Tattfoo Tan at Storytelling and Food – Tattfoo Tan

Video by
Change Food

Hi! My name is Tattfoo. Thanks for coming. Thanks for having me today. I’m an artist and I don’t do any photograph or painting. But I do what they currently call social sculpture. So basically it’s just how I live my life. So I’m just curious and I learn things. And then once I learn things, I practice them. After that I teach them. So it’s sort of like that process that I’m doing. And since we are in a start-up company, tech company. I also envelop that sort of mentality also. That’s no masterpiece for me. Everything that I do is also beta testing, so I just go out there and do it and engage with people. They will give me feedback. And once I take that feedback, improve on it. So it’ll be version one, version two, version three, and I keep on improving. That’s how my project sort of became an umbrella. So like tiny little projects and then become built up into this bigger pyramid.

So I have three projects. The first one is nature matching system. It’s basically I like to learn how to eat healthier. So it’s my self-help sort of project. So I write on a men’s health magazine saying that, that is these nutrients, called phytonutrients are nutrients on the skin of fruits and vegetables. And that nutrients, is the color itself, it’s not inside the food. And I decided to take a photograph of those nutrients and then transform them into pixel and grid. First project was on a placemat and the placemat has also been sold in a MoMA design store. And then I translate that into a mural in public, so it’s in a bus terminal and also in DUMBO, down near Manhattan Bridge. This is in Port Authority Bus Terminal. And you can also download them as your screensaver to remind yourself to eat healthy. Remember to eat your daily dose of colors.

And I like to make this sort of like an open source idea. People like the color, they can have those color codes on my website. And then they could either paint their house, you know, work with their children and things like that. Right now in collaboration with 601 Tully, non-profit art space in Syracuse. It has become a curriculum. So other schools and students could pick that up and then use that curriculum to teach their students how to eat healthy and eat colorful. So these are the other installation that I did. And other murals was painted locally by participants in different art centers and museum. I was not there. And they just use my manual to execute all this work.

The next projects are called SOS, Sustainable Organic Stewardship. Once I learned that I need to eat healthy and eat colorful I decided to make sure the food that I eat are nutritious and non-pesticide and organic. So as I was trained as a designer, I use a lot of design language. I work in an advertising company so I have branding and advertising background in me. So a lot of the language that I use is basically commercial graphics languages. And so I decided to learn how to plant things, how to compost and from all those different practices I just got a certificate and I decided to make patches like this, like the coverall, that you see here or the shirt that I wear. So when I have this uniform that I wear, and so it’s like a performance, so I can go out, engage with people. Go to workshops, people know that I have this knowledge. And when I talk to children they really like me because I’m like a green scout. And they really respond to that sort of persona, like a superhero, a green hero persona. And all these little projects, so the compost project becomes Black Gold. All this worm waste, I can it into a jug. There’s an artist called Piero Manzoni who canned his own waste in the 60s, during this art movement called Arte Povera. And now a canned worm waste which is a more ecological artwork.

And the other project I do is called Mobile Garden where I enter the public with different kinds of mobile strollers. And a lot of my projects is also open source, so I recruit a lot of other people to join me. There was a group of people from Parsons, students that will join me in an activity in Union Square. And the next photo is called SOS Mobile Classroom. This is sort of like, if I’m a green superhero I need like a cool ride, right, Batman has his Batmobile. So I decided I cannot use a lot of gasoline. So to have a cargo bike so I can bike to various places with this and with my chickens onboard. And I can teach students to do things. And with every project I have a logo attached with it, so that people relate to it. Because it can become overwhelming and confusing. And so SOS Pledge is like the overarching mission. So this is a mural commissioned by the Department of Culture Affairs, in a public school, PS971. It says:

I hereby pledge to make the following changes in my life. My action will be small but the collective impact will be great. I promise to consume fresh and local produce. I promise to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost and conserve energy. I will walk, bike or ride public transportation as much as I can. I will set an example for others as a sustainable organic steward – SOS.

And this artwork is basically the text itself. It comes in various platforms. So this is a marble platform because it was commissioned. It’s also in a platform of a postcard and also sign up online. The next project is SOS 5PM. And I am cultivating my lot next to my studio. And I don’t want to buy a lot of fertilizer, and decided to get chickens and the waste itself becomes my natural fertilizer. And I tweet how many eggs they lay every day, so it’s like an egg count.

And this is a GREENade, you know, a piece of wood, a green and aiding the ground by throwing seed bomb. And this is on a project called Free Seeds Library. People talk about GMO and hybrid seeds. The best is to take action on yourself. Save the seeds on your own, it is like your piggybank, saving seeds, great things to do. So SOS is basically a movement of one. I always say, the thing that I always tell people is that you want to change the world, you can’t really change the world. You can only change one person, that is yourself. So for me, all these things is for myself. I’m a very selfish person. I’m just a very selfish artist, because everything that I do is for my own good. But then after I do it I hope other people emulate and see what I do can be related to their own life. And they would do it themselves. I don’t preach to other people to do what I do. But hopefully they can see that all these things are beneficial for everyone and it can be replicated in that way.

The next project, the third project is kind of a trilogy. It’s called New Earth MRE, Meals Ready to Eat. The New Earth project also is a bigger umbrella project, but this is the first one. I save various types of food wastes in our food system that people throw out because of damages or weird shape. And it was not considered sellable so people throw them out or destroy them. So I save them and then I cook meals that are packet and dehydrate so that it could be shelf stable for a year. And this is my art project basically.

I have a few shows coming up if you’re interested. The SOS project will have a solo show in the Staten Island Arts, a new space inside the ferry terminal. So next time you’re in Staten Island, and you don’t know what to do when you have friends over, there’s an art space there. So there’s a cultural space inside the ferry terminal, doesn’t have to walk a lot further than that. And it’s opening next month, and the same time a FOODshed: Agriculture and Art in Action in SmackMellon. And I will show both, the dehydrated food and also big sculpture called NEAKA in a shape of a big catamaran ship. Thank you so much.

Video Length: 00:07:48

  • About Tattfoo Tan

    Artist Tattfoo Tan at Storytelling and Food – Tattfoo Tan

    Tattfoo Tan uses a variety of media and platforms to develop “projects that are ephemeral and conceptual in nature.” The projects ...read more.


Change Food


  • Ava Chin at Storytelling and Food – Ava Chin

    Change Food

    Hi, everybody. Can you hear me alright, just out of curiosity? Okay. I can project because I used to be a slam poet. This is a food poem called “Wun Yee. Muk Yee. Cloud Ear Fungus. Does it grow on land or in the sea?” My grandfather holds the tiny cloud ears running under a […]

  • Henry Hargreaves at Storytelling and Food – Henry Hargreaves

    Change Food

    Photographer Henry Hargreaves uses food in surprising ways in his work, with the goal of “trying to get people to re-connect with food in a fun way.” Some of the work he showed included: Jello Presidents – portraits of each U.S. president created out of gelatin, color coded based on the elements of the US flag – red, […]

  • Panel Discussion at Storytelling and Food

    Change Food

    The work of these artists demonstrates the role that art can play in inspiring conversation and thought and perhaps even motivating people to make changes when it comes to their relationship with food. A picture of a doughnut set ablaze, film of seeds sprouting set to music, a poem about family and cooking and a […]