The Oracle

The Parlour of Food Futures is a speculative oracle that explores possible food futures through the 15th-century game of Tarot. The food speculations are performed over a bespoke Food Tarot card deck presenting 22 speculative diet tribes such as Datavores, Genomic Fatalists and Turing Foodies.

Although primarily future-oriented, each tribe refers to some existing or emerging food-tech trend: Datavores are self-trackers designing their diets according to quantified data accounts of their metabolic processes; Genomic Fatalists believe in DNA-based diet personalization and eat to ‘feed’ their genes; Turing Foodies like to cook their food in a smart kitchen, using the guidance of AI kitchenware and algorithms.

The Parlour project makes use of the Tarot technique that has been traditionally used as a card game as well as for divinatory purposes and future speculations. Drawing on the Tarot inspiration, the project aims to enable playful, imaginative human-food interactions and support the notion of uncertain food futures open to diverse interpretations.

The Food Tarot cards are inspired by the Tarot de Marseille deck’s major arcana that includes 22 cards with philosophical and astronomical motives embodied by elements such as The Emperor or The Magician. Each element has a symbolic meaning, which we translated into the Food Tarot version.

The card of The Emperor that symbolises the urge to rule and control the world was transformed into the Datavores tribe of dieters controlling their bodies through self-tracking and diet quantification. The card of The Magician that signifies the potential for transformation was matched with the tribe of Food Gadgeteers who experiment with 3D food printing to transform ordinary food items into more spectacular forms. The tribe of Gut Gardeners, dieters cultivating their gut flora through fermented food and microbial-rich supplements, are inspired by the Marseille card of The Empress that represents the power of life the growth of living things. 

During one-on-one Food Tarot readings, Parlour visitors are prompted to discuss food-tech issues shown on their selected cards and speculate: What, where and how would we eat in the near future? What would be the next food trend or fetish – Ethical Cannibalism, Gastro Masochism, or Gut Gardening? What would be the favourite snack of Chew Transcenders? Would Turing Foodies trust each other? Would a Nutri Amorist date a Monsta[n]tanist?

Following the readings, Parlour visitors are asked to produce [write, draw, craft, enact] a short ‘what if’ scenario imagining that they are members of the speculative diet tribe shown on their main selected card. The aim of the scenarios is to support the notion of food-tech issues as personal affairs and frame the idea of possible food futures as personal food futures.

Parlour readings have been performed at various public events in Europe, Singapore, Australia, and the USA – more details about that are here.