Screen Mutations: tableware designed for interaction through a screen

In the digital era of a globalised world, our screens have become a second set of eyes. Communication has advanced leaps and bounds to a point where we cannot imagine a world without smartphones. Though a pandemic-stricken world seems to have come to a standstill, it is the realm of the digital that is helping us get through these challenging times. A family meal shared on a Zoom call, a friend’s birthday celebrated on FaceTime, or a co-worker’s farewell drinks. Long before we envisioned this new normal, Louisa Zahareas wondered what it would be like, to bring these instances into reality.

Type Update
Published on 14 September 2021
Part of Embassy of Food
Screen Mutations: tableware designed for interaction through a screen
Part of Embassy of Food
Screen Mutations - credits: Femke Rijerman

With her 2015 project entitled Screen Mutations, Louisa Zahareas developed a speculative tableware set designed from a one-point perspective, or more specifically: the lens of a screen. She explains that the tableware “is deformed around a mathematical formula only to appear correct through this one point. So, it’s tableware designed for interaction through a screen.” Tapping into the social aspect of design, this project came about to be a very personal exploration. The idea came to her when she communicated with her family and friends over the internet when she was away from home, studying at Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE).

Louisa explains that she started on a more bizarre note than what the outcome came to be. Her initial prototype was a plate split in half, mirrored food, and a common plate in the centre. Through Screen Mutations, she attempts to reframe the space of a digitally shared meal, making the mutation a real-looking object on the screen. “Our food was coordinated to look like it was crossing over the other side. I also remember presenting new types of food that would work for the screen. We went quite far with it.” But at the same time, the project was not about the objects itself but about the rituals and etiquettes that are built in a familiar space. Her goal was not to change the way people dined but to provoke thought about current practices that surround it.

“Basically, we photograph our food, we stage everything, and it becomes important how it looks on our screens, our cameras, and on our phones. It was also a reflective moment to make people realize what we do but taking it to an extreme level.”
— Louisa Zahareas

While she aimed to mediate rituals and relationships to seek new outcomes, it turned out a different way. “When I think back to the DAE graduation show, I remember that there was a lot of interest, but it also made people laugh. I think I was missing the performative social aspect of the project. Many people focused on the object itself and that it looks strange or wondering what it does. It’s about perspective and about the method used rather than what it was supposed to communicate.”

If given the opportunity to do it again, Louisa would emphasize the performative, interactive aspect, along with the food itself. “How you would behave, how you would use these new objects, and what would they mean. More than these deformed objects that look OK through one point, I would really try to move away from that and focus on the rest of the elements that make up a meal.” The tableware would quite literally become conversation starters in the ideal execution of this project, provoking questions about the culture and practice of sharing meals rather than simply remaining an aesthetic centrepiece.

Read the whole article written by Ruben Baart (Next Nature Network) here. And visit the Supermarket of the Future in the Embassy of Food at Dutch Design Week 2021, where Louisa’s prototypes and stories are on show.

Screen Mutations
Screen Mutations - credits: Louise Zahareas

This interview resulted from the Embassy of Food 2021, one of the World Design Embassies. Curators Annelies Hermsen and Chloé Rutzerveld researched seven projects within seven themes and interviewed designers about technology, food waste, health, education, protein transition, non-food, and packaging. Ruben Baart of Next Nature Network turned the interviews into articles.

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