This first appeared on MUNCHIES in June 2015.
The food publishing world is pretty big on guides. You've got the heavy hitters like Michelin, then there are the endless "20 Best Burgers," "Top Five Tastiest Burgers Ever," and "No Really, These Actually Are the Ten Most Delicious Burgers You'll Ever Eat" that proliferate the internet on a daily basis. Extraterrestrial visitors to planet Earth could be forgiven for thinking that human beings are incapable of putting anything in their mouths before having it verified by at least two blog posts and a ranking on Square Meal (but then also some really great dinner recommendations, should they crash land in central London).
Antonio Cascos Chamizo's food guide is slightly different. To Eat or to be Eaten—A Guide to Cannibalism contains human butchery diagrams alongside recipes for human minced meat mango tartare and human tenderloin with cider.
Despite penning such a grizzly document, Chamizo isn't actually your Cannibal Holocaust nightmares realised, but a Spanish-born graduate of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. His guide is part of a recent master's degree project that also includes vessels shaped to look like human body parts and covered with real hair.
What's most disturbing about Chamizo's project, though, is the page of handy stats that supposedly justify cannibalism. According to guide, the average human body "contains enough meat to feed another person for about a month" and "enough protein to meet the daily nutritional requirements of 60 adults."
If that's enough to convince you, the guide also notes that for citizens of "the United States or of any European country, there are no outright laws against the consumption of human flesh." Murder is presumably nbd for aspiring cannibals.
We got in touch with Chamizo to talk about the complexities surrounding meat consumption, both human and otherwise. Spoiler: he isn't a flesh-eating psychopath, just a nice design guy living in Oslo.
MUNCHIES: Hi Antonio. Tell me, how did the idea to create the Guide to Cannibalism come about? Antonio Cascos Chamizo: I was looking for a fictional situation that could work as platform to transcend the structure of our cultural preconceptions. I came across the Miraña tribe through the writing of the German doctors, Johann Baptist von Spix and Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, who travelled to South America in 1817.
On meeting the Miraña tribe for the first time, they asked a chief why his people practised cannibalism. The chief thought it was strange that some people opposed it and said, You whites will not eat crocodiles or apes although they taste good. If you did not have so many pigs and crabs, you would eat crocodiles and apes, for hunger hurts. It is all a matter of habit. When I have killed an enemy, it is better to eat him than to let him go to waste.
That's an interesting quote! It really shook me and made me think that exploring a food taboo like cannibalism could test the bounds of cultural relativism. It challenges the viewer to define what is beyond the pale of acceptable human behaviour, opening debates for what we consider "ethical."
The images definitely inspire a lot of thought. Due to its taboo status in our society, cannibalism generates dark and more complex emotions and challenges preconceptions. This makes it the perfect theme to engage people with.
Right. But do you think humans should be allowed to eat each other? All customs can be a matter of habit and it's not for me to define which kind of human behaviour is acceptable and which is not. But there is no outright law against the consumption of human flesh in most Western countries.
The guide includes recipes for cooking human meat. Can you talk me through some of these? They are actually real recipes. I elaborated myself with animal meat that resembles qualities of the human body cuts suggested in the recipes. It's worth trying them!
You've also got diagrams that show how to correctly butcher the human body. What kind of research did you do to come up with these? I'm assuming you haven't actually been mutilating bodies. Indeed, I haven't! It was easy—just studying the qualities of different human muscles and how well exercised the areas are, and comparing this to the existing animal butchering charts.
Aside from human butchery, what are some of the other tips you include in the guide? I also suggest which kind of wine would work best with different meats and which parts of the human body are not edible or should be avoided, either because they have little nutritional value, are difficult to digest, or cause degenerative neurological disorders.
Interesting. The project also includes four vessels that look like body parts. Can you explain what these are about? "The Hairy Bowls" are the merchandise part of A Guide to Cannibalism. I wanted the three dimensional merchandising of the scenario to co-exist with the guide. If the vessel is shown out of context, it would bring the user back to the same taboo and repulsion.
I also decided that it would be more interesting if the objects worked at different levels and not just at the visual level. By actually using the vessels, the user can relate to the taboo of cannibalism on a tactile level too. I started working with different human hair and testing with materials that resemble human flesh qualities in texture, reliefs, and softness.
The guide also includes facts that justify cannibalism as a potential solution to global issues like overpopulation and food shortages. Were you trying to shock people into engaging with these issues? Exactly, that's my intention. The project is not intended to promote cannibalism, but address global issues such as lack of resources, overpopulation, and issues around consumerism. I wanted to set a fictional scenario and a "What if?" question to open up space for discussion and reflection. It provides an alternative context that makes us question the present and the probable future.
Those are some big questions. Thanks for speaking with us, Antonio. No, thank you. I'm happy you understood the project is about activism and communication, not actually about eating your neighbour!
For entertainment purposes only.