12 AGRARIAN SIMULATION
Most of the food we encounter in our day to day lives is not intended for consumption. Instead we see simulated images of food in the form of advertising and product packaging, on menus, supermarket shelves and social media, building on a semiotics of agrarian simplicity and limitless nature that we first encounter in childhood. Before age 10, most children carry around a mental image of the farmyard and what happens there. Most children can point to a cartoon rhino. Meanwhile the actual black rhino population declined by 98 percent between 1960 and 1995, with around 80 believed to have survived poaching and ecosystem destruction, the last of whom have now disappeared. So long as the idea of rhino exists at scale, does anyone notice?
Consider the major food trends of the 2010s: fast food classics elevated for a fast casual audience, sentimental localism and fake rusticity reproduced for the global market. In metropolitan centers worldwide, farmer’s markets, wooden palettes, and service trucks contributed to a simulation of productive landscapes where gourmet pizzas, burgers, burritos, and other comfort foods could be enjoyed. In food as in music, we are stuck in a stylistic feedback loop defined by skeuomorphism and conservatism, under-nourished by slick remixes of last century’s genres. The production of food is a dark process. So too is our digestion of it, the biotic assimilation that animates our organs. From land clearance to slaughter and reconstitution, to the gustation and digestion to which we play host, the simulation of food reduces us to a catastrophic ignorance from which seek reassurance in an agrarian civilizational fairytale more pernicious than any Abrahamic myth.