The varied attitudes in both the art projects and the articles, unsurprisingly, lead not to a conclusive answer but rather a new and complex understanding of how information about the modern food industry functions. Ultimately, it would appear that although art and design can package information in new and creative ways, the artist’s research stems from more conventional means and therefore faces the same set of limitations and biases that constitute the challenge of thorough research. Even if content is given a new emotional charge, or grows in scope to encompass the global future, it is still restricted by the bounds of public common knowledge and the artist’s ideological worldview. Further, the desire to create an individual statement often directly conflicts with an artist’s ability to deeply represent the issue of food modernization, instead narrowing the breadth of what is salient. Well-written words, especially given length to elaborate, can craft an impactful and nuanced response, just as shallowly executed art can fail to live up to a promise of uniqueness or marginality.
Perhaps the largest obstacle in the way of communicating the complexities of the food industry is the notion of a prevailing opinion that must be addressed before entering into the conversation. While searching for articles concerning GMOs, for example, it was incredibly difficult to find sources condemning them or using fear-based tactics, and yet every one of the many supporting articles took up a defensive, minority position. Articles prefaced information with ‘contrary to popular belief,’ or ‘it’s a controversial and unpopular opinion but,’ when in fact the opinions they claimed dominated public opinion were scarcely represented in media. Perhaps this is a play to the vanity of readers who want to feel superior to ‘the masses,’ or simply a fabrication of a hot debate for the excitement factor of controversy. Many articles, for example, criticized the term ‘Frankenfood’ as a deliberately monstrous language construction, and yet a search of the term yielded only articles condemning the word or using it with positive connotations. In any case, the effect is that the conversation is constantly reset to the basic question of whether GMOs are dangerous or not, addressing a debate that no longer exists as they describe. Even discussions of the interconnected systems of the food industry, climate change, world hunger, scientific ethics and the like fall into the trap of a binary debate format, moving the conversation back and forth instead of forward.
The best information arises out of the combination of vastly different sources, with different aims and tones. Entertainment media, artistic media, scholarly media and reporting media each offer a unique lens to look through, drawing out emotional affect, fascinating stories, or compelling analysis. The modern food industry has social, personal, ethical, political, and economic implications which cannot be effectively addressed in any one media form. Further, the biases of a reader such as myself are ingrained obstacles even with attention to being critical. There must come a critical moment in which one accepts that the complexity of the food industry cannot be adequately captured at all, and must come mostly from how a source is read rather than how it is written.