Matthew Battles, Keith Hartwig


Refrigerator, magnets, ink-jet prints, prepared food
Variable Dimensions
Project Partners: Cambridge Public Library; Aeronaut Brewing Co.; Gus Rancatore, Toscanini's Ice Cream; David Buckley Borden (artist); Jessica Yurkovsky (designer); Nate Phinisee (chef); The Best Bees Company and Urban Beekeeping Lab



Matthew Battles and Keith Hartwig, in their ongoing Invasive Spirits project, use foraging, brewing, and fermentation to explore the complexity of nature in the city, where not only people, but native and domestic plants and animals come together in cosmopolitan communities.

FUTUREFOOD is an interactive and participatory series of events that engages the public on matters of food waste, food justice, sustainable uses of urban green space, habitat loss, and the invisible or overlooked effects of climate change on urban ecology.

Each of three events features a food or beverage pairing produced in collaboration with a local chef, brewer, forager, or fermentation expert to highlight a distinct facet of our food system. Each comestible or libation that visitors are invited to taste is designed to excite the senses and open a discussion about the challenges facing our cities and their broader ecological contexts. The events will take place May 11, May 25, and June 15, 2019, 1-4 p.m., at the Cambridge Public Library.

Interactivity and collective ideation are further enhanced by the addition of two new elements to the Invasive Spirits portfolio; Cool City and Fab Libs.

Cool City is quite literally a refrigerator, transformed to hold not food, but the ideas, values, hopes, and fears generated through community dialogue and deliberation. A playable magnetic game turns the face of the fridge into a playful space for collective speculation, while the frigid interior will hold a shifting collection of surprising objects and interventions tracking the culinary and nutritive stakes of climate change.

Surrounding the fridge, Jessica Yurkofsky's hand-drawn illustrations will be collective visions of participants to life, while David Buckley Borden's poster-based visualizations re-imagine the refrigerator as a vehicle of biodiversity and habitat loss, hope and apocalypse. As these elements shift and recombine, collective visions will begin to emerge - speculative projections of what our future food system could look like.


Fab Libs are fun, intuitive prompts for speculative imagining, taking the form of the humorous Mad Lib story template game as a model. Responding to a series of fill-in-the-blank prompts, participants will be invited to dream up future tools, landscapes, and platforms for friendlier food futures. Hydroponic bicycles? Rooftop aquaculture? Neighborhood wind farms? Fab Libs will make scheming up such playful possibilities easy and fun. We'll take the richest outputs and turn them into cartoon visions of thriving urban scenarios for the Anthropocene for display in the gallery, along with a newspaper-scale compendium of inspiring and thought-provoking schemes and dreams.

About the Artists

Matthew Battles is a maker and thinker whose work merges literary, scholarly, and artistic forms of inquiry. His most recent book, TREE, was published by Bloomsbury in 2017. At metaLAB, Matthew advances an agenda of creative research exploring the dark abundance of collections in libraries and museums; technology’s impact on our experience of art, culture, and the natural world; and the conditions of culture and experience in the context of deep time.

Keith Hartwig is an artist and designer with a socially engaged practice, working at the intersection of the environmental humanities and science communication. His work takes the form of participatory workshops, public presentations, installation and exhibition design. 

Related City Resources

Zero Waste Cambridge: In 2008, Cambridge set a goal of reducing residential trash disposal by 30% by 2020, and by 80% by 2050. A key strategy to the city’s waste reduction goals, curbside compost collection began in April 2018. To date, there has been an 8% reduction in the City's trash tonnage. Why is the city doing this?  Removing food scraps reduces trash in landfills. By diverting our food scraps, we are helping to protect the environment by: 1) reducing our impact on climate change (our food scraps become clean energy through anaerobic digestion), and 2) returning nutrients to the Earth in the form of fertilizer.

How to Compost booklet: