During my doctoral research at LUCA School of Arts (Association KU Leuven) in Belgium, a prototype of a website was designed to collect, map and exchange facts and experiences related to Arctic food: the Food Related platform. This prototype focuses on specific features of food and (Arctic) food cultures, and enables people to add recipes, anecdotes, news items or other entries related to Arctic food. As a proof of concept, this prototype illustrates how an artistic approach can enable or stimulate the collecting, sharing, and combining of different kinds of knowledge. The more than eighty entries form a broad collection that can be explored and replenished. The design of the website has three modes to access the contributions: a Geographic View, a Foodgroup View, and a Historic View.
Within the Food Related project, feelings of togetherness were aimed at in the sharing between the Arctic peoples, within a virtual environment. Being aware of possible hidden colonial attitudes in my approach, I practiced probing to include participants’ opinions and experiences to reflect on the design process. Among the outcomes, the fact that the project lacks firm roots within the Arctic was considered a serious weakness. For some, it was even reason not to participate. As ‘yet another initiative from the dominant west that aims to harvest our people’, no matter how well intended, the project was decolonizing in its approach. Pinpointing of indigenous identities was enlarging the us-and-them dichotomy instead of reducing it. the implementation of automatic translation software implicated power imbalances through the use of ‘colonial’ languages where software for the indigenous languages is non-existing. Eventually, after deep consideration and some difficult moments, I decided to put the Food Related project on hold.
I worked on the Food Related project between 2009 and 2012. The prototype of the platform is still online and can be found at www.foodrelated.org.