Emilie Baltz believes in Unicorns. She hunts for what does not (yet) exist and is dedicated to creating new possibilities in the world.
Best known for her delightful innovation work in food & technology, Emilie uses food as a medium (and metaphor) for designing experience. With 20 years of work in design, hospitality, performance, technology and new media, her fluency across diverse creative industries successfully embraces both analogue and digital experience. Her expertise lies in using the 5 senses to tell stories that deepen engagement through embodiment.
As an award-winning artist, designer, author and public speaker her appearances include TEDx, DLD, PSFK Conference, Ignite Conference, Creative Mornings, TODAY Show, NBC, Wall Street Journal, D-CRIT and more.
Emilie is based in New York City and works out of the NEW LAB for emerging technologies. She is a founding members of NEW INC, the first museum-led incubator hosted at the New Museum, and is also part of the founding faculty of the School of Visual Arts Products of Design MFA program, as well as the founder of the first Food Design Studio at Pratt Institute.
Baltz is the author of the award-winning “L.O.V.E FOODBOOK“, recipient of Best First Cookbook in the World at the Prix Gourmand held annually in the Louvre, Paris; as well as the nationally featured cookbook, “Junk Foodie: 51 Delicious Recipes for the Lowbrow Gourmand“. She is a Sundance Story Lab New Frontiers Fellow and co-recipient of the 2018 IDFA DocLab Best Immersive Non-Fiction Award for EAT TECH KITCHEN, a playful performance that critiques human behavior through the mash-up of food, technology and absurdity.
What is an Alternative Thinker for you?
The word “alternative” implicates “possibility”. In this light, alternative thinking requires an openness to choice, an ability to create (or recognize) unexpected opportunities, and a willingness to go beyond the status quo. With that in mind, Alternative Thinkers must also question the notion of “thinking” itself – how we define what is “rational”, “intelligent”, “efficient” or “a solution” – and instead embody a new modality of producing ideas.
What are you bringing forward in your work?
My practice is motivated by igniting new ways to delight in the experience of being alive.
Raised between France and America, my shifting cultural identity played a central role in the definition of my personal identity. Within this experience, the greatest difference I found was in how people eat: whether gathered around a table or a countertop; if silverware was permanent or discarded; if food was prepared or packaged. The proximity of food to daily life offered an entry into the quotidian, revealing patterns of individual behaviors that permeated social relationships and, ultimately, cultural identity. These semiotics, the signs that give insight into how meaning is both enabled and understood, are the heart of my professional and personal pursuits.
Claude Levi-Strauss made it clear that for human beings there is no such thing as a natural food. What we eat, as well as the act of eating itself, are caught in a web of meaning making, of ritual and myth that help us understand who and what we are. By remixing the everyday act of eating and drinking with new technologies, choreographies and scenographies, I aim to create embodied experiences that break expected patterns of daily behavior and promote curiosity as a way of Being; one lick, suck, sniff and bite at a time.
Why did you highlight this/these specific project(s) below?
These projects highlight my interest in the serious business of delight, playful futures and embodied experience:
Delight is an experience beyond “fun” and “happy”; rather, it is a rare pleasure created by experiencing something familiar, in a new way. This combination of “the novel” and “the known” facilitates ease in new experiences and allows for more curiosity, wonder and presence in people (all behaviors I want to see more of in the world).
This work also illustrates my interest in exploring the counterpoint of new technologies and speculative futures by opening possibilities within play, joy and human connection.
Maria Montessori once stated that “the hand is the instrument of the mind.” These examples put forward my own commitment to designing for the human experience by using all 5 senses intentionally.
What would you like to see change in the current economy?
I’d like to see more funding for development and research across all industries, as well as greater value assigned to process-as-commodity, rather than our present emphasis on product-based economies.
Tell us what your vision of the new world – post COVID-19 – is like?
Industrially, I believe we’ll see an integration of mixed reality across all sectors–bringing technology, personalized experiences, physical space and digital platforms together as a means of de-risking the future of culture and commerce through frictionless access to multiple points of content and purchase.
On a personal scale, I feel a return to the domestic will require us to invest in acts of emotional care – for ourselves and for others – redefining what we think of as health and wellness through the lens of relationships and rituals.
What are the questions you have been thinking of for years and never had the time to answer?
Practically, I’d love to dedicate more time to exploring the relationship between eating, neurology, psychology and consumer packaged goods – focusing on how these areas of industry and research might work together to promote greater access to human well-being.
Fantastically, I want to figure out how to experience “dancing in a bowl”. 😉
Who would you like to collaborate with in terms of brands / institutions / property developers / other Alternative Thinkers?
My work naturally embraces the sectors of art, hospitality, technology, performance and education. I am also drawn to applying my work in the medical, beauty, health and rehabilitation sectors as an unconventional means of creating relief, care and hope therein.
Lickestra is a musical licking performance at the intersection of food design and smart objects developed in collaboration with smart object designer Carla Diana and composer Arone Dyer of Buke&Gase.
Playing with the experience from tongue to taste, the performance presents a series of conductive ice creams that trigger various baselines and tones when licked.
Designed as an altar to the senses, this multi-player, olfactory organ combines smell with sound, touch and light in a single interactive experience to explore how we experience our emotions.
Cotton Candy Universe
Cotton Candy Universe is a cotton candy spinning performance at the intersection of food, design, performance and technology. It remixes the interface of making cotton candy by transforming it into a multi-sensory orchestration of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. By spinning a cotton candy cone over wisps of candy floss, guests trigger sounds and visuals that create an immersive environment inside a 70 ft. planetarium dome, revealing the interplay between human and digital technology.
Created in collaboration with Phillip Sierzega and Charlie Whitney.
Cotton Candy Universe
Circuit of the Senses
Circuit of the Senses
Inspired by Kafka’s definition of theater as “melting the ice within, of awakening dormant cells, of making us more fully alive, more fully human, at once more individual and more connected to each other,” Circuit of the Senses is a 5-course interactive dinner that encourages participants to touch, taste, smell, see and listen together as a community.
Circuit of the Senses was developed collaboratively with local artists, chefs and mixologists: Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, Luke Edson, Dereck Higgins, Paul Kulik, Mark Powers, Tbd Dance Collective, Laura Clark and Jason Webb. Produced by Alex Priest and Curated by Amanda McDonald Crowley.