Fairy Dairy Farm (2023)



Fairy Dairy Farm (2023)

Bio Design / Critical and Speculative Design / Social Media Art




Project website: https://fairydairyfarm.com/


Fairy Dairy Farm Project depicts a fictional urban dairy farm, Fairy Dairy Farm, which both saves cows from slaughterhouses and maintains the beef culture by growing mushrooms, a common beef alternative, on infertile and sterile cows.

This project proposes a tongue-in-cheek solution for cows, which will be sent to the slaughterhouse once they reach the end of their productive life or can no longer provide sufficient dairy products. Meanwhile, this solution also speculates an alternative method to make mushrooms taste more beef-like and produce beefier meat alternatives.

The project seeks to draw attention to cows' rights, discuss the ethics of the current dairy industry, and inspire collective imagination about meat alternatives by introducing Fairy Dairy Farm on social media.  By doing so, I built an official website for this farm, designed a series of farm products, and communicated this speculative and experimental idea on social media.

At the level of visualisation and communication of speculations, generative AI techniques facilitate and empower the storytelling process. I experiment extensively with various AIGC tools and embrace the method as a powerful enabler in creating this project.






















Mark

Broccopork, Mushchicken and Peaf (2023)



Broccopork, Mushchicken and Peaf (2023)

Bio Design / Critical and Speculative Design / Social Media Art




Credits:

Designer/Director: Leyu Li
Illustrator: Ola Maslyk
Actress: Maria Alpha
Printing: Zhang Kai
Settings: Chenyue Zhang
Scientific Consultancy: Hoxton Farms



PROJECT OVERVIEW


This project explores the potential public reaction to cultivated meat products in the future by introducing a set of fictional cultivated meat products on TikTok. The designed TikTok videos are intended to provoke debates, dialogues, and public discourse on the subject of lab-grown meat as if it has already arrived in our present reality.




BACKGROUND


The supermarket shelves today are already filled with plant-based meat. Cultivated meat is on the horizon. Currently, plant-based meat alternatives are often placed on a spectrum between plants and meat according to their similarity to meat. People share their plant-based food reviews everywhere and anytime on TikTok. This has made me curious about what reactions the population might have to cultivated meat products of the future. What debates, dialogues, and public discourse will occur when lab-grown meat becomes a reality? How will in-vitro biotech change people’s daily life and food culture?




MAKING THE UNREAL REAL,
INVITING THE FUTURE INTO THE PRESENT


I created a fictional biotech company called “Plant+ Meat-” and developed its brand identity and some discursive props. Delivery boxes and three fictional cultivated meat product props, Broccopork, Mushchicken and Peaf, were designed and created. I created a TikTok account called “Meaty Auntie” and conducted a series of short videos to introduce the three future hybrid meaty plants to the public in order to provoke discussion and dialogue about in-vitro meat and collect people’s feedback.

The reactions were diverse. People really believed it was a reality and expressed concern about this biotechnological development. I received accusations of satire, as well as requests to purchase the products. Surprisingly, even a food institutional manager reached out to ask me to give a commercial talk about Broccopork.  Some people recognized the project as a fictional speculative design project. Many other TikTokers reposted and dueted with the videos, amplifying the reach. 

I am still receiving notifications on social media and reactions to the fictional products I designed. Broccopork continues to generate discourse online about the future of meat products. So far, videos on TikTok have gained nearly 3 million views and thousands of comments and followers to the account.





SHAPING THE FUTURE OF FOOD


Why “Broccopork”, “Mushchicken” and “Peaf”? These fictional products, developed in consultation with cellular agriculture startup Hoxton Farms, these hybrid meaty plants are a speculation on cultivated meat products in the future. They were designed based on the current capabilities of tissue engineering. The plants’ surface works as scaffolding for the meat tissue cells to grow along their structures. The result is a captured existence of both meat and vegetables in the same product. The cognitive controversy and visual inconsistency stimulate the collision of different discussions and dialogues about meat, lab meat, plant-based meat and plants.

This project invites the future of meat into the present by way of social media to create a virtual space for discussion, reflection, and imagination of the future as if it is already here. These online public debates and conversations are shaping, fueling and navigating our collective imagination of the future of food.




Media & Press:

Dutch Design Week, “Broccopork, Mushchicken and Peaf”
https://ddw.nl/en/programme/9911/broccopork-mushchicken-and-peaf


LS:N Global, The Future Laboratory, “Are hybrid meat-vegetables the future of cultivated meat?”
https://www.lsnglobal.com/article/view/30106#:~:text=Are%20hybrid%20meat%2D-,vegetables,-the%20future%20of


Dezeen, "Leyu Li proposes hybrid meaty vegetables by merging lab-grown meat with plants"
https://www.dezeen.com/2023/11/02/leyu-li-broccopork-mushchicken-peaf/

Next Nature, "Building the farm of tomorrow"
https://www.nextnature.net/magazine/visual/2023/ddw23-what-is-on-display

Next Nature, "Next Generation: Going viral with lab-grown meat and Leyu Li"
https://www.nextnature.net/magazine/story/2023/next-generation-going-viral-with-meat-plant-hybrids-and-leyu-li






















Mark

In-Vase Meat (2023, Ongoing)


In-Vase Meat (2023, Ongoing)

BioArt and Design / Critical and Speculative Design




Collaborated with Shurong Yang
Proposal for Science Gallery Atlanta “THERMAL” open call




With the growing problems of climate change, environmental pollution and animal rights violations caused by traditional animal farming, Indoor Cellular Agriculture(ICA) systems are becoming a common way to produce home-cultivated meat in the kitchen as a laboratory in the future. In-vase meat is the meat produced by this kind of Indoor Cellular Agriculture.

The in-vase meat is cultured in a special Bio-vase, which is a derivative of indoor cellular agriculture. It is inspired by the traditional practice of kimchi pickling. In the Bio-vase, the surface of the vegetables is used as a biological growth scaffold, the vegetables are inverted and submerged in a cell-filled growth solution, which allows cells to grow along the surface of the vegetables.

This project depicts an alternative agricultural future where merges cellular cultivation and indoor farming together to reimagine not only the production and transportation of meat but an entire lifestyle. This has turned traditional kitchens into cultivated meat laboratories, replacing the industrialised farms of traditional animal husbandry. Meanwhile, the use of cultured meat biotechnology to produce meat products is more conducive to environmental sustainability and protects animal welfare, while meeting human demand for meat.

















Mark

Mulus Guide (2023)



Dish of Fertility (Deer Antler and Oyster Main Dish) from Mulus Guide(2023)


Mulus Guide (2023)

Food Design (Fine Dining) / Critical and Speculative Design / Ceramic Art




Collaboration with Food Ceramist Fo (Ying Li)
https://www.fo-art.com/




Credits:

Director/Designer: Leyu Li
Ceramist: Fo (Ying Li)
Chef Consltancy: Tony Fleming
Cook: Letian Zhang
Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor:  Dr Zhuang

Supported by and Funded by
Tong Global



Project website: https://www.instagram.com/mulusguide/



The Mulus Guide project redesigns the fine dining Bible, the Michelin Guide, redefining Michelin star criteria based on Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), rebrands “Food as Medicine”, and explores the integration of “food remedy” from TCM into the world of fine dining, focusing on the alternative dishes themselves and their customised tablewares.

The project has amassed collective insights from diverse disciplines. Directed by Leyu Li, It engaged in collaboration with food ceramist Fo and support from professional chef Tony Fleming, skilled cook Letian, and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor Dr Zhuang. Inspired by three key ingredients considered luxury staples in French culinary culture (caviar, truffle and foie gras), we selected three French cuisine dishes, reformed and designed these into three new courses based on three Chinese food/medicine ingredients: Cordyceps, Deer Antler, and Donkey-hide Gelatine, which have equivalent status and luxury values in the Chinese food/medicine system. Following the Chinese medicinal cuisine principles, the dishes are aiming to invigorate Qi, enhance fertility and nourish the blood.

Correspondingly, food ceramist Fo has designed and crafted unique tableware for the dishes based on the aforementioned three ingredients. The design and form of the tableware are derived from the functions and visual characteristics of Cordyceps, Deer Antler, and Donkey-hide Gelatine. The tablewares create a harmonious and immersive dining experience that seamlessly integrates the culinary and aesthetic aspects of the dishes.

Mulus Guide endeavors to challenge the prevailing influence of French cuisine in the realm of exquisite dining by establishing innovative standards and introducing alternative, symbolic ingredients. This project serves as a critical reflection on the cultural colonialism entrenched within gastronomy, seeking to dismantle traditional hierarchies and broaden the horizons of fine culinary culture. By deviating from the conventional norms, Mulus Guide aims to foster a more inclusive and diverse representation of culinary excellence, embracing influences from various global traditions, especially Chinese tradition. The project's mission extends beyond the mere act of culinary innovation, as it aspires to initiate a broader dialogue on cultural diversity and redefine the narrative surrounding fine dining. Through this approach, Mulus Guide strives to create a gastronomic landscape that is not only visually and gastronomically captivating but also socially and culturally transformative.




Mulus Guide (Redefined Michelin Guide based on TCM)


Menu


Dish of Qi (Cordyceps Appetizer)



Dish of Blood (Donkey-hide Gelatine Dessrt)



Close-up of Dish of Fertility (Deer Antler and Oyster Main Dish)


Close-up of Dish of Qi (Cordyceps Appetizer)



Close-up of Dish of Blood (Donkey-hide Gelatine Dessrt)













Mark

cM Donald’s (2022)


cM Donald’s (2022)

Food Design (Fast Food) / Critical and Speculative Design 




Background


The long-lasting post-colonisation of Western culture and worldwide homogenisation of food cultures are becoming increasingly problematic due to globalisation and global McDonaldisation, where all our societies seem to adopt the characteristics of McDonald's restaurants. Meanwhile, in the post-pandemic era, with growing tensions between China and the Western world, widespread hostility and narrow nationalism veils the planet.

McDonald's is 69 years old now, and COVID-19 is fading away. It is a great time to think about how we can critically reflect on the prevailing cultural norms and challenge the current Western hegemony. Besides, it is crucial to probe a possible food industry and envision an alternative fast-food culture.




Project Overview


cM Donald's reimagines the McDonald's franchise through a speculative, counterfactual lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It aims to challenge Western dominance by constructing an alternative world to bring heterogeneity to the fast-food culture. cM Donald's also embodies the concept of "food remedy" from Traditional Chinese Medicine and other practices in Chinese culture (such as Feng Shui, Qi, etc.)

This project depicts a parallel universe where the Opium Wars acted as a cultural turning point for this counterfactual timeline. Instead of China being defeated disastrously, my counterfactual history imagines a civilisation where there is a balance between Chinese and Western cultures. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a conventional medical practice in China, rather than being viewed as pseudoscience, becomes held in parallel to dominant Western medicinal practices. "Food as medicine", as one of the fundamental principles in TCM, would bring about a shift in food practices and our bodies' relationships with food in cM Donald's world.





McDonald's is chosen to be the space where cultural collisions happen. There are mainly two reasons why I have chosen McDonald's as the experimental site. One is about the metaphors of McDonald's. Having a burger was even a luxurious event, which usually happened on my birthday when I was little. However, as time went by, the rates of visiting McDonald's increased, which could represent more household income. My family's financial improvement can be a microcosm of China's rapid economic development during these 30 years. The other is that McDonaldization has become more problematic. All our societies seem to adopt the characteristics of McDonald's restaurants. Sociologist George Ritzer developed McDonaldization to describe this phenomenon. The essential characteristics of a McDonald's restaurant are efficiency, calculability, predictability and standardisation, and control. These characteristics allow me to invite "Food as medicine" to break the rules and imagine what TCM can do to shape the modern food culture.

In my project, McDonald's is shifted from a restaurant that represents efficiency, calculability, and predictability to a place where people seek "Qi", balancing the quality of vital energy and pursuing every individual's compatibility with food. I've designed some artefacts from cM Donald's as tangible glimpses of this alternatively present McDonald's. They are a series of maps, trays, and utensils.




Counterfactual History


In this project, I used counterfactual history as a tool to raise a series of what if?questions and construct a fictional narrative for cM Donald's. Here are my counterfactual history narratives. What if China didn't lose the Opium War? What if China didn't become remoulded by the West from this point onwards? What if Traditional Chinese culture parallels Western practice and comes together to form modern food culture? What if McDonald's is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts and theories?



The full counterfactual history timeline


Diegetic prototypes


In this project, there are three dietetic prototypes to visualise and materialise this fictional McDonald's, cM Donald's. They are a series of maps, trays, and utensils.


Maps

In this parallel universe, these cM Donald's restaurants are distributed according to Feng Shui theories, also known as Chinese geomancy. Based on Feng Shui, the chosen locations are places that accommodate better energy. There are two Feng Shui rules. One is that all the cM Donalds face the river and mountains on the back, in the North. The other is all the cM Donald's restaurants are located near vital prosperity like forests and parks and facing the rivers.





Tray

I found a similarity between the behaviours of how people hold the tray to look for where they sit and how a Feng Shui practitioner holds the feng shui compass to look for the proper energy in time and space. Therefore, I chose the tray to raise a question about how customers decide where to sit.

The tray paper kept the essential components which are the compass, diagrams and aesthetics of the Feng Shui compass. The concentric rings on my tray paper illustrate the relationship between the Qi, food and our bodies.





Drinking and Burger Utensils

The burger and drinking utensils try to create a balance of Qi on the tray. The shape of the drinking utensil represents the river, whose nature is Yin. The burger utensil's shape means the mountain, whose nature is Yang.




The patterns on the utensils are a series of combinations of traditional patterns and some original designs, which I extracted from the existing McDonald's visual languages and reinterpreted. The development of patterns, refinement of symbolism, and application of symbolism want the object wasn't a form of cultural appropriation.

The jade-like material is selected based on the Jade culture, which is part of traditional Chinese medicine and the artistic medium in traditional Chinese culture. From the appearances of jade and light green acrylic, the latter can be viewed as the easily accessible, cheap and modern form of jade.





Summary


cM Donald's uses a fictional historical background to free people from the current cultural conditions and invites them to look for unfamiliarities in seemingly familiar cM Donald's. This counterfactual narrative can open up more historical possibilities for people, help them recognise the weak ??legitimacy of the present cultural norms and envision an alternative world where non-western cultural notions and beliefs are fully adopted and transmitted.







Media & Press:

Finger Food Magazine,  “cM Donald’s”, Finger Food Mag Issue2

DAMN° Magazine
, "cM Donald’s", DAMN°84, The Everlasting Hunt for Money
https://www.damnmagazine.net/leyu-li-cm-donalds











Mark
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