aerobic topologies I-XVII

mixed media installation;
symbiotic cultures of yeast and bacteria, mirrors, cardboard, glass, aluminium,
microscopic camera, LED spotlight, water, vinegar, video 21’50’’, video 9’43’’, video 5’03’’, 2022

Helena McFadzean
and Carolin Melia Brendel

Aerobic topologies XVII in the exhibition “final works”, exhibition view I, 19-29/01/2023, exhibit eschenbachgasse, vienna

exhibition view II

Air as an agential infrastructure, as mode of transfer, as politicized space, as epistemological stance. Fermented surfaces as microbial cognition beyond linguistic, categorial thinking. Microtopologies of air between logistic fragments. Epistemologies of customs services, topographical descriptions, spatialization of knowledge.

In the face of abiotic actors in aerosols that recently made history, the agency and ontological epistemology of the microbial sphere captured our thoughts and motivated our artistic research practice. We are interested in topological epistemologies and the agency of air. For this endeavor, we collaborate with kombucha/SCOBY, a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria, which digests spatial conditions through its aerobic fermentation. Kombucha microbes procces the environment and ferment in collaboration with the people who care for it, sharing microbes, spatial conditions and habitats.

Through air, kombucha is nourished and provided with site-specific information. Over time, it forms an organic layer on its surface, a comment on the site informed by the local air, an aerobic topology.

The project started by building a multi-local network of site-specific material. Parts of the lively kombucha traveled via restrictive shipping logistics from Vienna to twenty different places and participants within Europe. The samples were cultivated and co-habitated with a group of hosts, who documented the fermentation at their homes, a socio-topological investigation and description by microbes themselves.

Traces of dispersed and contrasting knowledge practices at stake throughout the artistic research’s becoming – microbial, aerobic, logistical, infrastructural, geographical, corporate – form a lively apparatus, an intra-active lab, that continues its air conditioned space mediation while on display. A space for intra-acting modes of existence and resilience strategies of radical collaboration, co-creation and contamination unfolds.

kombucha and SCOBY samples I-XVII, exhibition view III

kombucha/SCOBY samples formed at the place indicated by the coordinates, exhibition view IV

kombucha/SCOBY samples, shipping boxes, mirrors, exhibition view V

details shipping boxes indicating issues with customs services when shipping living material, exhibition view VI

Positioned under a powerful spotlight, a microscopic camera captured the
motion of air particles, projecting them onto a nearby screen. The content of the
transportation box changed throughout the exhibitions (s. below), exhibition view VII

exhibition view IIX

video 5’03’’, video still 1-3

speculative and experimental setting to explore the microbial movement through the air.
Solution of water and vinegar as landing site for aerial transfer of fermenting microbes, exhibition view IX-X

growth of fermenting microbes throughout the exhibition, exhibition view I-II,
exhibition “resilience and survival strategies”, 11/02/2022-13/03/2022, exhibit studio, vienna.
Photo exhibition view II: Lucía Ugena.

ventilators activated by motion sensors directed the ambient air, carrying microbial input from the visitors (viruses in microdroplets, bacteria, organic microparticles), towards the fermenting kombucha, exhibition view XI

microscopic footage of the kombucha/SCOBY samples, exhibition view XII

video 9’43’’, video stills 1-7

documentary fragments of fermentation sites and geomedia interfaces as anthropocentric approach to and producer of socio-spatial knowledge, exhibition view XIII

Show at the Swiss Artistic Research Network’s festival/conference “Traversing Topologies: Imagining worlds and knowledge with/through artistic research”, exhibition view I, video stills 1-10, Walchwilerhus

Publication “aerobic topologies I-XVII” by Helena McFadzean and Carolin Melia Brendel presented at the festival/conference “Traversing Topologies: Imagining worlds and knowledge with/through artistic research”, Walchwilerhus


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