In particular, these days, Lawrence is thinking about the space where food and social media intersect: “We’re in this spot in the digital world where this Instagram foodie culture is so present and hard to avoid at all. And, I think the way that Instagram and digital media have transformed our relationship with food is really interesting,” she says.
Her latest project, Kids Menu, puts the “cotton candy burritos and freak milkshakes” filling our social media feeds in focus: “Just the way that these strange hybrids that a kid would come up with; We’re fascinated by them because it’s new and exciting and plays into nostalgia—and the fact that it’s basically super-sized doses of sugar and fat and colour and that’s what we’re drawn to.”
And since, as she puts it, we’ve become a society of food photographers endlessly documenting our next OTT treat (here’s looking at you, dalgona coffee), why not do one better? “I think working with kids is the perfect way to invent food similar to the ones we see on Instagram all the time,” Lawrence says.
If viral food trends online are, in part, an argument of aesthetics (which they must be, at least sometimes—can that rainbow bagel from New York possibly be edible with so much food colouring?); If they are equally a siren song that makes our brains light up like a city skyline (and they are, thanks to the promise of sugar and fat); If it’s a perfect illustration of how on social media, everything is a long game of imagine-pretend (we travel across towns and cities for these foods to amass likes, after all), Lawrence’s latest works feel both at once an extension of the culture she’s critiquing and the cure for it.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about diet culture and intuitive eating and something that we learn is oftentimes before children become immersed in diet culture they are naturally intuitive eaters,” she says. “Tapping into someone’s brain before they are completely immersed in what good food is, what bad food is, what they should be eating, what they should not be eating, how much is too much, knowing way too much about sugar from a young age—before they’re immersed in all of this, what their brains will come up with when I’m asking them to not have food restrictions or rules.”