Follow the lobster: An investigative project and study of material culture.

[Brief: Doing Hate Better. Design project 2019]

This brief was called ‘Doing Hate Better’.

We are surrounded by hate everyday on many scales of magnitude but the hating of something can lead to amazing acts of resistance and change, on both an individual and social scale. The aim here was to find a ‘personal hate’ and transform it into a Design led action.

Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.

Henry Adams

My Hate is about understanding our immunity to unethical treatment towards live sea food. In particular the Lobster. I began researching why we treat Lobsters the way we do. There are cultural factors that surround and shape our behaviour towards this creature.

A key word or starting this project was to “Interrupt”, interrupting the daily zombified consumer with new ideas and spaces.

To understand my Hate, I visited local Welsh fishermen, taking on a neutral role, I took pictures, conducted interviews and collecting opinions.

People treat lobsters as if they are things rather than animals. We have been born into this relationship with the lobster, that has predefined values. This becomes problematic when the truth, that lobsters are not objects but living beings, is recognized.

“Things are objects that are available to our senses as discrete and distinct entities which do not count as other beings or other objects. Even in this practical sense there are categorical difficulties because some living forms seem to be treated by us as if they were things. Food, especially meat, provides a particularly difficult anomalous form that is both material and yet not” (Dant, 1999)

Dant, T. (1999). Material culture in the social world. Buckingham: Open University Press.

One of the keys to the cultural indifference towards the Lobsters lies in its misrepresentation throughout the media. A red Lobster is a dead Lobster, that has been boiled, and a blue one is its natural alive colouration. Much like a vaccination, this creates immunity to accepting the lobster in its dead state.

Studying the consumer and their space:

Studying the local supermarket space, I chose to sketch it’s consumer’s.
Whole cooked Canadian Lobster, Aisle 11 in Sainsburys.

Intervention plan:

Back in London, I took the information and decided to create interventions for the consumer space, that expressed the experience of the Lobster.

I decided to take a playful approach to represent these ethical issues, the reason being that people are more relaxed to accept new ideas. I experimented with two methods, one used direct confrontation and the other soft power.

Looking into the steps our food take and we take to accept or change an idea, this project gained a new name ‘Follow the Lobster’ and a branding created around it.

First Intervention using Direct confrontation:

I created a ‘Lobster ball run’, it represents the Lobster cage and the plastic ‘ball-pool-balls’ the eggs of a female Lobster, often cooked alive along with her. I wanted to inspire empathy about the Lobsters experience with a direct confrontation. I chose to place it in front of Canada House in Trafalgar square, as a symbolic step towards Canada, where the Sainsburys Lobster is from.

The second part to this intervention was the hopscotch, it was about the steps the Lobster takes from when it’s caught to the supermarket, originally, I wanted to print information in each square but decided to just talk about it for a quick install.

Second Intervention using Direct confrontation:

This second part to the project was about creating a ‘hidden impact’, using an object to create a silent campaign. To start I created a map to put inside of a Lobster box in the supermarket, instead of the original Lobster. The box contained a travel plan for the consumer to travel to the Lobster’s origin, (Prince Edward Island in Canada), instead of the Lobster travelling to the consumer.

First version of the map, tested in the supermarket and given out with the interventions.

It soon became apparent that this project needed to be refined. Concentrating on the map I recreated the ‘Lobster box experience’ with an interactive game that included instructions and the playing pieces. Illustrative steps ‘Following the lobster” were printed and attached to velcro pieces, that could then be arranged and re-arranged, to guess the order of travel. The answer to this puzzle was published online, adding steps to a game about steps.

This was the resulting product:

A new journey:

I had turned my ‘Hate’ into something positive and playful. Inspired by this discovery through making I contacted several artists worldwide to experiment how collaboration could add to the richness of my project. I wanted to send the lobster on a new journey without a fatalistic end.

I asked three artists from Hungary, Wales and the USA to paint a picture with a blue lobster to turn into postcards to be sent worldwide.

These are aimed at being sold to raise money for a charity like ‘the National Lobster Hatchery in Cornwall’, which not only cares about marine conservation but also looks after local fishermen.

Postcard art here and above by Adrienn Juhasz ,Ted Skirvan and Martha Andrews.

[Brief: Doing Hate Better. Design project 2019]

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