Epicurean Endocrinology’s latest project, ‘Cooking Sex’, is a series of sex-hormone altering meals and food products that explore the endocrine-system altering properties of industrially produced food.
Byron Rich is an artist, professor and lecturer. His work on speculative design, tactical media ecology, and emerging technologies in biological science, computer science, and transportation, has been widely shown and written about internationally.
Liz Flyntz is a curator, information architect, artist, and writer. She is the co-editor and co-author of ‘The Present Is the Form of All Life’, a book about the time capsule works of media art and architecture group Ant Farm.
Epicurean Endocrinology logo for Cooking Sex meal kit boxes, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Byron Rich
Since 2017 Byron Rich and Liz Flyntz have been working together on Epicurean Endocrinology, a project that uses cooking as a medium, citizen bio-science as a performance, and product design as activism.
Epicurean Endocrinology is concerned with how food is gendered and how it is sexed. Historically, food has taken on gendered attributes in its production, presentation, and consumption. In many cultural contexts, certain foods are associated with masculinity and virility or femininity and fecundity. This constellation of meanings function differently within specific spiritual and healing traditions. In the western capitalist tradition of food-as-product, foods are marketed to men (Burger King, Doritos) and women (salad, yogurt) with aspirational messages, promising to help consumers attain their culture’s gender ideals.
While corporations honed this marketing strategy in the twentieth century, many new chemicals with hormone-mimicking properties wound up in the industrial food supply — chemicals which endocrinologists now understand, can alter sex-linked physical characteristics and reproduction on an ecosystem scale. Ironically, the gendered symbolism of food products and the sexual valence of their chemical contents often do not align, failing on a level that few consumers would notice to uphold the normative promises of commercial imagery. When the public does discover such disjoints, it’s often the occasion for conservative outrage about the “unnaturalness” of modern life. Epicurean Endocrinology proposes that prying open the gap between consumer symbolism and the workings of our industrial food system is critical and empowering.
Epicurean Endocrinology encompasses a number of projects, presentations, and writing about food, gender, sex, ecology, and hormones. Past endeavors include phyto-hormone infused Masculinizing and Feminizing Meals, which presented meals containing as many plant and animal food-based estrogens and androgens as possible. Down-Home Molecular Gastronomy uses mutated tropes of haute-cuisine to investigate the intersections of class and the perception of food as entertainment or commodity.
“We’ve Done The Research…” Cooking Sex Ad, digital image, dimensions variable, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Jeff Mertz.
Epicurean Endocrinology’s latest project, Cooking Sex, presents meal kit boxes in the style of Blue Apron, except these boxes allow the subscriber to test their food for the presence of endocrine disrupting compounds. These compounds may represent contamination — or a hormonal inflection that the consumer desires. Using the popular model of the subscription-box to distribute their artwork allows Flyntz and Rich to consider a more distributed kind of participatory art, one that dissents through engagement with continuously morphing capitalist product development rather than static tactics of demurral.
“You Really Are What You Eat.” Cooking Sex Ad, digital image, dimensions variable, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Jeff Mertz.
“Hack Your Hormones.” Cooking Sex Ad, digital image, dimensions variable, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Josie Freeman.
Testing for Xeno-estrogens at COALESCE, digital image, dimensions variable, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Liz Flyntz.
Feminizing Meal at Craigardan, digital image, dimensions variable, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Jeff Mertz.
Plated: Feminizing Meal at Craigardan, digital image, dimensions variable, copyright 2018 – Liz Flyntz & Byron Rich. Photo by Jeff Mertz.