An Absurd Breakfast With Fragmento Universo

The Madrid-based studio provides us with an impulsive way to start the day

A bullet and a boiled egg. Image by Fragmento Universo

visual culture

For anyone looking to add a bit of variation to their morning routine, the best advice would be to believe everything you read about breakfast.

To eat or not to eat the first meal of the day is a debate that, like a perpetually boiling egg, has been bubbling gently along through generations. For years, common knowledge suggested that breakfast was the most important meal and by skipping it we risk weight gain, health issues or underperformance. Then came the disbelievers, the anti-breakfast club and the notion that it is, in fact, bad for you

Sawing baked beans in half. Image by Fragmento Universo Tessa Dóniga founded Fragmento Universo whilst studying. She carries out projects inspired by the day to day, aesthetics, friends, fashion, and the people she admires. Photo: Fragmento Universo.

Throw into the equation the question of what should or shouldn't be eaten, if you do decide to do so, and things get confusing. Before you know it, you'll be munching smashed cornflakes on toast and pouring almond milk over bowls of avocado.

For the photo series, Break/Fast, Tessa Dóniga, founder of design studio Fragmento Universo decided to look at breakfast a little differently. "I wanted to change the way we view breakfast and see it in a more literal sense."


"Making people question what they see is something that I value in the work of other artists who inspire me. I believe my work is of a dreamer, and that search of trying to make unique images is something that keeps me working in this field."

 

Obscure and absurd. Melting butter image by Fragmento Universo  in their Break/Fast seriesThe Madrid-based studio work on film and music art projects for their extensive list of clients. In most of their projects, they play with purely aesthetic concepts, combining design, art direction, and lo-fi visuals. Photo: Fragmento Universo. 

As described on their website, Fragmento Universo's work "goes beyond the absurd distinction between beauty and ugliness, true and false, good and evil". The Madrid-based studio has built a reputation for creating playful and inviting metaphoric visuals, often by transforming normal scenes into something unusual and obscure. 

True to form, Break/Fast is an abstract and absurd work conceived from the literal appropriation of the word's composition. The series is a collection of challenging and funny visuals transformed into surreal arrangements. We caught up with Tessa to find out more about the project and her work as a whole.

 

Ironed pancakes. From the series Break/Fast by Fragmento UniversoIf you wondered what Fragmento Universo's opinion on the breakfast debate is, Tess had this to say: "Breakfast is our first meal and I’m sure if you have a great one or a bad one, it will affect the rest of your day!" Photo: Fragmento Universo.

Can you tell us a bit more about your relationship with food?

From being a child I have always been surrounded by food. My mother is a great cook and my family has a restaurant business. Plus I love to eat!

Since I started using a camera most of my early projects were related to food. I think that eating has the superpower to hook and connect directly with everyone. It’s a tease and makes you crave for it because it goes straight to your instincts. The still life world permits me to work in my studio, within my own timing, experimenting with how it reacts through different technical effects.

  

Surreal and absurd bacon toast by Fragmento Universo Composition, pastel colors, slow motion: Fragmento Universo's work is entirely orchestrated to feed our gaze with a treasure of ideas. Obsessed with detail, the studio uses photography, art direction, commercials, institutional campaigns, and social media branded content to hypnotize the viewer. Photo: Fragmento Universo.

  "I think that eating has the superpower to hook and connect directly with everyone. It’s a tease and makes you crave for it because it goes straight to your instincts."

 

Why do you think eccentricities and the absurd work well in photography?

I think we are so used to seeing so many images that when one of them surprises us with an exaggerated visual communication it wakes us up by catching our attention. Experimental photography challenges limits and provokes the audience with out of context content. Imagery has the narrative force at first sight and does not lie. It expresses directly to everyone, regardless of their culture. It is not necessary to speak many languages for people to connect with my work. It is like primary art, and I love it.

Making people question what they see is also something that I value in the work of other artists who inspire me. I believe my work is of a dreamer, and that search of trying to make unique images is something that keeps me working in this field.

 

Smashing cereal. An image from Break/Fast by Fragmento Universo The Old English word for dinner, "disner", means to break a fast, and was the first meal eaten in the day until its meaning shifted in the mid-13th century. It was not until the 15th century that “breakfast” came into use in written English to describe a morning meal, which literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night. Photo: Fragmento Universo.

Elaborating on the statement from your website, "the studio's work goes beyond the absurd distinction between beauty and ugliness, true and false, good and evil”, what are you trying to achieve with your work in terms of how it is viewed?

The work of the studio refers to a game of visual contrapositions. To create ideas that are born from the things that I like or not, that can seem ugly or beautiful depending on the observer's point of view. I tend to transform those ideas and build something that grabs attention. The intention is to try to play around with a brief in a playful communicative way.

 

Chopping bread with an axe. Image by Fragmento Universo Fragmento Universo's commitment to creating sophisticated production work for their visual metaphors has earned them a place among major brands. Photo: Fragmento Universo. 

 The Break/Fast series is our favorite. Where did the idea for it come from?

The project was born thanks to a collaboration with Polpettas magazine, an independent journal about artists and their story. On this occasion, I proposed to play visually with the deconstruction of the word “Break/fast”, trying to make a literal interpretation of the two words. The fact that I’m bilingual makes me wonder more. When I try to translate some words into one language from another, I question myself. My challenge was to set in one image both terms in a visual composition that would be recognizable to the viewer.

I thought it was a great idea to start working on it conceptually. Ideas started popping into my mind, and as always, I began my creative process. Defining concrete actions, searching for props and food that could fit and that I could play with. Finding references to mood and color combinations.


"Everyday life objects, nature, and food are my main obsession, either for their symbolism, signifier, and meaning, culture or aesthetic form." 

 Who are the other artists that inspire you?

I’m a great fan of Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. They inspire me when trying to think and view from another perspective without being afraid. Also, I would like to retain that type of artwork in my visuals so I can create my personal work as much as possible. Everyday life objects, nature, and food are my main obsession, either for their symbolism, signifier, and meaning, culture or aesthetic form.

 Find more delectable and obscure images of food in our title Visual Feast.


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