By Gabrielle Kennedy
Food is more than just a staple we consume through our mouths or touch with our tongues. Social Design (MA) graduate Giulia Soldati has always been passionate about the broader impact of food – its growth, preparation and ultimate consumption.
“It was a love I inherited from my father,” she says. “It started in our kitchen when I was little, and my grandfather silently transmitted to me the value of food, which extends beyond the obvious.”
Soldati is Italian making it practically a cliché to say she is culturally connected to food, “But I really am,” she says. Still, she was not initially planning to use food as the subject for her graduating thesis.
“I was thinking more along the lines of the senses and the body,” she says, “but in the end I did link my research to food because it is a really powerful tool for creating discussions and for questioning our beliefs. Also, I found that in the international environment at Design Academy Eindhoven, food is an effective connector.”
‘Contatto’ is Soldati’s graduation project – it is a profoundly physical eating experience, which involves the preparation and sharing of a full course meal.
“Because food enters into our bodies,” she says, “there is an undeniable intimacy that creates a reaction from participants. Food is connected to our memories, to our culture, to our traditions, and is deeply rooted in our daily routine, but we don’t always realize how food is guiding our lives.”
When Soldati starts serving up her variety of tastes onto different parts of her guests’ hands in a choreographed series of gestures, she creates an invisible but strong bond within a group.
The experience is about tactility, but also of surprise and rediscovery. As her guests lick and swallow it takes them back in time.
“We all ate food with our hands and licked our fingers when we were kids,” she says, “but at some point we stopped. I introduce this into my performance to push people out of their comfort zones. But I try to make it comfortable and to keep myself equal – the food goes from my hands to theirs, and I use bare hands to increase the intimacy and strengthen the bond.”
And although a sexual element was not purposely choreographed into Soldati’s performance, she does acknowledge its existence. “I think that is something that comes with the rediscovery of our own sense of touch,” she says.