Shelter @ Olderbrother Store Installation Autumn Winter 21


‘Shelter’ is an installation that explores the materiality and transformative process of fermentation.


In times when extraction, resource depletion and climate change is a reality, we need to find ways to cohabitate, collaborate and make a sense of place with other organisms. Born from a question, can we think of a future where our environments are grown instead of extracted?  A metaphorical statement in the regenerative power of working in symbiosis.



The installation consists of a 7x13 ft geodesic half dome made out of SCOBY- bacterial cellulose panels and Kakishibu stained wood. This cultured structure wants to look into the future but at the same time acknowledge the different ways in which humans and microorganisms have collaborated for millennia. From food, beverages, additives, pharmaceuticals, to our own microbiomes, we depend on these relationships for our survival.




The Culture

SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast meaning a community of different microorganisms living together and is the same culture used for the production of Kombucha. This culture requires sugar, tea and an initiator for their metabolic processes. Some of the products of this fermentation are ethanol, acetic acid and a film on the surface. This film is made of cellulose and acts as a support or a shelter for the different microbes present.

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The Process

A total of 16 tanks of SCOBY cultures were placed in proper conditions for growth. The cultures produced films of bacterial cellulose that were harvested every 10 days approx. The films were harvested, dried and treated with oils before being stretched to triangular wood panels.


As we build this shelter, we think about the different microscopic and macroscopic processes involved, the different cultures put together, and we agree that we are all cultured.


Collaboration by SCOBY, bioartist Maru Garcia and Olderbrother.


More about Fermentation


Fermentation. Definition. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/fermentation

Bowen, Richard. "Microbial Fermentation". Hypertexts for biological sciences. Colorado State University.

Understanding Kombucha Tea Fermentation: A Review. Silvia Alejandra Villarreal-Soto, Sandra Beaufort, Jalloul Bouajila , Jean-Pierre Souchard, and Patricia Taillandier. Journal of Food Science  Vol. 83, Nr. 3, 2018 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1750-3841.14068

Kombucha: a novel model system for cooperation and conflict in a complex multi-species microbial ecosystem Alexander May, Shrinath Narayanan, Joe Alcock, Arvind Varsani, Carlo Maley and Athena Aktipis. Peer J https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6730531/pdf/peerj-07-7565.pdf