Minjun Chen




Autonomy deals with the human ideal of free will through the exploration of the nature of bacon as mutable fat cells, and reflects on the inextricable relationship between media-control and freedom, as our desire for bacon is shaped by our evolutionary biology.

Typography Installation, Biological Design Challenge | Partner: Natasha Doherty | 3 months | My Role: Visuals, User Experience, Video Production


01 Background

From our research, we found that the eating of bacon was a complex social, cultural and habitual activity.

As humans this habit formed over thousands of years, and bacon helped make us who we are. But the symbol of bacon has taken on such cultural and social significance that it is hard to tell where desire stops and marketing starts. We have society tell us we need to keep consuming things. And we like these things. We are told through advertising that we need to always consume more. We need to eat more of it, and it’s getting healthier, and maybe it’s not hurting us as much as we thought it was.

But there is no denying that the relationship between man and bacon, or man and anything, is very complex. We began to wonder whether the desires that we have are really are own: did the companies just tell us to think this way? Did they just tell us it was a breakfast food so that we would eat it every day? We have come to believe that we will love bacon forever. Maybe the companies taught us that too. Where does our desire begin? How has society constructed such a strong cultural symbol that we cannot imagine our lives without it? And yet our experience of the product has totally abstracted it from the real meaning of the product. Have we just let these companies construct our desire?

  • Companies have socially constructed the human’s sense of need for the product

  • Human taste and need for comfort and understanding drives decision making

  • Bacon is a lens and a litmus paper for the broader society

  • Autonomous demand does not actually exist because we have been influenced by the company’s way

02 Key Findings

  • Tell the story of the human species through the medium of bacon

  • Make a different bacon experience

  • Produce real time interaction

  • Add a meaning to a material (bacon) through biological design

  • Allow the audience to reflect on themselves and critical issues on our society

03 Design Principles


Idea 1 Bacon Machine: We planned to work with synthetic biology on a material level to create a liquid bacon that would taste and smell of bacon.

The point of this liquid bacon was to show the furthest abstraction of the pig itself, and contrast this with a picture of a pig in a field. If consumers could buy liquid bacon, we could construct new meanings around it, and the product could take on its own life form in media, advertisements, and marketing strategies. We might also start to believe that this liquid bacon is a symbol of our culture, our society, and our country. In the exhibition, we would invite viewers to smell, touch and even taste the liquid bacon.

04 Ideation


Idea 2 Autonomy: We wanted to build typography installation using numerous petri dishes to spell the word "Autonomy".

Each letter that consisted of petri dishes would be mounted on one piece of the acrylic board. We would then hang these up on eight pieces of acrylic board in the middle of the gallery. We chose this word "Autonomy" because it indicates the idea of self-directing freedom or free-will of humans.


Idea 3 Baconful: We would offer the consumer a number of ways that they can regain control of their eating, by growing their own bacon.

In physical parts of the exhibition, we would provide many bacon for users to choose for their every day use. We might use biological design as a way to explain this idea by creating a bacteria of a similar smell of bacon. How else could these resources be used from the Pig’s belly, totally different from the meat?

Scan Jul 4, 2018 at 16.22.jpg

We chose Idea 2 as the final design: the text-based installation had the power to start a discussion around the fundamental assumptions of freedom, free-will and independent choices.

We would explore the ways that companies and society manipulated the consumer to eat more bacon and formed a strong sense of meaning and cultural identity around the bacon. We thought the typography installation Autonomy would be accessible to everyone. Visitors could walk around to inspect the petri dishes without necessarily knowing what was inside them. More importantly, reading these pieces from different angles allowed more interpretations of this artwork.

05 Final Design

06 Process

We mimicked how the brain responds to the stimulus of these fat cells through taste and smell, producing a positive physical and emotional reaction in the body.

We bought eight types of bacon in the market and grocer, and cooked it all in order to isolate all the fat. The petri dishes contained isolated fat cells of bacon (the human’s favorite part of the pig), solidified in an agar and an Oil Red O indicator. The indicator turned red in the presence of lipids.


07 Final Exhibition