Hot Cling, Shear Magic, and the Mouthfeel of Capitalism: Images From the History of Ultra Processed Foods

Hot Cling, Shear Magic, and the Mouthfeel of Capitalism: Images From the History of Ultra Processed Foods

Hannah Landecker

10 Apr 2024 - 4:00pm

Exhibition opening: Wednesday, April 10th, 4- 6 pm
CNSI ArtSci Gallery, 5th floor
570 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90095

The exhibition will be on display through April 17th, 2024

The images in this collection induct the viewer into a fantastic universe of textures and viscosities generated in the making of processed foods. In a set of advertisements exhumed from back issues of industry trade journals in food engineering from the 1960s through the 1990s, this exhibit explores the values and the chemistry of an otherworldly scene in which there are no lumps, inconsistencies, or bubbles. Emulsifiers, clouding agents, gums, thickeners, anti-foaming agents, and antioxidants ensure that the marshmallows remain eternally fluffy, the particles are all the same size, mixtures never separate, and the sauce stays on top. Produced by upstream chemical manufacturers and aimed at an audience of food processors, these messages were not intended for the end consumer - and indeed often extolled the invisibility of their products to the eating public. Now that the health impacts of highly processed foods are increasingly ringing alarm bells in medicine and epidemiology, and the environmental footprint of these industrialized systems of production becomes ever more evident, this exhibit invites the eating public to see into the process for themselves.
This exhibit leverages the deep collections of the UCLA Library system in bringing these material off the page and onto the wall. It is curated by the Hot Cling and Shear Magic Research Group, a team of UCLA undergraduates led by Professor Hannah Landecker, pied piper of the grim joy of historical excavation of apparently banal but terribly consequential social and technical events shaping our biological lives. The team, composed of undergraduates majoring in Human Biology and Society and Psychobiology, is comprised of Xian Zeng, Nicole Vasquez, Emily Sutherland, Kianna Satari, Manasi Sastry, Chloe Nelson, Max Kokka, Kiana Karimi, Rayna Irving, Sara Herron, Xavier Herrera, Haley Ficker, Lea Dahlke, and Shelsy Aragon.

Hannah Landecker, with a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from MIT and a B.Sc. in Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of British Columbia, uses the tools of history and social science to study contemporary developments in the life sciences, and their historical taproots in the twentieth century. She has taught and researched in the fields of history of science, anthropology and sociology. At UCLA she is cross-appointed between the Institute for Society and Genetics, and the Sociology Department. She is currently working on a book called “American Metabolism,” which looks at transformations to the metabolic sciences wrought by the rise of epigenetics, microbiomics, cell signaling and hormone biology.
Landecker’s work focuses on the social and historical study of biotechnology and life science, from 1900 to now. She is interested in the intersections of biology and technology, with a particular focus on cells, and the in vitro conditions of life in research settings.

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