Small electronic screens decorated the University of New Mexico's College of Fine Arts Downtown Studio as part of Zac Travis' thesis exhibition, “Recipe for Disaster." Last Friday Travis showcased his installation of videos and photographs. 

“Recipe for Disaster” featured five how-to-cook videos. The room was dark, except for the light from the exhibit pieces, with the only sound in the room projected from the speakers in sync with the screens. 

At a first glance, the exhibit seemed to host standard cooking videos. The videos included clean countertops that featured a point-of-view perspective of two hands. After patrons took a closer look, the intricacies of Travis’s exhibit came to view — not all of the ingredients were appropriate to consume. 



According to Travis, the recipes within the videos were created by using a recurrent neural network and a data-set of over 800 internet-sourced food recipes. From there, a computer created its own version of a recipe.

These included Travis’ five exhibited pieces: Popcorn Ham Frittata Cream, Flaming Tempeh Coffee Cobbler, Bora Bacon Zucchini William Roll-up, Cooked Pines and Dijon /Package and Tropical Quinoa Garden Cheese Rub. 

“In discussing how machine learning or predictive models have become more deeply integrated into the systems we use on a day-to-day basis, this project mimics information and media shared through and created by those systems,” Travis said. 

Large pictures, back lit with raw bacon served in Pyrex containers and colorful bowls filled with saltines, illuminated the back of the exhibit. Next to these fixtures was a room that featured a blue screen projected on to the wall. Looking closely, patrons could read the algorithms behind the recipes, displayed in white coding themed font.

“My favorite part about Zac’s show is that I feel like it’s provoking me because I feel like I’m the typical girl that watches these Tasty how-to videos," said Amy Cat Hulshoff, UNM CFA Downtown Studio Director, said. "So, I feel like I’m being purposefully provoked by his work because he, in a very sharp manner, catches a vernacular for what those videos look like."

According to Travis, these themes are important because of the lack of attention that’s given to the use of internet applications and other technologies. The show calls forth attention to the viewer in order to question the intended use and creation of technologies to fully be aware of the control the systems have. 

Travis has a bachelors degree in photography from the University of North Texas and has been creating art for over ten years. He said that much of his inspiration stems from internet culture, including social media use,and how information received online is generated through algorithmic structures and systems. 

“Much has gone into producing my thesis exhibition. A lot of time, confusion, realization, research and messes,” Travis said. “The main individuals who have helped me along the way are all of my fellow graduate colleagues within the department of art, as well as Claudia Valdes, Patrick Manning, Mary Statzer and Meg Gould.” 

“Recipe for Disaster” will be showcased until April 27, the CFA Downtown studio is open Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Luisa Pennington is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @_lpennington_.