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Fomenting Ferment: Feminism, Food and The Ingenuity of Microbes

S.E. Nash, Kansas City-based visual artist and fermentation practitioner, joined the UC Davis HATCH Feminist Arts and Science Shop for a Lab Session on Friday May 11 to discuss their work with microbes and begin a collaborative art project on campus. On Saturday, at the Davis Public Library, Nash and UC Davis graduate student Stephanie Maroney  co-facilitated a fermented foods workshop teaching hands-on fermenting practices, titled Building Community Ferment. Nash’s visit to UC Davis was also supported by the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute and the Graduate Student Association.

They/Them/Their, Nash’s first solo show on the topic of fermentation, took place in 2016 at Black Ball Projects in Brooklyn, New York. Nash creates sculptural installations that surround vessels of fermented foods. They/Them/Their culminated in the consumption of those fermented foods, such as sourdough bread, kombucha, and kimchi made from living bacteria.  

In 2017, Nash received a Rocket Grant Research and Development award for Garden Variety Soda Fountain, an upcoming project involving community gardens and a mobile fermented soda fountain sculpture. Nash is a Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Resident and a Visiting Assistant Professor in Painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Nash, trained in painting with an MFA from Yale, became interested in food fermentation after reading Sandor Katz’s bestselling 2013 book The Art of Fermentation. Nash later conducted a fermentation residency with Katz at their intentional living community in Tennessee in 2014, along with UC Davis Cultural Studies PhD candidate Stephanie Maroney.Nash and Maroney have since co-authored a piece in the collection Fermenting Feminism, and presented together at the inaugural “Food, Fermentation, and Feminism” conference in 2017.
At Friday’s HATCH lab, Nash presented some of their previous and ongoing work with microbial collaboration. How can we recognize microbes as active collaborators? How can we learn to be more attentive to what they may be capable of? At the workshop participants engaged in a collaborative drawing project on bacterial morphology—individually drawing wiggling bacterial shapes of different sizes and colors. They worked on quadrants of a grid-mural that started individually but came together through collaborative decision making.

At Saturday’s community workshop, participants learned the basics of how to make vegetable ferments using organic produce provided by the UC Davis Student Farm. Then they worked in teams while making collective decisions about the specific ingredients, shapes, and flavors of their group ferments. Each participant took home a jar of the collectively-made mix to continue fermenting at home. The workshop used fermentation as a creative experiment for building a sense of community among participants.

This page was last updated: July 26, 2018



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