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Interactive video lesson plan for: Invert Perceptions to Shift Perspective, with Jonathon Keats

Activity overview:

In an example of turning an absurd inquiry into a philosophical exploration, Jonathon Keats once opened a restaurant for plants so that they could experience their own sort of five-course meal. The way he did it was by altering the ways the plants were exposed to nutrient-granting colors of light. By splitting the spectrum over time, Keats was able to "surprise" plants in the process of feeding them. While no one would ever confuse Keats for Julia Child, he does offer a unique perspective on the joy of "cooking" for plants. His naive question (How can we let plants experience the excitement of good cuisine?) transformed into an exploration of the nature of humanity's relationship with food as well as the overall question of what makes us human. Keats says this is just one example of how we can shift our perspective to tackle bigger philosophical questions.

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Transcript - Jonathon Keats: I love to eat. I like just about everything and to me cuisine is really one of the signal achievements of our society. Plants play an essential role in that process by giving us the goods, the fruits and vegetables that provide much of the raw material for our cuisine. And yet plants themselves never get to experience cuisine as we do. And to me that seemed always to be kind of a shame I suppose that they should give us something as extraordinary as they do and not get it in turn. So I started to think about how planets might get their own form of cuisine that would go beyond the everyday experience that they have of gouging themselves on sunlight. If you think about it our cuisine is simply a fancy way in which the basic nutrients that we need are articulated in balance with each other to provide an aesthetically pleasing experience. I figured that there's no reason why you can't do the same thing for a plant, given that plants are consuming the full spectrum of sunlight and that different parts of the spectrum give plants different essential elements in their diet. So I started to look at some of the leading cookbooks by Julia Child and others and trying to reverse engineer from those cookbooks the various ways in which different ingredients work together, the way in which different food stocks that are necessary for our sustenance are put together to transform them into cuisine. At the same time I started looking at sunlight and the way in which different parts of the spectrum are essential to plants and plant respond to different parts of the spectrum in different ways. And then I started to map the one onto the other in order to make a photosynthetic cuisine, a photosynthetic restaurant for planets. The idea was to build a meal that the plant would experience over the course of the day by filtering sunlight through colored filters. Where the order in which the colors were exposed to the plant would be the cuisine that would have all of the nutritive value that the plants would get were they exposed to the full spectrum for the entire day but would put those nutrient in relationship to each other in a way that would have a sort of culinary satisfaction in addition to simply a metabolic satisfaction [transcript truncated].

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

Tagged under: Jonathon Keats (Author),experimental philosophy,philosophy,art,imagination,photosynthesis,cuisine,gourmet,food,plants,perceptions,consciousness,avant-garde,absurdism,dada,postmodernism,Cooking,Gardening (Interest),bigthink,big ,bigthink.,educational,lifelong learning,sunlight,prism,color

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