Thursday, 12 March 2015

FoodNet: Food-Related Research in the School of Creative Arts

On 28th January 2015, The Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) at the University of Hertfordshire launched FoodNet, a network for policy, practice and research stakeholders interested in food and public health in Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. Papers outlining key research projects being undertaken by the Food and Public Health Research Unit within CRIPACC were followed by a poster session displaying relevant research from across the University. TVAD contributed a poster showcasing food-related research in the School of Creative Arts.

The poster featured the work of Dr Pat Simpson, Reader in Social History of Art, whose AHRC-funded research project ‘Sex and Socialist Realism’ investigated the relationships between Soviet concern with eugenics in the 1920s and visual constructs of the New Soviet Woman. One aspect of this research focused on propaganda images promoting hygienic maternity and childcare in order to help boost the very low birth-rate and poor survival rate for babies and young children. Central to these images was the message that ‘breast is best’, so working mothers should express milk to be given to babies in factory crêches. Posters also gave clear instructions on what foods and drinks breastfeeding mothers should and should not consume.

Another aspect of the research examined the utopian Soviet idea of a collectivised lifestyle that would allow more women to engage in paid employment. Grigorii Shegal’s poster shows the New Woman opening the door to this new way of life, with its communal canteens, laundries and crêches – an escape from the ‘kitchen slavery’ symbolised by the image of a primus stove.

Mindy Yiran Xie, a student on the BA Hons Contemporary Design Crafts in the School of Creative Arts depicted her current project is about food and contemporary jewellery. The work is designed to make people aware of the beauty of food and encourage a different connection with food via the form of jewellery. So far, Mindy has have made a ring with a 'fork' on top so you can pick food with, and also treats the picked food as the 'diamond' of the ring.

Professor Joy Jarvis, Professor of Educational Practice, and Dr Rebecca Thomas, Programme Leader of Photography, represented their project 'All’s Well that Eats Well: Sharing Food, Ideas and Ideals in the Creative Arts'. Over the last few months the School of Creative Arts at the University of Hertfordshire has run several initiatives revolving around food and its remarkable ability to create a relaxing environment in which to engage with important issues in learning and teaching. These include a large-scale indoor picnic, themed workshops around ‘breakfast’, ‘lunch’ and ‘tea’ and a student breakfast club, all designed to bring people together in lively and friendly exchanges.

Finally, Dr Grace Lees-Maffei, Reader in Design History, shared her AHRC-funded project 'Designing Domesticity'. It examined the social and material aspects of entertaining at home, from hosting a dinner party to informal teenage gatherings. Using domestic advice books (books about etiquette, homemaking and home decoration), her research showed how the design of the home influences the social organisation of eating at home, as much as those social factors influence domestic design and decoration.

The launch was a success for all involved. Here are some images of the event, including the papers examining research in CRIPACC:

Dr Wendy Wills speaking at the FoodNet launch
Dr Angela Dickinson at the FoodNet launch

Dr Faith Ikioda discussing FoodNet research

Dr Grace Lees-Maffei and Dr Wendy Wills at the Poster Session

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