January 6, 2014

On Fermentation

Filed under: Writing — jessica

It all started when we went epleslang in Majorstuen late one night last fall. Out of all of us, Håkon was the most brave and would casually walk into the rich people’s gardens to scout out ripe apple trees while the rest of us waited outside the gates, hiding in the shadows. After a few hours of wandering through both public and private areas, we had at least ten kilos of apples between us. They were green and pink, irregular and beautiful.

Then began the task of processing them. Over the next weeks I made apple cider, apple sauce, apple cookies and most importantly, apple cider vinegar. I’d never made it before then and the greatest thing about it is that you make it only using what is usually thrown out: i.e. the cores, stems, and skin. Somewhat of an acquired taste, the apple cider vinegar began to grow on me, especially after seeing it seemingly materialize out of nothing over a few months in a glass jar under my kitchen sink. I was hooked. In the following months I began to ferment everything in sight: red wine vinegar with fresh rosemary, ginger beer, cucumber soda, turmeric soda, larger batches of apple cider and countless flavors of kombucha, or fermented tea. When I started seeing my new partner, our first date consisted of preparing tea leaves for a two-month pickling and musing over kimchi.

When I returned to the Academy after a year off, I brought all my fermentation projects with me into the studio. And it seems that they have now taken over, with their steady yet unpredictable schedules and their slow sense of time. Sometimes when I sit here, it feels like nothing is happening. But on every eighth day or so when I bottle a new batch of kombucha, I am reminded that this is not true at all. The images, texts, and objects on my walls operate in a similar fashion. Silently they chide me on to continue writing my thesis, their faces unchanging. Yet every once in awhile, I will notice something new and begin to move them around. Adding and subtracting until things become more clear or more wild, depending on my mood that day.

In the center of the studio is a table, around which I share the fruits of my labor with friends and others who come to call. We talk about art there, but also about our personal lives, the school, things we saw that inspired us.  It was here I had a conversation with a friend where we kept coming back to the theme of voraciously reading yet forgetting specifics afterwards, no matter how good the book was. Yet there is power in forgetting, we decided—the power of internalized knowledge subconsciously sneaking (for better or for worse) into one’s world view.

“Art is a process because life is a process.”

Wasn’t it Wilde who said that?

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