Anthropocene: Limits Offering 2

FullSizeRenderAll the ingredients for homemade Soylent.


This week for my Daily Practice I am living off of Soylent, a “food-replacement drink” that was developed in Silicon Valley by a trio of guys who didn’t want to have to worry about food.  I’m proposing it as a possible subversion of the industrial food system by limiting ourselves to only the nutrients we need, prepared by us with minimized energy use & waste.  It’s also, potentially, a cost-effective option for basic nutrition.  The original recipe has been critiqued based on nutritional and political grounds, however the recipe was open-sourced, improved, and remixed to suit a variety of tastes and address some of these concerns.


The process of preparing the drink is straightforward and takes very little time.  More on that and also an update on Concept and Experts below.

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The majority of what goes into Soylent are dry ingredients that can be purchased in bulk and kept in storage over long periods.  If I were to use this beverage for ongoing supplement of my diet, I would include things like fresh fruits and vegetables both for taste and their health benefits, and do more research about the supplements to try and determine if they can be sourced sustainably and what impact they have on body chemistry (it’s been hard to find any details on the origins of supplements other than knowing that they are factory-produced).  The version I will make to share at my Contemplation Station will be based on these factors.  But for this week I’m investigating what it feels like (behaviorally, socially, psychologically) to live on a very limited diet.


There are other methods besides blending to add the liquid elements — some of which involve turning it into a solid.  Since I already drink a lot of smoothies, I decided to fold it into that routine.

Prepped powder side-by-side with ready-to-drink smoothie.

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There’s a perfect seguay from Soylent here.  As I described my project to my next expert, Rosemary Randall, without mentioning the name (just saying it was a drink that could allegedly provide all of your nutrition) she said it reminded her of Soylent Green.  But she also agreed that it could be a fun, performative provocation in the context of the whole display.  Rosemary is  a British Climate Change Psychologist  whose work has taken the form of facilitating conversations that help people face the realities of living in the Anthropocene, including her project Carbon Conversations.  I was directed to Rosemary by the Climate Psychology Alliance.   She was generous and insightful.  We spoke about:

  • CONTAINMENT: the need for people to feel safe in order to both discuss and face up to the realities of massive issues like the Anthropocene.
  • FAMILIAR STRUCTURES: part of containment is creating familiar structures that have clear expectations and ground rules. If those structures can be subverted or disrupted without making things unsafe, there is a potential to introduce unexpected ideas — this is what humor and play can do.
  • CAPACITY TO LISTEN: this is also crucial to conversations about overwhelming issues, and it contrasts with the desperation that is often displayed by activists or proselytizers who are looking for the attention and engagement of passers-by.
  • PLAY: the fact that play is always interactive, demanding our engagement and participation, and often brings us back to the other(the partner in play), makes it a successful strategy for building buy-in.

One thing that I realize as I’m transcribing my notes here, is that I could have found questions that took the conversation to a more advanced level — because to a large degree I already possessed the insights she was providing.  What she said confirmed the research I’ve already been doing, but maybe there is a way her thoughts could have also expanded it or filled in gaps.  I need to think on this more and return to it in my post-mortem for the project.


As I prepare to prototype this installation in public, I’ve clarified the mechanic and modified the components slightly.

  1. There will be a sign that is the INVITATION to the station.  It will have the type of provocations that my Jehovah’s Witness experts use, such as “Do you feel a lack of meaning in your life?” or “Are you longing for something bigger?”.  Mine will be more whimsical, though. “What do limits taste like?  Can you draw a limit?  Come find out.”
  2. My COMMUNICATION TOKENS will be the reward for participation.  Users can participate in a variety of ways:
    1. DRAWING their interpretation of a Limits Graph.
    2. TASTING Limits in a Cup.
    3. PLAYING a brief partner-based Game of Limits.
  3. I will use MIMESIS and change my role throughout the course of the installation.  I will adopt he guise of:
    1. A researcher in a lab coat
    2. A chef/cook in an apron
    3. A missionary in a suit and tie.


One thought on “Anthropocene: Limits Offering 2”

  1. soylent is old people mushed up to be used as food for the living in the scifi book “brave new world”, where old people don’t exist.

    The lab coat worked, if you were disguised as a chef or cult member I wouldn’t have stayed to talk. Also your board was effective, mostly the yellow attracted me.
    Good luck!

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