Building the Canvas, with a Robot

This post is part 1 of 3 in a story about Flora & Fauna, a project of Max La Rivière-Hedrick and Julio César Morales. Read part 2 here.

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Flora & Fauna

Next Thursday night, July 29, Julio and I are presenting a new food-based art project called Flora & Fauna at the Headlands Center for the Arts in the Marin Headlands, California. Our goal is to create a multi-sensory dining experience designed to share untold stories of history, emotion, nature and geography of the Marin Headlands. Each course, inspired by the elements of the environment—ocean, cliffs, hills, island, fields, fog and ghosts—will be accompanied by soundtracks performed live by experimental music duo Shimomitsu.

This project is a really a collection of asking many difficult questions and then attempting to answer them—for example, what does fog smell and taste like? What do hills sounds like? Or what is a “ghost” course in a dinner? Why have we done this to ourselves? We approached answering these questions by first looking at the history of the Marin Headlands.

For at least 5,000 years, Native Americans lived north of the Golden Gate. They were part of the Miwoks, called the Huiman (pronounced Wee-men) headed by Chief Marin. In the 18th century, Spanish and Mexican ranchers moved in, and later in the middle of the 19th century, after the U.S. acquisition of California, they were replaced by Portuguese immigrant dairy farmers. Around that time, Mariano Vallejo who felt Chief Marin was colorful, defiant, brave, and clever, proposed the new county be named in Chief Marin’s honor.

Spanish and Portuguese food resonate with Julio and I, so we chose this direction. The Mess Hall at the Headlands Center for the Arts typically serves family-style, and Spanish-Portuguese by nature will be a perfect fit. Next problem, how do we serve family-style, but allow it to be sculptural? We figured the solution was the serving vessel, so consulted with good friend, Paolo Salvagione, Design Engineer for Long Now Foundation and principal of Salvagione Design in Sausalito, CA.

After much discussion with Paolo, we settled on making large platters out of Corian. Corian was originally developed in the 60’s as a material to replace human bones, and due to its non-porous quality, it is used in hospitals, laboratories, bathrooms and kitchens—and now our platters. Getting Corian is surprisingly difficult, DuPont is very careful about who is authorized to buy it, use it, glue it, tool it and so on—luckily for us, after multiple interviews, Paolo was deemed worthy of 5 12-foot sheets by DuPont.

Corian is gorgeous, and deserves to be cut by an elegant tool—like a waterjet. A waterjet is basically a robot that shoots a high pressure jet of water and abrasive that can cut almost anything with no heat. Here is a Flow waterjet in action, under the command of owner Alec Shaw of Marin Metalworks, cutting with 87,000 psi.

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Courtesy of Andria Lo

Continue reading part 2 here.