By Super Eclectic
Ferment RadioSep 25, 2023
#38: Fermentation is witchcraft (with Paulina Gretkierewicz)
She asks the plants for permission before foraging them. She sings to her fermentation jars. She prepares funerals for her kombucha scobies. She gives names to her ferments. She observes the moon cycles. She’s a witch. But what does it mean to be a witch today?
I asked this to Paulina Gretkierewicz, a forager, a fermenter, and a witch. She transforms seasons and landscapes around Copenhagen, Denmark into edible and drinkable experiences. She calls this “Applied Poetry”, which is also the name of her business, focused largely on handpicked, fermented, and oxidized teas.
Let’s ferment our way into becoming a witch.
#37: Slimemoldesque (with Heather Barnett)
Have you ever heard of slime mold?
These organisms might not have a nervous system or even a brain, but they have impressive problem-solving abilities. Slime mold can navigate through mazes and find the most efficient routes to find food. Some researchers have already been inspired by them to design more efficient transportation networks, urban planning, and solving optimizational problems. However, they are shrouded in a haze of mystery. They are hard to like, observe, and classify.
In this episode, together with Heather Barnett, an artist and university professor at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London, working with natural phenomena, complex systems, and playful pedagogies, we look at slime mold beyond their instrumental features and focus on their intrinsical importance as a remarkable lifeform. Instead of thinking: What can we extract from these species? We want to ask ourselves: What can we actually learn from them?
Join us in this fascinating and meandering, or shall we say, “slimemoldesque” conversation.
#36: Can ferments change the food system? (with David Zilber)
A healthy food system encourages the production and consumption of foods that support a balanced gut microbiome. It reduces food waste and gives preference to natural preservation methods. It uplifts food, not only for its nutritional value but also as cultural heritage and an expression of diversity. It is also mindful of the energy spent in order to process food.
All these characteristics of a healthy food system sound very much like the definition of fermented foods. It may seem like a simple solution, but diagnosing and improving the complexity of the food system, which is both global and fragmented, is a huge challenge.
There are not that many people in the world who can say they have extensive hands-on experience working in different areas of that vast system. David Zilber is definitely one of them. From a butcher shop in Toronto to the Fermentation Lab of the acclaimed restaurant Noma, Copenhagen, and to the labs of Chr. Hansen, a giant bioscience company in Hørsholm, Denmark, David Zilber has garnered multiple and fascinating perspectives on food and the system around it. Ferment Radio had the pleasure to talk with David in his own lab, where we reflected more about this incredible journey and his ever-evolving views on the food system that we are all part of.
#35: Creating space for other voices to be heard (with Noora Sandgren)
Garden. It invites us to sit down and watch things grow. It makes us work with gazillions of other species to make them flourish. Silent observation or site-specific, mindful labor can be a form of wondering: seeing magic in what’s common and perceiving what’s repetitive with new eyes.
This is how Noora Sandgren, a visual artist and art educator from Finland, works in her family garden. She collaborates with climates, insects, and expired light-sensitive material to create cameraless photograms of shared chemistry of composting organic matter, microbes, human breaths, and sunlight.
In this episode, Noora takes us to her garden where she wonders while taking lensless images and patiently waits for long exposures for the magic to happen.
#34: Unloved unknown (with ARTIS-Micropia)
We associate these institutions with petrified displays, and long-gone worlds that are alien to our own experience: museums. Whether we like it or not, they play a crucial role in preserving heritage.
Can heritage be something alive and ever changing? It seems that yes. At least ARTIS-Micropia, a one-of-a-kind museum showing the invisible world of micro-organisms, is doing that. ARTIS-Micropia is a museum in Amsterdam in which visitors can learn more information about microbes, and see live microbes on display too.
The museum fills a gap between the general public’s knowledge on microroganisms, and the science behind microbiology. “Unknown is unloved” they say on their webpage, and they definitely want to change that.
On Ferment Radio’s new episode, we talk with ARTIS-Micropia’s lab technicians Loek van Buuren and Eline van Bloois about curating microbes, preserving what is alive, and dreaming about immersive microscopial experiences, which could allow us to float with microbes in their micro universe.
#33: Trust your gut and follow your microbes (with Riina Hannula)
Can we intentionally influence our nervous system through what we do? If so, could we also activate the main nerve of our parasympathetic nervous system known as vagus nerve? This is the central communication pathway between the gut and the brain, and between microbiota and our nervous system. Could we interact with our gut microbiota and our gut microbiota interact with us?
In this episode of Ferment Radio, together with Riina Hannula, we start with Microbial Medi(t)ation, an instructional audio that guides us through selected movements from yin- and hatha yoga to stimulate the vagus nerve. With this meditation, we wonder if it is possible to embody scientific facts and if our well-being involves the well-being of our microscopic companions as well.
Riina Hannula, an artist and doctoral student in sociology at The Centre for the Social Study of Microbes at the University of Helsinki, studies humans as holobionts from a gut-brain-axis point of view and looks into how microbes think, feel, and behave with humans.
#32: Sensing what most can’t sense (with Pia Lindman)
We communicate with the outside world based on the information we receive through our senses. But just like fingerprints, no two people have the same brain anatomy, and therefore, no two people can sense the world identically. We can’t experience how other bodies feel, but we can attempt to describe it.
Today, together with Pia Lindman, an artist and researcher working with performance art, healing-as-art, installation, microbes, architecture, painting, and sculpture, we dive into the uniqueness of bodily experiences; even those caused by microorganisms. Pia calls this, the subsensorial.
#31: We belong to microbes (with Terike Haapoja)
This episode revolves around speculative microbial perspectives in the work of Terike Haapoja. Terike is a visual artist based in New York, whose work investigates animality, multispecies politics, cohabitation, repairing connections, and the existential and political boundaries of our world. Her research and work put a special focus on issues that emerge from the anthropocentric worldview of Western traditions.
#30: The poetry of antimicrobial resistance (with Iona Walker)
Through language, we not only reflect our relationship with the world but also shape it. For example, what does the conviction that we need to “exterminate all superbugs” tell us about humans? Could it be that antimicrobial resistance, which causes antibiotics to become ineffective against microbial infections, is in part driven by a human desire to separate human from nature and eradicate what is ‘impure’, different, or misunderstood?
On the 30th episode of Ferment Radio, together with Iona Walker, a medical anthropologist living and working in Edinburgh, Scotland, we search for different perspectives on this alarming issue and find inspiration in books, art, films, and poetry.
We look for cracks, soft spots, and ambiguities to unlearn what we think we know for sure and exercise a new language that could help reshape our relationship with the world, including microbes. Join us in this exciting conversation!
#29: Why artists work with bacteria? (a conversation with Laura Beloff)
On Ferment Radio, we have often talked about how artists use technology and science in order to tackle the microbial world. Do you remember the episode “Play that fungi music!” with Tosca Terán? Or “Interspecies collaborations” with Mindaugas Gapševičius? Some people refer to this kind of practice as “bioart”: the happy place where experimentation and process are more important than concrete results.
Our guest today is Laura Beloff, an artist, and researcher working at the intersection of art, science, and technology. Laura is also an associate Professor, and Head of the Visual Cultures, Curating, and Contemporary Art Program (VICCA) at Aalto University, in Helsinki, Finland. On this episode of Ferment Radio, we will delve into the dynamic interdisciplinary niche that likes to collaborate with microbes; reflect on the ethics of working with living organisms; and discuss the incompatibility of a creative endeavor within a neoliberal reality. Oh, and we will also talk about ticks!
As Laura Beloff points out: artists are antennas for societal moods, and there is a reason why they engage with microbes. And what’s the reason?
Stick around and tune into the 29th episode of Ferment Radio to find out!
#28: Macro consequences of micro processes (a conversation with Colleen C. Myles)
The 28th episode of Ferment Radio explores how land use and management is related to the production and consumption of fermented beverages —a research area Colleen C. Myles calls “fermented landscapes.” That term functions as a metaphor for understanding landscape transformation and the co-evolution of humans, agriculture, and microbes.
Together with Colleen C. Myles, Associate Professor at Texas State University, rural geographer, and political ecologist, let's zoom out, look for the sweet spot where micro and macro meets, and think how fermentation is intertwined with placemaking.
#27: The war on bugs (a conversation with Jessica Maccaro)
We use them all the time. Metaphors allow us to make sense of things we cannot comprehend. What metaphors do we commonly use to understand microbes? Bacteria are bugs, and we certainly are at war with them. Such a stand contributes greatly to our antagonistic relationship with microbes. But, can we revalue our relationship with microbes through metaphors? Could metaphors help us reconsider habits and economies related to our co-existing with bacteria, particularly something as serious as anti-microbial resistance? In this episode of Ferment Radio, we look for answers to these questions with Jessica Maccaro, a PhD candidate at the McFrederick Lab, University of California, Riverside, working with insects, fungi, and science communication.
#26: Recipe for controversial yogurt (with Cecilia Westbrook)
In 2015, while in grad school, Cecilia Westbrook made yogurt out of her vaginal flora, as an experimental side-project. A journalist friend of hers wrote about it, and the article got published on Vice. It immediately went viral, spawning a number of copy-cat publications that re-edited the original text but never added more content, let alone created space for dialogue or reflection.
This situation caused problems with her academic institution, since at the moment she was undergoing PhD studies, and triggered a landslide of misogynistic remarks towards her, many of which can still be found online. For these reasons, she had to refuse to comment on the harmless, yet (for some people) controversial yogurt.
Now, 7 years after, Ferment Radio has the great pleasure to learn more about that particular yogurt, and the avalanche it caused, directly from Cecilia Westbrook.
#25: Can we make fermentation less white? (with Miin Chan)
Last year, an article titled "Lost in the Brine!” was published on the Eater. The author, Miin Chan, aka Dr Chan, says what most people don’t want to admit: while the fermented foods industry evangelizes products rooted in global, often East Asian, traditions, its most visible faces are predominantly white.
As a white host of a fermentation-related podcast myself, whose guests, so far, are predominantly white, I had felt the urge to comment on that issue already for a while. Reading this article assured me about the urgency of this topic, and that Miin is a perfect guest to share her views with us.
Miin Chan is a medical doctor, researcher, ferment activist, and food literacy advocate. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne researching the effects of fermented foods on chronic disease via the gut microbiota. Miin Chan’s research is scientific and evidence-based, and it aims to demystify some of the most overstated narratives about fermentation. She is also critical, from a scientific and diverse perspective, about how the food industry capitalizes on fermentation. In this episode of Ferment Radio, we will focus on this problem, and how the fermentation industry exists within a system that is inherently racist.
#24: Breaking the taboo around bacteria and vaginas (with Giulia Tomasello)
Vaginal flora consists largely of Lactobacillus. This particular type of bacteria can affect everything, from developing certain diseases to fighting infections, and from getting pregnant to having a miscarriage. If the vaginal microbiome is imbalanced, there’s a risk for developing vaginosis, a type of vaginal inflammation. Some sources say that 75% of people with a vagina will experience vaginosis at least once in their lifetime. Moreover, people from more disadvantaged groups are more likely to experience it. Why is then vaginal health still a taboo topic?
In this episode of Ferment Radio, we ask this and many other questions to Giulia Tomasello, a designer committed to innovating vaginal healthcare with biotechnology and interactive wearables.
#23: Afro futuristic conscious cooking (with Njathi Kabui)
Food is something quite peculiar. On the one hand, it is very intimate: we put it in our mouths, it nourishes our bodies, and we share it with the people we love. On the other hand, big corporations capitalize from it, turning it into a global political product.
Njathi Kabui (Chef Kabui), a Kenyan-born, US-based organic chef is committed to raising awareness around food, and therefore restoring broken relationships with the land, with one another, and with ourselves. He is also an anthropologist, urban farmer, food activist, and strategist. He calls his approach “Afro Futuristic Conscious Cuisine”, and it’s anchored to the belief that colonialism not only took people’s beliefs, land, and culture, but it also stripped them of their culinary practices. How can we ferment our way out of this?
#22: Microbes and other shamanic beings (with César E. Giraldo Herrera)
Missionaries and explorers who arrived in the Americas in the 17th century interpreted what they encountered through their own viewpoint and interests. In this way, local shamanism was mostly understood in reference to spirits and souls; concepts that were present at that time in medieval Europe. But what would happen if we attempted to comprehend shamanism differently?
The work of César Enrique Giraldo Herrera, a biologist, anthropologist and a PhD in Social Anthropology, questions our views on Amerindian shamanism and its colonial interpretation. He proposes that there is a much closer relationship between shamanic practices and microbiology than we could think. César wrote a book about this fascinating topic. It’s called “Microbes and Other Shamanic Beings”, and he’s our guest on the 22nd episode of Ferment Radio.
#21: Turning ocean problems into possibilities (with Mari Granström)
Did blue-green algae bloom ever make you hesitate to take a dip in the sea during a hot summer day?
It is common to hear that these algae produce toxins that can be harmful for humans and animals. But, do we know why they actually bloom? What kind of ecological impact do they imply?
In our conversation with Mari Granström, co-founder of Origin by Ocean, we talk about the mysteries of blue-green algae and the possibilities of turning a global problem into a sustainable solution.
#20: Play that fungi music! (with Tosca Terán)
In this episode, we celebrate one year of Ferment Radio by listening to mushrooms. We all know what their fruiting bodies look like and how some of them taste. But we might have no idea how they sound, especially when it comes to the part of the mushroom that is invisible to our eyes.
How can we listen to things we cannot see? This is one of the questions we ask Tosca Terán in this episode of Ferment Radio. Tosca is an interdisciplinary, ecofeminist, human holobiont whose work is located somewhere between art, ecology, and craft. As part of the duo Nanotopia, she takes biodata from non-human organisms as mushroom’s mycelium and translates it into music.
#19: Microbes, bodies, and politics (with Stefanie Fishel)
We need new words and concepts to explain the complexity of the world. Metaphors have the potential to be a productive tool to motivate social and political change. Could metaphors contribute to creating reality rather than just explain it? What about using the human body and its microbial life as a metaphor for interconnectivity and global relations?
In this episode of Ferment Radio, we talk about these issues with Stefanie Fishel. She’s a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, and the author of “The Microbial State: Global Thriving and the Body Politic”, a book about human bodies and their metaphorical relationship to global politics.
#18: Spirulina for all (with Anya Muangkote)
Food production is one of the major drivers of global environmental change. Spirulina, a kind of cyanobacteria, has a big chance to benefit the environment by requiring less land and water to produce the same amount of protein and energy as livestock. You might know it as a popular superfood supplement that comes in green, blueish pills, or powder. But, aside from that, what is actually spirulina?
In this episode, together with Anya Muangkote, a multidisciplinary designer and design researcher from Bangkok, we discuss her work on domestic spirulina cultivation. Anya´s open-source tools and knowledge propose a sustainable way of self-sufficiency that challenges the current modes of production and consumption.
#17: It’s alive!!! (with Adrien Rigobello)
Many fermented foods and beverages seem gross. What exactly is this feeling of disgust? Where does it come from? Is it the fear of something unfamiliar? Something that goes beyond our globally standardized ways of being, behaving, and feeling?
Join us in a conversation with Adrien Rigobello, a Ph.D. researcher working with Fungal Architectures at the Royal Danish Academy and founder of thr34d5, a medialab for social resilience. In this episode, we not only talk about what’s gross, but also about xenodesign, engaging with the other, designing with living systems, and using kombucha and mushrooms as raw materials.
#16: The unpredictables (with Sarah Lloyd)
There’s a group of microorganisms that have been on the planet for about 600 million years. They’re unicellular, but have many nuclei; they are brainless, but can find their way through mazes that have inspired urban planners. They’re small, very hard to categorize, and they feed on bacteria. Who are they?
Our guest on Ferment Radio’s 16th episode is Sarah Lloyd, a scientist who studies these fascinating organisms called slime molds. For the last 10 years, Sarah has done breakthrough research on slime molds, which she actually collects within two kilometers from her house, in the eucalypt forest, in northern Tasmania.
#15: Waiting for time to do its job (with Andrew Gryf Paterson)
The kitchen is a space that many people might not think is worth sharing. It’s a place known for messy preparations, and not exactly perfect results. In this episode, cultural producer, educator, and independent researcher Andrew Gryf Paterson “spills his guts” and talks about his hybrid practices, which include bioart experiments, food cultures, and his everyday life. They all come together in his own kitchen, at home in Helsinki. It’s Kitchen Lab is an arena for collaboration between humans, time, and bacteria.
#14: There are no simple solutions for complex problems (with Aviaja Hauptmann)
Fermented meat is seen by many as something closer to a dead body than to a pickle. This kind of fermentation practices have often been subjectively represented as something dangerous, cruel, or unecological. But, is it really so? Tune into the 14th episode of Ferment Radio and join us in a conversation with Aviaja Hauptmann, a microbiologist and Greenlandic Inuit who researches microbiomes of fermented foods native to Greenland. Together, we discuss the dietary and social prejudices around traditional Inuit meat consumption and its preservation.
#13: How much of our survival depends on consumption? (with Zayaan Khan)
Microbes might be small, but they play a big role in the work of Zayaan Khan, an ecological artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Tune into Ferment Radio and find out more about Zayaan’s life story through her ever changing relationship with food: from a childhood obsession with sweets to fermenting wild rosemary to produce hair conditioner, and more. As usual, the conversation is not just about food or microbes, but about life, consumption, and the systems behind them.
#12: Sourdough is a snapshot of a moment (with Karl de Smedt)
This is a perfect episode to listen to when you’re baking your own bread. You’ll find answers to questions you always wanted to ask about your sourdough starter, but there was no one to ask. Did my sourdough go bad? How often should I feed it? Here, we also talk about how old sourdough starters are; who actually owns them, and why sourdough cultures are like cities. Tune in and join our conversation with Karl de Smedt, the sourdough librarian from Puratos Sourdough Library in Belgium.
#11: Gentle transformations (with Eva Bakkeslett)
Ferment Radio bid farewell to 2020 with an exciting episode about transformations inspired by micro worlds. Join us in a conversation with Eva Bakkeslett, an artist exploring social change through gentle actions and subtle mind-shifts. In this episode, Eva tells us about the time and conditions needed to create change, and shares captivating stories about culture starters and the mysterious beauty of northern Norway in December. Tune into Ferment Radio!
#10: Pure, or not pure (with Stephanie Maroney)
Different ideas about food and eating can actually change our understanding of society, and have a strong influence on how we live our lives.
Fermentation questions purity: it needs bacteria to grow, and in our society, bacteria are seen as something unclean. Can fermentation, which goes against separation, control, and boundary-making, help create a healthier society?
Our guest Stephanie Maroney –a scholar of feminist food studies– has a great deal to say about how science uses colonial practices in order to find solutions to western problems. Particularly with the extraction of “ancestral microbes” from Hadza people, an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania.
#9: Thinking of difference, differently (with Deboleena Roy)
Neuroscience, molecular biology, feminist science and technology studies, feminist theory, postcolonial studies, and reproductive justice movements. This all comes together in the work of feminist scientist Deboleena Roy. In the 9th episode of Ferment Radio, we will ponder about change inspired by microscopic organisms. From that perspective, evolution seems to be more of a collaboration than competition; taxonomic classifications of organisms are less hierarchical and more rhizomatic; and humans are not the center of the world, as it is commonly thought. You can learn more about this in Deboleena’s book "Molecular Feminisms: Biology, Becomings, and Life in the Lab".
#8: Fermenting Feminism (with Lauren Fournier)
What happens when we put together fermenting and feminism?
In this conversation with Lauren Fournier –a writer, curator, video artist, and filmmaker based in Toronto– we reflect on the different meanings of these powerful words.
Our conversation is built around Lauren’s article “Fermenting Feminism as Methodology and Metaphor”.
Fermentation is preservation, transformation, and collaboration. That is, Fermentation is political.
This episode starts a new series on Ferment Radio that will focus entirely on feminist issues and fermentation. It’s our sisterhood act of solidarity with the ongoing protests in Poland against a law that prohibits abortion.
#7: Fermenting our way out of trouble (with Maya Hey)
Fermentation keeps things from going bad! Let’s face it, microbes and humans will always be connected. But, can we actually apply this fermentation paradigm to society? In the 7th episode of Ferment Radio, we continue our conversation with Maya Hey. Together, we reflect on the impossibility of controlling something that is inseparable from us, fermentation as a feminist practice, and the cultural appropriation of food recipes.
Tune into fermentradio.com for another exciting episode!
#6: I wish I had superpowers to see microbes (with Maya Hey)
The 6th episode of Ferment Radio is the first part of a conversation with Maya Hey, a scholar and PhD candidate at Concordia University researching fermentation and feminist theory. From chemistry labs to culinary kitchens, organic farms, and food markets, her work is a constant search to answer questions around embodied knowledge, collective ethics, and interspecies thriving.
In our conversation, we discuss the bigger picture of fermentation; fermentation as a selfless practice, and the impossibility of understanding the microbial part of ourselves.
#5: Interspecies collaborations (with Mindaugas Gapševičius)
On Ferment Radio’s 5th episode, we will engage in a conversation about “collaborations with bacteria”. Together with Mindaugas Gapševičius –an artist, facilitator, and curator based in Berlin and Vilnius– we will reflect on creating the right environment for bacteria to thrive. Whether it’s a pocket-size toolkit or community-based biolaboratory, Miga is definitely a specialist in establishing collaborative exchanges with bacteria.
#4: Healing the inanimate with bacteria (with Christina Stadlbauer)
Christina Stadlbauer is an artist working in the interstices between art and science. Her work pivots around life; animals, plants, and bacteria. On the 4th episode of Ferment Radio, we engage in a conversation around one of her long-term projects entitled Kin Tsugi Transformations. Kin Tsugi is a traditional Japanese technique of repairing broken ceramics with Urushi lacquer and gold or silver. This method is rooted in a worldview in which everything is impermanent. Based on this concept, Christina proposes to repair objects through healing, rather than gluing, and with living microorganisms instead of aggressive substances.
#3: Microbial time and space travels (with Mateusz Kędzior)
On Ferment Radio’s 3d episode, we learn about microorganisms as our ancestors, time vehicles, and superheroes! Find out about this and much more in a conversation with Mateusz Kędzior, a Postdoctoral Fellow with Betül Kaçar’s research group at the University of Arizona, United States. Somewhere between sci-fi and astrobiology’s hi-tech, this team tries tries to find an answer to seemingly basic questions, like: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? The answers seem to be encapsulated in microorganisms.
#2: Microbes as social actors (with Salla Sariola)
Salla Sariola is a social scientist at the University of Helsinki, Finland. In this episode, we will talk about her research on microbes as social actors, and the implications of antimicrobial resistance, which happens, for example, when microorganisms are immune to antibiotics. Salla is also passionate about fermenting vegetables and dairy, as well as permaculture composting.
#1: Fermentation On Wheels (with Tara Whitsitt)
Tara Whitsitt is a nomadic artist and educator whose passion for growing food and teaching fermentation inspired the grassroots educational project “Fermentation on Wheels”. Tara has been driving across the USA for over 7 years, sharing starter cultures, the history and science of fermentation, as well as countless stories that she has gathered on the road. Together with millions of microbes, she is now rooted in the Kittatinny Valley, New Jersey.