Reverse Engineering the Refrigerator
February 21, 2012
Jihyun Ryou is interested in food preservation. “I’ve learned that we hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology, the refrigerator,” she explains. “We don’t observe the food anymore, and we don’t understand how to treat it,” she adds. To Ryou, design is not about making life easier but about propagating knowledge. Instead of concealing, design reveals time-tested rituals, processes and traditions, finding new ways to elucidate them.
Thus, for her ‘Save Food From the Fridge‘ project, Ryou has crafted a series of food storage contraptions that counter the hidden, black box technology of the refrigerator by relying on “traditional oral knowledge [that] has been accumulated from experience.” More after the jump.
Ryou’s analog appliances explore old kitchen wisdoms. Her distinctive wooden shelves are designed to regulate dryness and humidity, lightness and darkness, and other variables crucial to food preservation, all through simple, natural technologies. Containers of sand are used to keep carrots and leeks upright in their natural positions, miniscule compartments of rice keep spices dry, dangling hooks to dry fresh spice bouquets, and trays and jars of water keep eggplants and bell peppers hydrated and test eggs for freshness (fresh eggs sink!). Ryou’s pleasant-looking contraptions appear like elementary school science experiments, equal parts functional and pedagogical.
Whether or not these petit wall hangings will find a place in the typical American pantry is another story, but Ryou’s project teases out one of the most critical roles of design, to teach us how to live responsibly. As Ryou writes, “My design is a tool to implement that knowledge in a tangible way and slowly it changes the bigger picture of society. I believe that once people are given a tool that triggers their minds and requires a mental effort to use it, new traditions and new rituals can be introduced into our culture.”