I’m surrounded by pictures of my favourite foods: ice creams, biscuits, burgers. But why do I suddenly feel much less than hungry? Despite the bright, enticing images. The neon sign that reminds me of a late night pizza joint I love to frequent. The talk of Heston Blumenthal and all the delicious food that he evokes. Despite all this, I stay my hand from reaching for the bowl of Skittles resting just in front of me. This is unusual, anyone who knows me understands how little willpower I have when it comes to food. I am utterly controlled by my cravings.
In fact most of us are, much more than we even realise. This is the basis for Cravings, the newest offering from the Science Museum’s Antenna Gallery. It aims to answer questions like: how much do subliminal messages influence the way we eat? Why do we sometimes feel a need for a certain type of food? Do we really have a second brain?
The exhibition itself is Pop Art-bright: we are visually assaulted by souped-up junk food. In fact I see this whole exhibition as an imitation of that industry; everything is artificially coloured and overly cheerful, but far from real, far from “natural”. And these pimped-up images distract you from the real product. You’re drawn in by the sugar-coated donut but soon realise the true world that lies beneath. There are three main themes; the brain, the gut brain and gut bacteria. Through learning about the ways in which each of these react and change in response to what we eat, we can see how some food, may really be controlling us.
There are things to smell, an ongoing live experiment and the world’s first poo bank. There’s even been youth involvement to sate your public conscience/engage on your level (depending on affiliation/ age). And through all this, the part that really drew me in was the personal story of Molly Smith. A deliberately low key display stands out amongst all the instant gratification to give the intriguing story of a gut transplant and life without food, or hunger.
Focusing on the brain’s impact on what we eat and why, Cravings offers a refreshing take on a national health issue that is so often defined by our physical appearance. Instead of saying “if you eat too much of certain types of food you’ll get fat”, it asks “why are we always so drawn to the things that are bad for us?”. In understanding our impulses better, can we re-claim control?
Cravings: Can Your Food Control You? runs from 12 February 2015 – January 2016 at the Science Museum
Images by Nic Rae