Artist-in-residence: mobile and mothership

by Rosemary Liss

As an artist my role at Nordic Food Lab was somewhat more fluid. Yet what began as a gentle anxiety—”what is my purpose? where do I belong?”—became the driver of my projects and interactions. I found a space between the experiential, the edible, and the data-driven. While my research took many directions, I also worked to create installation pieces for the space that manifested both the principles of the lab and my personal experience of it. 

I began to gather discarded materials: vegetable scraps, sauerkraut, kombucha mothers. Even within an organization that champions the latent possibilities of the unwanted we continue to accrue waste. But here lies more beauty—within this waste, other types of inedible yet aesthetic elements emerge. Texture, colour, form are still richly present. The building blocks of sculptural installations reached out to me.

I wanted to create work that spoke of these things: the interactions across disciplines, the hive mind working towards unknown goals, the nuances of the individual braided into a larger textile.

I dehydrated and saved it all. I created pieces like stained glass from ombré-hued kombucha mothers of rhubarb, cascara, elderflower. I laminated the dehydrated membranes then pieced them into a quilt. The fibres pushed tightly against the plastic-like embossed prints. I built a frame from scrap wood found behind a container city. Thinking about soft sculpture and the discourse between a range of materials I added felt corners and hung the frame with bright red thread. Gentle reminders that this space is not just a ‘lab’. Yes, we were once on a houseboat, but this textile piece speaks to the wunderkammer, the cabinet of curiosities that its inhabitants are creating. From meat curing in wax, to jars of insects and dehydrated frogs—there is nothing sterile about this place.

[‘mothership’ photos by Chris Tonnesen]

Inspired by conversations about phylogenetic diagrams, recursive cycles, and the constraints of language, I made a mobile. I used dehydrated food waste, the weighted ornaments ranging in size and colour. Tomato pulp in cadmium red, creamy sauerkraut, plum and sencha greens, a spinning galaxy of vegetable paper. Hung from red thread the mobile gave a nod to its mothership, the quilt that now hung parallel along the ceiling, joining the kitchen and desk spaces.

[mobile photos by Chris Tonnesen]

Building these sculptures brought up questions about the importance of aesthetics when it comes to the complete sensory experience. The non-edible aspects of a space, a dish, or any experience not only inflect the edible but also form it. Our connection to food goes beyond taste and aroma. The senses are heightened or diminished by the visual, olfactory, and tactile. With multi-sensory perception in mind, I created an event around kombucha mother projections, curated sounds, and a variety of kombucha cocktails, sorbets, and gelatins. This culminating party allowed me to show my colleagues and friends what I had been working on over the previous three months, and the relationships between my work on kombucha mothers and the installations for the lab space. It brought together a mix of people from across the city, each bringing something unique into that vibrant night in our courtyard, lit with projected visuals, filled with dulcet sounds and the chatter of friends and strangers, and warmed with a reminder to soak it in and enjoy the surprises of the edible.

portrait of the artist.