Where does our food come from? Where does it go? What role do the Netherlands and shipping play in the global food system?

Kadir van Lohuizen – The National Maritime Museum

The project

How can such a small country sustain this level of production?
The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural goods in the world, right after the United States, producing everything from potatoes to cauliflowers, from seeds to tomatoes, from dairy to meat. This inspired photographer and documentary maker Kadir van Lohuizen to investigate the role of the Netherlands in the global food system and its effects. As a ‘fly on the wall’, he explores the world behind our food production and follows the entire industry, from calf slaughterhouses to vegetable seed producers, from mega-ships carrying soybean to the Amsterdam port to onions from the polder for the Middle East.

What started as a visual investigation of the Netherlands, soon turned into a massive project that brought Kadir van Lohuizen to the United States of America, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kenia, Tanzania, and even China. The result of his travels landed in the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam as an exhibition centered around the question of where our food comes from. What are the effects of these production and consumption chains on the planet?

The process

An exhibition about the global food system in the National Maritime Museum
K&H was involved in the conceptualization of the exhibition from the first start. Our project pitch mainly focused on the narrative and structure of the exhibition. Since the global food chain is so big and all-encompassing, we thought it necessary to add data to contextualize the photography and underline the urgency of the topic. Next to that, we shared the wish with the museum to make this exhibition as sustainable as possible; both in the materials and in the production itself.

Big exhibition with a small footprint
Producing exhibitions in the most sustainable way is an increasingly important focus point in our practice. Being inspired by the supermarket’s ‘architecture of food’ and the endless rows of shelves in distribution centers, our designers Annika and Mayra used an existing shelve system as the basis for our spatial design. This steel structure can be reused in the food industry after the exhibition ends. Joining forces with Fiction Factory as our building partner has also boosted our knowledge about more sustainable options for exhibition materials.

Providing context through data
Working on this project for us also meant diving deep into the content. While Jeroen worked on the image edit together with Kadir, Maaike thought of ways to contextualize the photography with key facts and figures. Together with Barbara Vos from the Embassy of Food and social designer Fides Lapidaire, we developed a concept for the ‘tactile’ data and world map. By adding these different data layers, the elusiveness of the global food system is underlined while also helping visitors understand the subject better.

The design and result

Just like the food system itself, everything in this exhibition is big. Large prints appear on the wall and on freestanding shelving units. They are combined with an even bigger digital projection per country, resulting in a beautiful interplay of photography and moving images. Together, these large surfaces of image form the visual landscape of the exhibition.

The strong and outspoken graphic language is inspired by consumerism and derived from supermarket- and food marketing, which is screaming for attention always and everywhere. The chosen neon colors further underscore the impact and urgency of the topic, resulting in an energetic exhibition design with a positive impact that inspires to reflect ánd act.

Food for Thought – Kadir van Lohuizen
Temporary exhibition

Client: The National Maritime Museum, Amsterdam
Year: 2023-2024

Concept and design: Kummer & Herrman, Annika Felder, Mayra Slagboom, Jeroen Kummer

Projectmanagement Kummer & Herrman: Maaike de Kleijn

Concept, photography and video:
Kadir van Lohuizen & NOOR Images

Video edit: Michiel Hazebroek

Texts and data research: Suzanne Hendriks & Barbara Vos

Tactile data: Embassy of Food & Fides Lapidaire

Exhibition construction: Fiction Factory

Exhibition photography: Twycer & Christian van der Kooy

Do you want to know more about the project?

Visit the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. For more information, click here.

Click here to read more about Kadir van Lohuizen’s work.

Watch the documentary ‘De voedsel BV’ (VPRO) about Kadir’s experience in the Dutch food industry here.

Do you want to read about previous projects we worked on with Kadir van Lohuizen?

Click here to read more about ‘After us the Deluge’ (2021), a project about the impact of rising sea levels.

Click here to read more about ‘Wasteland’ (2018), about the main waste streams in five metropolises.