If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what cheese made from human breast milk would taste like, today’s your lucky day. Opened just this past Thursday, artist Miriam Simun is transforming Michael Mut Gallery in the Lower East Side into “The Lady Cheese Shop,” where she’ll invite visitors to taste cheese made from breast milk. Intrigued? Disgusted? Read on for details of the exhibit and what Simun hopes to show us.
The Human Cheese Shop is an exploration of what it really means to make food from human products. The project is Simun’s final work as part of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Through the project, Simun raises questions about how biotechnology can radically transform the body into a site of production and commodity while also reframing our ideas of food production. Visitors will see the project proposal, the actual process, and the final result. Chef Sarah Hymanson created three different varieties of cheese, made from the milk of three different women. The cheese, like at all art openings, will be paired with wine.
By creating human cheese, Simun raises a multitude of questions about our food and our consumption habits. On her website she writes:
We realize that our lifestyles are unsustainable, unhealthy, and unethical. Industrialized food systems are a prime example: we abuse animals, exploit people, pollute the earth, and destroy our bodies as we eat. Food is a site of contention and revolution. Food is also one of our strongest links to the natural world, and the oldest site of social gathering – thus a wonderful vehicle for discussion.
To explore these issues and engage others in discourse I am developing a system for sourcing, creating, and distributing human cheese.
Human cheese offers a unique entry into these issues. Humans are the only animals to harvest and consume other species’ milk. This milk is neither created for human digestion, nor particularly healthy for human consumption, nor always kind to the animals we harvest and milk. Cheese is one of the oldest bio-technologies. It was also, in 1990, the first genetically modified food product to be approved for sale by the US Food and Drug Administration.
When you see, smell or eat the human cheese, Simun wants you to think about food modification and what we understand as being natural, healthy, and ethical. She asks, “If we reject all technologically modified food in favor of what is ‘natural,’ how far back to do we go? If we are to welcome new technologies into our lives, how will we continue to redefine what is natural, normal and healthy? How will this change our relationship to each other, the natural world and ourselves? If we are determined to continue to enjoy our cheese, perhaps it is most natural, ethical and healthy to eat human cheese? And if not, what other biotechnological processes does this force us to reconsider?”
Whether or not you can stomach the idea of breast milk cheese, The Human Cheese Shop will no doubt inspire interesting and heated conversation. It’s surely not an event to be missed. We’ll see you there!
The Human Cheese Shop by Miriam Simun
Michael Mut Gallery
97 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009
Friday, April 29, 5pm-9pm
Saturday April 30, 1pm-5pm
Sunday May 1, 2pm-6pm CLOSING TASTING EVENT at 4pm