or is it the artist, capitalising on the laziest kind of illustration doing the rounds on social media these days – an overly basic political statement masquerading as a deeply symbolic revelation.
Who knows? The two images are context-free, but leafing through the mag it’s clear that this lack of context is actually one of its defining features. It has the same, unstructured, random approach as Adbusters, although a broader spectrum of emotions means there’s more fun in these pages than the earnest Canadian title. The longer you spend looking at it, the more you realise that Food & is about art, not food.
The first thing I open is a double page spread with a swirl of text says ‘Foods best eaten alone: A chip from the floor. Slightly curdled milk. Uncooked instant ramen,’ followed by an illustration of a plate of baked beans on toast, captioned ‘Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner’.
Earlier in the issue a cheerful cartoon of an ice lolly is actually an illustration of a ‘recipe for the ultimate disappointing popsicle’ made from fridge leftovers. The open submission process the team employ brings in illustration, photography, writing, collage, and comics.
Ideas range from the highly personal to the very general, and some echo each other – Angela Fox’s anxious questioning whether her poor diet impacted her breast cancer diagnosis and Luyi Wang’s offer of a cream cake to a depressed friend focus on our deeper issues we have with food, while Sophia Weisstub’s collage of a peeled banana and tongues just makes your mouth recoil. This is perhaps the best thing about the magazine; as it questions everything we take for granted about food, it becomes the polar opposite of the typically beautiful food titles we love for other reasons.
The colophon includes a list of organisations that have kindly supported the magazine. By list I mean there is just the one entry – AStA Berlin, who represent the students of the Technische Universität Berlin. Far more lengthy are the lists of companies that have kindly unsupported, ignored, and rejected the mag: documenta, Berlin Biennale and ‘many fantastic artists and writers’. Special thanks are extended to Joey Tribianni, Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit) and Anton Ego (from ‘Ratatouille’).
I love a mag that commits to irreverence, right down to the last detail, and Food & does it particularly well. I look forward to the next issue, Food& Gravity.
Editor-in-chief: Asis Ybarra
Art direction/design: Tobias Textor & Fabian Wohlfart