A Floating Island Made of Fat

December 6, 2015 by


While most people think too much fat isn’t a good thing, a couple of ecological artists/designers are hard at work trying to accumulate a lot of it so they can construct and grow a giant floating island made of fat.


Fatberg is the big ass idea of Amsterdam-based Mike Thompson and Arne Hendriks whose vision for an alternative use of fat led them to what they refer to as a critical design research project. Yet while the leaders of 150 nations and 40,000 delegates from 195 countries meet in Paris this week for the UN Climate Summit (COP21), there will unlikely be any discussion about melting Fatbergs.


Fatbergs do indeed exist, although not as islands, rather in sewers where they clog things up. A congealed lump of fat that clumps up with other household waste, they don’t break down, so the only way to eliminate them is to remove them.

london-fatberg_independent_getty_imagesA piece of the 15-ton London fatberg. Photo: Getty Images, via The Independent.

As reported by National Geographic, 15-ton fatberg the size of a school bus was removed from a London sever a few years ago, costing Thames Water £400,000. The public utility referred to it as “the biggest berg in British history.”

So It Shouldn’t Be a Total Waste
Although Thompson and Hendriks could have used that one to begin building their fat island, burning it can produce more than 130 gigawatt-hours of energy each year, about enough to power 40,000 London homes. And that’s exactly what the city of London planned to do with the 15-ton berg they retrieved.


Alternative Organisms, Objects, and Places
Thompson is co-founder with Susana Cámara Leret of Thought Collider, an alternative art and design research practice which explores “the meanings and values that can be derived from alternative ways of experiencing built and mediated environments, motivated by emerging technologies” with a focus on “lived experiences that confront the norm by countering the thing-like nature of organisms, objects and places”–like big islands built with fat.


Trimming Back the Fat
Hendriks, a self-proclaimed artist, educator and exhibition maker who people often refer to as a “radical ecologist,” thinks about edgy new ideas and practices that “explore the borders of specific cultural values that define our relationship with the planet.” Hendriks offers up a possible solution for saving our dying planet: shrink humankind. To this end, he conceived The Incredible Shrinking Man, a concept for turning around the evolutionary trend toward growing taller and instead downsizing the human species to 50 centimeters in order to collectively consume less energy, food, and space.

arne_hendriks_incedibl_shrinking_man_chickenOne chicken could feed 100 people.

Hendriks’s plan involves changing our relationship with food, what we eat, how much and how often, and even how we eat. To further this study, he’s dreamt up the Disproportionate Restaurant which could accommodate both ‘regular’ sized customers as well as the 50 centimeter sized ones of the future when one chicken could feed 100 guests.

arne_hendriks_designerArne Hendriks, regular size.

Pruning the World
In garden-speak, Hendriks relates his cutting back idea to pruning in the garden. “A gardener understands the need to follow simple pruning principles to create healthy plants that provide an abundance of flowers and fruits,” he says. “For all to prosper, the terminal buds need clipping.”

Thompson and Hendriks continue to pursue their idea and even raised some funds for it through a “Fatraiser” they hosted in February. Meanwhile, as the two contemplate their corpulent concept, if you ask them why they are infatuated with the idea of a floating island made of fat, they will tell you that they don’t know why, but they “simply know they must…”

You can weigh in on this by commenting below…

Unless otherwise noted, photos via Thought Collider and Arne Hendriks.


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