Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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In light of my last post on bioart, I want to share with you an intriguing experiment proposed by a 24-year-old software engineer from Atlanta by the name of Rob Rhinehart. What happens if we were to reduce food to its basic raw materials of vitamins and minerals? What if we were to replace conventional food and conventional eating with the consumption of those chemical raw materials in their recommended ratios? Rhinehart has done just this, replacing all of this food with a chemical cocktail he whips up in his chemistry lab/kitchen every morning. “Soylent,” as he calls it, contains all of the necessary nutrients of a well-balanced diet in their essential chemical form. He only eats solid food now a few times a week (usually when dining with friends). An explanation of his project and ongoing documentation of the results can be found on his blog. He offers some reflection on his methods and the larger implications of his approach to nourishment and social issues in this interview. His experiment strikes me as a really interesting example of pataphysical performance art. Rhinehart has produced an imaginary solution to the problem of eating. “Eating” is indeed a vexing contemporary social and ecological problem inflected not only by continuing global poverty-induced malnutrition and soaring obesity rates, but also by issues associated with genetic modification, industrialized food production, and greenhouse gas emissions. “Soylent” costs $2 a day; it doesn’t require a heat source and it makes you poop far less. The energy savings in sanitation and waste disposal are immense. He can adjust his weight with precision by varying the chemical contents of the drink. Moreover, it has made him realize just how much of our culture and civic infrastructure are given over to food preparation and marketing.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Adam Dickinson

Adam Dickinson’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Canada and internationally. His first book of poetry, Cartography and Walking (Brick Books), was shortlisted for an Alberta Book Award. His second collection, Kingdom, Phylum (Brick Books), was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. His third collection of poetry, The Polymers is published by House of Anansi Press.

Go to Adam Dickinson’s Author Page