The Yeh Art Gallery, St. John’s University is pleased to present The Mother of All, a group exhibition about fermentation. Imagine a primordial broth: about four billion years ago, molecules, swimming in a pool of chemical reactions, chained together and sparked the building blocks of what would become single-celled bacteria, the mother of all life. Today, foods like kombucha, kimchi, and kefir exist because of microbes, and, more specifically, symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast, more commonly known as SCOBYs. A SCOBY mothers a life-giving process of fermentation, a chorus of bubbles and burps. Using fermentation as a point of departure, The Mother of All, presents the work of three artists – Devin Harclerode, Mo Kong, and Yixuan Wu – whose sculptures and installations literally or metaphorically use fermentation to expand our understanding of life-giving matter.
To create her site-specific installation, Harclerode uses dried SCOBY leather, died with cochineal, to weave rope that drapes in the gallery like viscera. For Harclerode, she correlates the act of menstruation as a type of fermentation, “extract[ing] the biological labor of uterine cramps,” which leads to new life. Wu’s drawings and sculpture use fermentation metaphorically: motifs of heat, food, and chemical processes create the possibility of transformation and loss. Kong’s sculptures use techniques and materials from food fermentation and preservation – from jars to heat lamps and shrink wrap – to engage with ideas related to survival.
The Mother of All is curated by Owen Duffy, Director, Yeh Art Gallery.