Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Michel Blazy’s microbial art

December 18, 2008

Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
A pond of fermenting tea with fungal lily pads

The lacto-fermentation of cabbage wasn’t the only kind of microbial art and design going down in St. Etienne at last month’s biennial. Michel Blazy created a most beautiful live installation of Givernyesque pools of living kombucha colonies. For those not yet in the know, kombucha is a fermented tea, that folks east of Caucasus can’t get enough of. It’s made with a fungus that imparts such special health-giving properties that kombucha enthusiasts call it the ‘elixir of life’. Kombucha is a slightly soured, bubbly, probiotic drink.

Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Blazy’s reflective pools conjure microbial Monet
Claude Monet's 'Nympheas' at the Museum Marmottan, Paris
As a point of reference, Claude Monet’s ‘Nympheas’ at the Museum Marmottan in Paris, image obviously used without permission

Michel Blazy is a French artist whose sculptures and installations are process-based interactions between food materials and the direct environment. In the Palais de Tokyo in 2007 Blazy produced an aesthetically charged installation using sprouted lentils, yoghurt wallpaper and enormous pasta sculptures. Blazy’s work is sensually humorous but demonstrates a masterful materials synergy - productively harnessing the natural properties of foods and organisms. Think Roman Signer and Olafur Eliasson, but then with foods.

Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Growing kombucha fungi on a pond of green tea

For the ‘off-biennial’ venue of the Entrep˘ts Bellevue in St. Etienne, Blazy and his team made giant pools of tea which they fermented with a rainbow array of gelatinous lily pads, rubbery, macroscopic fungal colonies that lent the ponds their healthful properties and a bit of bubble. Thinking the 1% alcoholic content might not be sufficiently festive for a vernissage, Blazy spiked his kombucha tea with celebratory shots of vodka and the atmosphere at the Entrep˘ts Bellevue was magic.

Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Pondering the depths, ‘Is it a pond or a pad?’

Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Blazy’s multicoloured spent tea bags
Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
A greenhouse incubating kombucha offspring
Michel Blazy's Jus de Nympheas at the Entrep├┤ts Bellevue - Greenhouse, Saint-├?tienne, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Master of mothers, Blazy tends to his colonies

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Permaculture in the Winter Kitchen Garden

December 11, 2008

Matted leggy bergamot, turning into mulch in the permaculture garden, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
‘Felting’ the leggy bergamot mint now lining the canals into a fragrant mat of living mulch

A missed flight back up to the Polar Circle from St. Etienne presented me the opportunity of a few days down south. I took the time to enjoy some rejuvenating familialarity and to tidy up the garden for winter. It never ceases to amaze me how efficient permaculture gardening is in the face of repeated absence and outright neglect. In just two afternoons I had more or less prepared the garden for the frosty days of winter, tucking the abundant edibles under living green manure plants and blanketing their beds with the now-rotted mulch harvested from the paths.

Red cabbages growing in between mustard and rocket, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Image colours and lighting UNretouched

In the lower garden my task consisted only of harvesting the rocket-filled the canals and cutting a cabbage or two for choucroute from the beds. The mustard green manures had grown tall and seem to be protecting the low-lying rocket, coriander and curly-leaf parsley from the nightly frost.

Dense mizuna lettuces, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Copious mizuna lettuce, sorrel and borage amongst phaecelie green manure

In the coldest corner of my upper garden, sorrel, mizuna lettuce and borage (and an invisible cassis) are burgeoning amongst the phaecelie green manure. The adjacent bed (not pictured) grows the most exquisite lacy purple salad mustard, protected from the cold by horseradish and rhubarb. Can you believe that I actually harvested rhubarb in the chilliness of November!

Permaculture mustard, cabbage and rocket in the winter garden, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Permaculture perfect for in absentia gardening

Although I left the garden on its lonesome since mid-August, a timely planting of crop and green manures, strategic mulching and permaculture frost protection meant that the garden was full of food at the icy end of November. If the hardy green manures continue to protect against the frost, we’ll be eating fresh leafy greens, crucifers and brassica at midwinter and into the Hungry Gap.

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Utopia is near

December 9, 2008

Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking Food Flow at St. Etienne's Internationale Bi├źnale du Design / CITY ECO LAB / Debra Solomon, culiblog.org

Back in the saddle after a fun and hugely productive work period at the Saint-╔tienne Internationale BiŰnale du Design where I was invited to show the Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking project in the City Eco Lab. John Thackara brought together a burgeoning toolshed of projects that demonstrate how communities and regions are using design to create sustainable local systems for food, energy, water, mobility, education and responsible economics. My work focussed on food systems and optimizing the use of community food flows.
Swiss designer Clara Ouch├Ęne photographs the Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking output of just one day reworking the City Eco Lab's food flow. Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
One day’s worth of food flow recipe output

In the coming posts I’ll write about some of the other projects that were inspiring to me, expound on why I exhibited pots of kimchi, choucroute and garlic skin oil, and talk about the cookbook I made to document the biennial’s food flow together with the Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking chef du cuisine, Paul Freestone.

Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking Food Flow  chef du cuisine Paul Freestone shares some sugar-free love at St. Etienne's Internationale Bi├źnale du Design / CITY ECO LAB / Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Chef Paul Freestone shares some sugar-free with young visitors to the biennial.
Culiblog author forages for vegetables in the gardens of Soupe de Ville at the St. Etienne Design Biennial as part of City Eco Lab. Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Culiblogger forages turnips at the Biennial
Pot of apple and turnip kimchi demonstrating lacto-fermentation at the City Eco Lab as part of the Int'l Bi├źnale du Design in St. Etienne. Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Lacto-fermentation as a design solution?
Utopia is near, sign written in food flow fruit leather, Debra Solomon and Paul Freestone from Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking, installation at the City Eco Lab, Debra Solomon, culiblog.org
Debra Solomon and Paul Freestone

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