Tattfoo Tan (below right) is the Malayasian-born artist behind the newly installed mural on Front Street in DUMBO. The mural is life size replica of a placemat he created as part of his Nature Matching System (NMS). The colors in the placemat are inspired from actual food colors and serve as a reminder to eat properly.
What was your inspiration for the NMS project?
NMS was developed as a reminder to consume our daily recommended doses of color. The shades of color displayed at farmers’ markets are more than skin deep, reflecting the inner potential of every fruit and vegetable; intense colors might even be called nature’s nutrition labels. They get many of their colors from phytonutrients, compounds that play key roles in health and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The more colors come together at a meal, the better. Sadly, marketers of junk food apply the same technique used by nature to pollinate seeds in order to sell their nutrition-deprived products. Color is a device that can either do good or be deceptive and even ensure the "pollination" of unhealthy eating habits. The colors on the placemat are all actual food colors, taken from photographs of various fruits and vegetables. Match your meal to the placemat -- it is truly a rainbow connection.
The mural is expected to be taken down in January of 2009. What will happen to it afterwards?
It is temporary, like most of my public art projects. It is ephemeral and could be seen as a public intervention and not a monument. I hope that NMS will remain in the memory of people touched by it and will serve as a constant reminder to eat fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables.
Students at Brooklyn's P.S. 307 helped paint the color panels that appear in the mural. How was it working with the schoolchildren?
The kids at P.S. 307 are amazing. I wish to start their education about healthy eating while they are young. NMS is a fun project to do with children, combining art, science, and education.
Would you even consider mass-marketing the placemats to bring awareness of "eating your colors" to a wider audience?
Sure. I'm waiting for the right museum or producer to take on the project.
Food is present in much of your work. Is there a common thread?
Food and eating are universal. It transcends cultural and geographical boundaries. It is part of our daily needs and rituals, as seen in [my projects] The Residue of an Omnivore or Cuisine du Jour. It nourishes the mind and body. How many times does one visit an art gallery compared to a restaurant? How cool is food as an art medium? I think it is, like in Bread Rock and Eat Draw Play.
Want more of Tattfoo? The artist’s next project, Share-A-Prayer, will appear at the Queens Museum of Art as part of the upcoming exhibition "'This Case of Conscience': Spiritual Flushing and the Remonstrance." For the project, he collected prayer requests from various religious establishments in Flushing, Queens. The prayer requests are placed on soda can and snacks which are then available in vending machines. The exhibit runs from April 6 to June 29.
Images: Tattfoo Tan.