Residual Yeast

Bianca Hlywa

2nd September - 9th October 2022

Part of Deptford X Festival: 16th - 25th September

A wet life lays fermenting in pungent fluid. 200 kilos of indiscernible organic mass; a recumbent body-politic leavening billions of active microscopic beings. Symbiotic Culture Of Bacterial Yeast [SCOBY] grows first as a skin on an air-liquid interface, becoming tougher, thicker and fermenting into a beige and gelatinous microbial slab over time. This five month old colony of yeast and bacteria is etched with the metabolic cuneiform of anonymous symbiotic intimacies. Whilst SCOBY is used predominantly to create the popular fizzy probiotic health beverage Kombucha, this fleshy slab is sewn to a grid made up of webbing structures and attached to a drum at the highest point physically supported.

Biofilms contort like manipulated flesh, as life and non-life mix through orbital and linear shakers, incubation chambers, starter fluids and other alembics of this science of symbiotic fermentation. Penetrating through layered skins from epidermis to hypodermis, an interrogative intimacy is put into practise with a questionably repulsive and incomprehensible nonhuman other; an ‘other’ that sits between nature and the intention of it’s creator. Science aims to understand and analyse the results of controlled experimentation, but experiments can also be seen as a portrait of their creator’s deeper psyche. Residual Yeast enables a cultivation of imaginaries for more complex and sustainable relationships to non-human entities and the environment, yet heightens the sense of ludicrousness through its own position of stretching the bacteria to its limits.

The mechanism functions through an automatic, independent manipulation of the bacteria. Lifting and returning the SCOBY back into place, a strange loop emulating the bacterial processes’ own symbiosis. As the humming of an industrial motor subsides, the Thermaloop creates new assemblages with non-humans; it has a refracted, alienated sense of purpose. Via the factory or laboratory, built with in vitro scaffolding structures and encased by plastic, the aesthetics of control and sanitisation are moulded as pre-packaged edible pellets for consumption, digestible like the polite ideas of green aesthetics. The human domination of relations between life and non-life forms will always be unequal.

The stench belies a nutritional interface. As a sustainable sustenance for flocks of chickens and turkeys, this is a method enthusiastically used by DIY green-farm enthusiasts. Rarely has this source of feed been tested in science, as the wetness of the SCOBY counters the economic efficiency enabled by dry, seemingly inert feed as an efficient means to pass objectified and commodified birds as quickly as possible into their final product form. The heads of the turkey with their excessive, flamboyantly coloured, flabby skin jiggles alongside the ripping fleshy meat in a perversely corpulent and terminal dance. Here, the birds seem just as alien as the SCOBY itself, hypnotically devouring what looks like their own moist flesh. The pecking of the birds, paired with SCOBY’s wet vitality, is an uncomfortable material assemblage that sits in direct opposition to what can commonly be seen in the industrial production of life. SCOBY is perceived as an abject thing, yet it necessitates care, time and energy to grow and to thrive. It is living material that pulls from a habituated, mundane capitalist design. Experimenting-with and growing-with this living matter ferments an abject oriented philosophy that is hypothesised by a sour-smelling yet eloquent living body of liquid.

Residual Yeasts have congregated with other symbiotic cultures to make this exhibition possible through funding and support from the Canada Council of Arts, The Arts Council England, Robert Mcelod, Andrew Dixon, Gerard Ortín Castellví, James Green, Evie Chien and the Bird Gardens of Scotland.