In the Chinese horoscope, 2007 was the Year of the Pig, a sign associated with fertility. Per chance, in the same year, Christien Meindertsma began a study project on a commercially raised Dutch pig. The resulting book, Pig 05049 (the animal's identification number) is a detailed overview of her three-year long study. Meindertsma, a young graduate of the Eindhoven Design Academy, followed what happened to Pig 05049 from the moment it was slaughtered to the final industrial products made from its parts. The 103.7 kilos of the animal's total weight were made up of 3 kilos of skin, 15.2 kilos of bones, 54 of meat, 14.1 of internal organs, 5.5 kilos of blood, 5.4 kilos of fat and 6.5 kilos of miscellaneous parts. Every single gram was processed and turned into products - some obvious, like ham, sausage and luncheon meats, and some difficult to imagine. The gelatine extracted from its skin ended up in liquorice, chewing gum, candy, nougat, cake icing, even cheesecake and tiramisu.
PIG 05049 from Christien Meindertsma on Vimeo.
The fat was used in anti-wrinkle creams, shampoo and conditioner. Tile adhesive was made from the bones. The pig's heart valve was used in surgery to replace a damaged human one. By-products turned up in lollypops, marshmallows, beer and red wine. Also in photographic paper and film, x-ray sheets, industrial paint, matches, wallpaper, soap powder, anti-freeze for cars, wax crayons, candles, medicines, cigarette filters and bio-diesel.
If in ancient peasant tradition no part of a pig was left unused, now, on an industrial scale, this concept is exceedingly complex. The book shows an overwhelming number and variety of non-foods that contain pig products. One of the more curious examples is a certain kind of bullet made in USA where gelatine derived from the bones is used to favour the conduction of gunpowder inside the projectile. But let us not jump to conclusions: the research here pertains to Pig 05049 only, meaning that not all shampoos contain swine derivatives.
The book's 185 photos show the final 185 products on 1:1 scale. Each one states the number of grams of the pig that was used to make it. There is just a small amount of written text: an introduction by Lucas Verweij, the head of the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture and Urban Design, a short explanation of the author's intents, and then the captions to the photographs. Published in a pocket-size format almost like a digest, the book's cover is brown cardboard (a limited edition is bound in pigskin) with a yellow plastic disk piercing the spine. This numbered tag is identical to the one that was affixed to the ear of Pig 05049. The very elegant volume received the 2009 Index Award in the Playful category, although there is nothing frivolous about it. The approach is encyclopaedic, to not say scientific, and follows a rigorous classification and subdivision order of the products according to their provenance. The intent behind the book is even nobler. Pig 05049 is visually and conceptually not only a dissection of the pig examined, but of the complexity of reality itself. Knowledge and understanding of the origin of things is the first step toward seeing reality with different eyes and solving its problems. Much of what we see around us has unsuspected beginnings - including the most ordinary objects that we use on a daily basis. Surprising indeed.