Synthetic Ecologies Live: Namita Patel x Seetal Solanki

Synthetic Ecologies Live: Namita Patel x Seetal Solanki

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Hi everyone. Welcome back to our Serpentine Twitch channel and specifically today, our Synthetic Ecologies Live. I'm joined here with Seetal Solanki materials translator and Namita Patel, fermentation scientist. Namita and Seetal make part of our Synthetic Ecologist Guild that comprises of a range of cross-disciplinary thinkers, including Nadia Berenstein.

Joshua Evans, Lucy Chinan and Chiara de Leone. I'm really sorry, Chiara. I always stuff your name up and Charles Broskoski of The first season of Compendium, which is our R&D tool from the Synthetic Ecologies Lab, has been curated by Angela Dimayuga and is also led by Synthetic Ecologies Lab Principal Investigator Yasaman Sheri.

Yasaman, I know you're watching this, so hello at home. Last time Angela and Yasaman introduced us to the projects and we had a specific focus on cellular Trump L'oeil. This time around, I hope we'll be deep diving a little bit more into non-linear temporalities and these themes that are mentioning- there's two more that we might talk around as well. These are 'stewards of knowledge' and 'sensory intimacies', but the reason why we're focussing on non-linear temporalities is because of Namita and Seetal.

And I'm sure we'll get into more detail very shortly. But before I do that, I just have a bit of housekeeping. So with all our Twitch sessions, we have a live captioning link for those that need captions and access needs. My colleague Roisin will be dropping this into the chat, which leads me to my next point in that we are all here today, live in a studio in London which is a treat. Normally we have remote speakers but we're all here together in the studio with me, I have associate producer arts technologies, Roisin McVeigh. I've got our tech manager Ralph Pritchard.

I also have a special feature. Georgie from the Francis Crick public engagement team, thank you for joining us, Georgie. And throughout the chat, throughout the event, my colleagues will be lurking in the chat and I say this, this word lurking because we want you to get involved and they'll be instigating conversation for you.

Please, please send us questions I'll be posing them to both Namita and Seetal. Or maybe me if you've got one for me. But with that, I'd like us to segue back into the non-linear temporalities element a little bit more. So as mentioned earlier in the year, in July, when we kicked off the launch of Compendium guest curator Angela Dimayuga and Yasaman Sheri, they focussed and unpacked cellular trump l'oeil in detail. We continue this today and as I continue to introduce Namita and Seetal, I wanted to very quickly read out to you a section from the Compendium website in regards to non-linear temporalities, it speaks quite strongly to me and I think it connects to both of you quite well, so I'm interested to hear your thoughts on it too.

So with that, time can be seen as relational in cultures, communities, histories, life and death cycles. An intergenerational passing. Time is a resource in biology as it operates on many different paths and synchronisations. When it comes to fermentation, what do we learn from and how can we imagine a plurality of time to re-orientate ourselves? So who better to speak to this than both of you? I'd like for you to both introduce yourselves with this in mind and maybe starting off with you, Seetal. And on that, I know you had provided me with some really interesting assets for me to introduce to the audience, and I thought I'd bring these ones up in regards to a fermentation lab. Thank you.

It's really exciting to be here talking about fermentation, actually. So I run a practise called Ma-tt-er and I describe myself as a materials translator and Ma-tt-er is basically a practise where we build relationships with materials. And how we do that is through consultancy, through design, and through different forms of educational tools. And so with that in mind, I would say like how we even work with materials is very much inspired by food, the food industry or like food in general. I was always- the first kind of practise I was taught was how to cook at five and so even how to translate that into the materials world is very similar.

So you know where things come from, how they're grown, how their processed and how they're kind of like disposed of in some way, shape or form. And I was fortunate enough to work in Lagos for just over a year and set up a fermentation lab with my friend Tushar at 16/16. And we opened up a space called Plan B, so with that in mind, we basically ran a fermentation lab which invited lots of other people to kind of be involved. But we only used native ingredients.

So hibiscus flowers, pineapple, lemongrass. What else do we have? Moringa. So all of these different images that you see here are different flavours that we built. And ginger also, this is the mother, the SCOBY, which is very gooey and sticky. But we also worked with the leftovers, actually, and made different forms of like what I would say is kombucha leather. So that is the skin that's formed after everything has kind of been fermented and once it's dried, it kind of behaves like a leather as well.

So not only are you feeding people, but you're also making or providing kind of some drink substance to people, which is actually very healthy. You're also gaining a material. So that was all in essence of like providing different kind of experiences which were not only culturally relevant because fermentation in Nigeria is very rooted in their native culture, also in my own. So it was like trying to cross the two together and make an experience that felt exciting and more contemporary.

Seetal, this might be a silly question because I was delivered this definition so many times throughout the project. Can you remind me what a SCOBY is? Sure, it's basically, you're probably better at this than me, Namita. Basically it's the mother, it's all the bacteria that's formed in order for the fermentation to happen. So it's in the- like a disc that it kind of comes in mostly with like this really gooey jelly-like substance and what happens with the fermentation is like, you add sugar in and it basically the bacteria eats the sugar, which kind of like activates- It's activated then, like ferments.

And normally with this kind of like fermentation with kombuca, it's tea that brings it to a really interesting flavour or some kind of flavour. And then you add all of these other ingredients if you like. Thanks.

Seetal, you also fast forwarded a little bit. No you're good. You prepared some other key visuals for us to sort of describe the work that you do at Ma-tt-er. Can you expand on that for us a little bit? Yeah, of course. I think this idea of translation and also how we apply what we do into industry and also institutions and through all of this work that we do, it's like applied research essentially.

I think this quote really sums up a lot of what we, well, our principles, I think. So, Philip Ross, who works at MycaWorks. He basically says that it's not so much a crisis of materials, but of how we think about them, organise them and use them. And I think that really succinctly puts that we aren't scarce of materials, we're not in this space of, you know, we're gonna run out of resources, which is what is the common conversation that is happening right now. Because, you know, this idea of talk of waste as a material for me, it is a material, so it will never be waste. So it's just how we describe them and even like what the language is around these materials.

And that's something that we have to reorganise and that is a lot of the work that we're doing and our practise. And we can, you know, go onto the next one. And I think this is so fundamental to why we do what we do as well. And George Monbiot, who's like a really prolific author and also a journalist, mainly at The Guardian, an activist, I would say, he says, we are often told we are materialistic. It seems to me that we are not materialistic enough.

We have a disrespect for materials. We use it quickly and carelessly. If we're genuinely materialistic people, we would understand where materials come from and where they go to.

So simple, actually, and it's really about getting a wider audience to relate to materials. And if if we're framing in such a way where we're talking about care and respect, it offers another way in of like how to relate to materials. So like a lot of the work that we do is about building relationships. So we have a materials personality quiz and also a materials horoscope.

And a lot of this, a lot of these tools are really playful and relatable and accessible because I would say a lot of the material world, it's like within the sciences and also in academia, and that's not necessarily very accessible for the majority. And I really think that materials needs to be for everyone because everything is made from something. We're always surrounded by materials even when we're sleeping. So the consciousness or the awareness needs to be a bit more kind of like understood, but not in a way where it's preachy or telling off kind of thing. So the playful approach feels like more of a thing for us.

It was, yeah, it was definitely such a treat having you as part of the process because you made it so playful for us. I mean, on a more serious note, this really resonates with me in terms of that life and death cycle. But also when you made us and maybe you can explain it in a little bit of detail I know we don't have visuals for it. But it was lots of fun, when we did that materials horoscope. It, for me personally, it made me recognise that I'm also a material.

Yeah, yeah, totally. I mean, you're more bacteria than anything, you know? So it's also realising that a bone is material, skin is also and it's even like getting you to see yourself through a materials lens and giving you the opportunity to see yourself outside of yourself. And actually, that's really helpful, so almost it's less pressure to kind of be guided through that lens. And then. So, yeah. What material were you again? Pisces.

So yeah, perfect today. Bacterial cellulose. That's what you are. Yeah. I mean, and I'm just going to go to the next visual, but also, when we were working so closely with Angela and Yasaman, a really poignant element in regards, and I love it how it's kind of not explicitly mentioned in the subthemes, I think it comes out in non-linear temporalities, but considering more than human perspectives. Because I from my own disciplinary background, kept seeing it as non-human. But even in that binary is probably not the most constructive way of approaching a field like fermentation.

But through, reconciling yourself as a part of that material landscape and ecosystem, it totally changes your perspective completely. And I even think the term nonhuman is very othering actually. And we shouldn't really, that terminology really makes me feel icky and I do prefer 'more than human', but I still feel like there's work to do and I'm not sure what it is just now, but I feel like there is a lot more work within the language sphere that we haven't really unpacked enough of yet. But that's yeah. I mean you can kind of see in this diagram a lot of this is just a really quick snapshot of some of the industries we work within and like people we have to speak to and really the material is the conduit. And that's why I describe myself as a translator rather than a designer, even though I've been trained as a designer, as a textiles designer, to be more specific.

And so by engaging with all of these different industries and I guess, I dunno, like places or spaces, we have to speak very different languages, but the material actually does a lot of that for us. And so what we end up doing is like working with maybe a single material, but apply it into many different industries. And so the application is the only thing that changes but the also the process in which it has to go through. But the material is essentially something that is really guiding you as to what it can do and what it can't do. So yeah.

And I love that production has its own circle here. Yeah. It's so essential. I appreciate that.

But you also have this one. Yeah, you can just leave on this one actually, and I'll just explain it quite quickly. I would say. Because I'm taking a lot of time, but we have basically created a methodology which is kind of like, yeah, attributing to some, like a 12 step programme like the AA.

So it's taking that principle and also like different principles and lots of different philosophies of the number 12, so numerology is kind of like an underpinning everything here, but I would say it's basically trying to get us to not be addicted to consumption. So these are the 12 steps that we go through with different projects or people. And also it's kind of a bit of a curriculum. So what we're doing is like building lots of tools to help people relate to the material world again. And so we start there and that is kind of the materials personality quiz and also the horoscope and all sorts of other things to get you to see yourself through a material- which then allows you to understand the immaterial world and then the virtual world, and then you have to really understand it through a personal point of view, which then helps you understand what your role is.

And then once you understand your role, you then understand what your role is within the community and then that community's role towards the planets. And then that helps you shift mindsets, behaviours and then systems which are mechanisms which then helps you build like different dimensions, which I think is time and spectrums, which I think is scale and then landscape which is in multiple futures. Or alternative futures.

So it's very much about the plural and like building alternative worlds and giving people the opportunity to imagine, discover, explore and be themselves really. Seetal, we've got a quick shout out from the chat. Okay, Godwin from Plan B.

We miss you! That's very sweet. But Namita, switching to you, you are our resident scientist as part of Compendium. How would you describe I mean, there's so much more than just fermentation scientist. And you went on, I feel like, this discovery path and it was really- I was really happy that you could be involved because I mean, myself, having previously worked at the Crick, it's like we could grow this ecosystem and tear down some of those silos of knowledge that often people get caught up in. But I'm talking too much. How would you describe yourself not only within the project, but also professionally.

Well, first, thank you, Alex. I'm happy to be here. And well, so, I'm a fermentation scientist. I work for the Francis Crick Institute.

Ror people who don't know who Francis Crick was, he along with James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, discovered the helical structure of DNA. And this is what this Biomedical Research Institute is named after. I work for the well, I'm part of the structural biology SDP and that's a science technology platform. And it's basically a research service for any of the the research scientists in the Crick and so within structural biology, I work in fermentation and I work with fermenters or bioreactors.

And the purpose of these bioreactors are to grow big bacthes, up to 100 litres of yeast and E. coli. The reason that the research scientists want this, is they are looking into different proteins. So some of the research is based on chromosome replication and they're looking into chromosome replication, chromosome segregation, DNA damage.

It's mostly around cancer. So that's what all of our 11 labs that we work for is all around cancer research. And yeah, basically this is showing some of the other SDPs in the crick.

This is our glass wash department. And they work just next door to us. Do you have any of the day in the life ones? And so I usually- people when I say I'm a fermentation scientist, they don't really know what it is that I do. And so any opportunity I get, I do try and take in some, any of my friends or other colleagues down to the fermentation lab and just to show them what I do.

And so I have, I took some day in the life videos and to give you kind of a, an insight into what we do. So first of all, we use yeast as a model because basically a lot of the cellular pathways are similar to the human ones. So yeast is a great model for that. So this is our lab there, that's Frank Uhlm, one of our- he's a huge user of the department.

He grows- I think he's grown upwards of 10,000 litres of yeast over the past ten years. I think it is. Which is- that's a super user and so yeah. Yeah, it's kind of like when I explain the Crick to friends or colleagues, it's kind of like this super spaceship that's trying to push society forward through biomedical knowledge and research, which for us at Serpentine Galleries in the Arts Technologies team in particular, we're trying to do the same thing, but with art and technology. So as such, I felt like it was a perfect match having you come on board and being able to, I guess it's helpful to also contextualise that the Crick is so big that it has its own public engagement strand to really help translate and get access to science. So on the practical level, there was like this unison of production similarities that I knew would work.

But when I was also introducing Yasaman to the Crick because we got to go, I remember taking her down to. Yeah, she loved it. There was also more like this broader metaphor to the work that's being done at Crick and Compendium. Because for Compendium when we were building it, it's really about breaking down those silos of knowledge, giving access to it, and trying to exemplify it across different disciplines-. I knew I was going to misenunciate something, disciplinary vernaculars.

But on this Namita, I was going to- before we go into some of the blocks, because you've got all these brilliant behind the scenes ones. I just very quickly, I'm going to refresh the page because I need to do a shout out to Somnath Bhatt who's helped us create this animated asset that comes up. And you may be familiar with it because it's in the background of our Twitch, it's via our social media. Thank you so much Somnath for contributing to the project. It's given Compendiums such a strong personality that I felt all the Guild members really resonated with as well. And then in regards to the website design, Mindy Seu worked with us really closely, also an incredibly thoughtful and multidisciplinary person, and Brian Huddleston who's created this font.

So I mean, I always point this out to people when they visit Compendium but there's this font that sort of degrades as you explore the page, refresh it again, all becomes animated once you refresh the pages. But, it's kind of like microbes growing as well. But let me try and find some of your, scroll down, scroll down, we've also got a, we've revamped some of our search function too.

So for those of you searching at home, you can filter inside. So I've highlighted Namita's name and if I put 'day in the' we'll take a little bit to load. But it was great that you were, when we were doing this, Namita, I'm really happy that you decided to sort of capture that part of the Crick that often isn't- hang on let me try and search. Yeah, it was mostly because whenever I do tell people what I do, nobody really, people only understand fermentation is maybe in bread or in beer. But when I go into like the precision fermentation, which is what we do, and it uses microorganisms like yeast and bacteria, they don't quite understand what else we do.

I mean, probably the most famous precision fermentation is creating or rather using microbes to produce insulin. And yeah, so that's something that is, is used. So a lot of enzymes and hormones are produced using precision fermentation. And so what we're doing is actually for first stage basic research into cancer research.

So the proteins that we, that we express, is actually to look into why, why does DNA damage occur or what happens during chromosome replication and how can that be? Yeah. So this is a tour of our lab. This is actually my fermentation lab on LB4, we have five stainless steel Steam In Place fermenters. So they're all hooked up to an air supply, steam, water and all the good stuff. That's, I mean, I know it might not be the most appropriate, but I remember, I mean, I've been down there so times for when I worked at the Crick, but taking someone like Yasaman for the first time, seeing someone who's so creatively inclined to approach these apparatuses like the magic that went on in her eyes, she finds them so beautiful. Um. Yeah, she, I think we had a culture growing at the time and we had the little view windows and she could see it all kind of bubbling inside.

And it she got, she was very excited about that. Because you guys are almost like the curators of not only the vessels, but the microbes there. I remember there was a story that you told us and maybe you can expand again. But in regards to when you guys go on a holiday or leave. Yeah. So I think this was during one of our brainstorming jam sessions, I think Seetal, you were talking about how materials are, I think alive or, yeah, and it just made me think how whenever-So I work with Ali Alidoust and I've worked with him for over 15 years now, and Ravina who's just joined the team and whenever we would go away on holiday, so it was always doing the summertime, something would go wrong with them and we would always be like, Oh, it's because they know you're going on holiday.

So they're going to be missing one of us. And, yeah, so we're giving them kind of human characteristics and yeah we were talking about how it all came down to this concept of, I guess, care and attachment and yeah, we always make that little joke. Yeah, I think ultimately you end up becoming caretakers for the materials in some way or a guardian. And I think if anything, if that's the role that we take on as a human for the material world, which is also a living world, then I think we're in a really good place actually. And I think especially with bacteria, when it is living and breathing and you see it die, it's quite painful actually to like know that you've cared for something for so long and then all of a sudden, it's life ends and then you're like, oh, what did I do wrong? Or like, could I do something better? You know, but also I do think that we are also afraid of materials not lasting a long time. So I think we also have to take on the role of like knowing that the materials perhaps won't outlive us.

And I think it's important to know that all of these materials have their own lifespan. And like the idea of like non-linear temporalities, which is what we're discussing in this conversation I think really applies to the material world so well because it kind of we're assuming that materials should be really long lasting and durable, and yet it has longevity, but actually maybe it's less harmful if it doesn't, because then nobody's really accountable for those materials once we're not around. So things like fermentation in bacteria, their lifespan is much shorter than something like plastic, for example.

Yeah. And I mean, so when we were talking about this concept of non-linear temporalities, it really made me think about the fact that these little yeasts and bacteria have a completely different life, like their lifetime in our vessels are only three days, so they go from like living what I see is like, living a whole life from like a Monday to a Wednesday and then that's over for them. But I was also, I think I started looking into, yeah, just the lifespan of yeast and how they were actually using yeast as a model for human ageing as well, which I found super interesting. So I also put a block up on- that's what I loved about taking part in this Compendium, is that it gave me a chance to do reading and research into topics I wouldn't normally look into so that's why I'm very grateful that you asked me to take part in this. And yeah, it's opened my eyes to so many different topics. I meant to say Namita maybe it's a good time to also bring up some of the props that you brought along today because it was a really, it was in relation to yeast, and I'm glad you did and then I'm glad you didn't tell me.

It's a wonderful surprise. So yeah, I brought in little, they're called giant microbes so this is an E. coli, Seetal's holding a dead COVID and Alex is holding a little yeast. So yeah, they're quite cute.

And the one that's in the background. Oh yeah, this one. Here. Yeah.

So the one that started it all. Yeah, so actually you were just talking about feeling bad for when they died. So the first time and I think we've been working with these, I've been working in fermentation for ten years and then one day we just walked in and there was no bacteria in the, in the reactors at all. So we should see a nice kind of milky broth. And it was completely clear and we were like, oh my gosh, what's happened? We didn't know what had happened at all. And after much research and talking to lots of different people, we found out that this little guy here, which is known as a bacteriophage, is a little virus that infects E.coli.

Now, phage is actually is ten times smaller than this. So they actually latch onto the the bacteria like this, inject the DNA into there, into the E.coli. They start replicating like crazy. And the little E.coli cell dies and just bursts open and yeah, that was just yeah, I remember the first time that that happened.

I really did, I felt quite sad. I mean, it kind of veers off into one of the other subthemes, Namita, the stewards of knowledge. Can you speak a little bit? Because it really it's one of the key stories that I remember from participating in Compendium.

Yeah. So we were talking about oral histories and with the whole bacteriophage, this- we see it as a contamination. Nobody, we couldn't find any papers on it or, or anything really online that we could use against this phage. And in a, like a pilot plant setting with stainless steel fermenters. Because if you're just on the bench and you have a glass flask, you can go that way, but you just can't do that with our fermenters.

So, lots of different chemicals just don't work on stainless steel. It can corrode it and just damage the whole- the machines. So funnily enough, we then had to speak to other people who then were saying, Oh yeah, this is probably what it is.

You can talk to this, this and this lab. And so it really kind of made me feel that it was more of an oral history of how to deal with this phage contamination because nothing was really written down. But it definitely expanded our network of contacts because now we became mini experts in phage contamination. Another good metaphor, a compendium.

I just very quickly had a question from Bettina Korek who's the CEO of Serpentine. She wants to know where we get the plushie. I actually got these from Amazon and there's a site called Giant Microbes which do all of these as well.

It's such a playful way of explaining fermentation, which is really important. On that, Seetal, you had this quote by, none other than Bjork. I'm going to bring it up because it's great and I would love you to speak to it.

Yeah, gladly. When it loads. It's something that I found on Twitter, on her Twitter, I think, quite a while ago and it's really stuck with me and it kind of, it really speaks to language and yeah, well, let's let it load.

But she is, she's everything. This woman. I am so inspired by her and her unapologetic nature just to be herself. Right. Ok here we go. I was just searching the wrong thing. So she says the word nature and the word techno mean the same thing depends if you look at it from the past or from the future.

For example, a little cabin in the mountains, an ape thinks it's techno, it is the future. But for us has to become nature. We must live with both.

It is very important. We can't be just nature or just techno. This really hits so many things in my body. And again, it really speaks to this idea of what tech or techno is in our world today. And a lot of the assumption is that it's digital and actually technology also comes from nature.

And I think, you know, mycelium is a really great example of what technology and nature can actually offer because it's described as the nature's world wide web of sorts, because it's the greatest communicator to all other living beings. It knows and it can identify when a plant or a living- yeah, tree is in need of nurturing. So then it feeds each other, you know, it's communicating and then it nourishes it. So that's technology in essence, and it's coming from nature. And so much of what we have in our worlds now and even being on Twitch, I think it's really come from those spaces of learning how nature actually works and somehow that becomes futuristic of sorts and feels like it then is described as techno or tech.

So I think both of them for me, they have to coexist. And I think that's exactly what she's describing here, which I think is so beautifully put. I showed it to the rest of the Arts Technologies team because I mean, not to toot the arts tech con, but within Serpentine, some of our other pillars are Ecology.

And a huge reason as to why we say Arts Technologies is because of that multiplicity. And then, I mean, when we think about technology, I think too often it's controlled or that vernacular is disempowering to a lot of people. And so what I really loved having you as part of the project was like me re-articulating my relationship to how we name things as well. I'm going to bring up another element that you have, sorry, another grid that you created for us in regards to nouns are for experts, verbs are for everyone. Because again, this, it stuck in my head.

I mean, here we go. Yeah. So this this came from a book called Good Services, which Lou Downe wrote a couple of years ago now. And this really stuck with me also. So I think there's a conversation around naming or labelling things or each other and somehow naming myself a designer felt like I was stuck or like fixed in one position somehow or not being able to like manoeuvre or pivot so easily or it felt like I was- it was being told what I should be doing basically. And this is what a designer looks like. This is a classification and this is how it's being categorised.

But actually, when I describe myself as a translator and it feels more descriptive or, you know, adding process to the description of like what I do, it feels so much more fluid and open, non-binary, even, you know. And then we feel like we are able to be a bit freer in terms of what we can offer and who we can work with. It feels like it's more participatory, feels more inviting also, and maybe the block with all the verbs that I wrote down for fermentation could help describe that even further. Verbing with fermentation? I think so. Let's have a look. Yeah.

Oh, yeah. So I just literally wrote a list of words that describe fermentation, simmering brewing, tempering, fermenting, bubbling, raging, stirring, all sorts of, like, very kind of, process-led words which actually feel more visceral somehow. And you can somehow capture a visual with it as well. I'm quite a visual person. So like having these words in front of me feel like, Oh yeah, I understand what action it takes to like make something fermented. And it feels a bit more relatable somehow.

And yeah, I mean, very and- Go ahead. This is not related to a block, Seetal, but I remember you also- where is it? Is it Beauty Futures? What you were just explaining again. Yeah.

I mean, all of those words really fit in to the visuals of this actually. Smart move Alex. Yeah, so this is a video we made for the future laboratory to describe the beauty industry and what it's kind of having to face as we have a lot more toxins, pollution and stress in our lives. And so we created all these beautiful moving images and all these different processes which were really basic, like GCSE again, so it's milk, Fairy liquid and paint. And so all of those initial visuals that you saw kind of give you the impression that there's something in motion or something that needs to be addressed or attacked or, you know, resolved somehow. And yeah, we just use lots of different materials, which kind of gives you the impression that it's having to do something or make some kind of change.

And yeah, it was just really fun. Again, it's about this expression of how materials behave and how they can be translated into telling stories also. And yeah, this is essentially a really visual representation of some of the words even. Yeah, feel free to interject. I was just thinking about you saying about giving yourself the label of designer.

And I think that's what I very much feel about the label of scientist as well, because I also very much relate to being a technician and also an engineer. So I don't really see myself as just one thing. But then there's this whole hierarchy, especially within science, of technicians versus scientists versus engineers.

But this is what I really love about the Crick is that they did highlight all the technicians in their Craft and Graft exhibition, and they really tried to champion them, I suppose. I mean, they did put a lot of us in the basement. That's humour. But yeah, I mean, I don't really know why it's there, but when someone says, Oh, I'm a scientist, everyone's like, Oh, oh, oh, you must do this and this and wear the white coat. Whereas a technician is also the same, same level of skill, expertise, a lot of the time the same education. So I'm not really sure why there is that difference really.

But again, it's all down to hierarchy and yeah, I do like what the Crick is doing about highlighting the fact that a lot of this great research couldn't be done with so many technicians that are housed at the Crick as well. And just giving a bit of multiplicity to the general public in terms of understanding their position within science, which is what we're trying to do within Compendium too. I have a rather selfish question to ask both of you in regards to- so we've talked about process, and I think it goes hand in hand with our temporalities, but we work so closely with Angela and also Cab from Arena.

I need to shout out to Cab because he's an incredibly patient person because we really wanted to sort of recognise that there are hierarchies in this field, but we didn't want to implement that into Compendium. Did you both feel empowered to explore your own disciplinary perspectives? I don't know. Maybe you can explain because a lot of the back end processes that we use to sort of generate how their content is plugged into compendium itself - a little bit invisible. But for us, what is really important about this process is that R&D structure of the learning and the networking and the guild that's made out of it.

I think it's a little bit misleading sometimes that we always focus on the output. So I wanted to hear a little bit more from both of you how you found that experience, if there's anything that you would have changed or if there's anything that we could improve on. No I always felt heard and I mean, it was a great bunch of very talented individuals and it was a lot of fun.

Every time we we had our sessions of our brainstorming, jamming sessions, it was very fun. And I think we spent nearly an hour talking just about MSG production. Oh, yeah. That was a fun one. That was a fun one. But no, I mean, I felt it gave me, to use your word, empowered me, to look into areas I'd never looked into before.

So I think Angela was looking up ancient practises of winemaking, and it made me start reading myself about these things, and Lucy with the leafcutter ants. Yeah, I just started reading anything and everything. It didn't make me think that I only needed to stick to precision fermentation or anything related to that. So yeah, I definitely felt empowered to do research anything and everything. I really thought it was such an open, safe space to- I feel like I was at school again.

Now I say that in a really genuine way, it's in the most complimentary way, even because I was learning so much and I think I've taken away and still taking away because it's something that I feel is like ongoing. It's so evolutionary. This whole process of how we can learn from one another and how that is very- is the only way to build something together, or to make change, should I say even. And I think it does start with conversation and I think it goes back to the idea of oral histories being something that is really important and has been in terms of like how we relate to one another, you know, and this space offered the opportunity to really be heard and be seen also. And I think that's all we ever want as humans, is that. And it didn't feel intimidating, even though there's so many- everyone's so talented in their own way and space.

And I never felt intimidated to share my opinion on something, even if I disagreed. So yeah, props to you guys and it was really great to be involved and still great to be involved. Yeah, I'm glad you felt heard because the research process is incredibly important and we tried to make it fun as well. I'm playing that MSG video that you cleared the block with Namita because for me, I remember when you introduced it to the group, it was very visually-led because everyone within the guild too likes to learn at their own, I guess their own temporality. I'm more of a visual person. I've always found entering science, in particular biomedical science, having worked at the Crick at first to be quite challenging, but having you all there to also lead me through the process too.

I mean, as a producer, there's always going to be friction points because I was like, We've got to get to the next stage, when are we doing the thing. But you guys made it really fun for everybody. We've got about 10 minutes left, so I was going to open it up to questions and I know Roisin has been sort of capturing some along the way. So I'll let Roisin feed me through via my handy phone here. But one coming now, just to also say, if anybody is interested in sort of the broader framework, I think it's really important to highlight on Compendium. You can go back to this read more and it kind of gives the full curatorial statement and how these subthemes all articulate all the things that we're talking about.

And again, notebook of conversation, etc.. So question from Roisin that's come from the chat and this is a big one, so feel free to answer it as you will. How can we further break down boundaries between disciplines? I mean, this is a great start, what we're doing.

I mean- the Crick is a good example because they have their public engagement department and team and they make all efforts. I think one of the visions of the Crick was also not only to give back to the community, but also make people more aware of what's going on, which is why they chose this central location as well. So I think what the Crick is doing is actually a very good role model of what other institutes could also be doing. We have the meet the scientist days.

We have all of our, in the gallery, all the exhibits that they do, they're all for the public. I'll let you answer as well, Seetal, but just quickly, if anybody has any questions in regards to the Crick, please get in touch with us, because I can also forward you through to the correct communication channels, because the Crick's being a very important partner for Compendium thus far. Shout out to the Crick and also to Hannah for organising the brilliant behind the scenes tours with Yasaman Sheri.

But Seetal... Big question and how I will begin responding to it is by saying that we need bridge builders basically. And so there's many more of them forming and I think they're coming not as an- not from an individualistic point of view.

It's also coming from a cohort or a collective or a community. And I think that space is where we can actually break the boundaries between disciplines by having different voices and multiple perspectives. You know, in this guild we have a chef, we have a scientist, we have a translator, we have so many- I'm sorry, I'm really bad at naming everybodies role, but so many voices to offer a much more holistic perspective as to like what the needs are to be addressed, and I think that's where we need to begin. What do we need to change? Who is it for and why do we need it? And so for me, those three are the fundamental questions. And like, depending on who we're speaking to and who the audience is, we need to then bring in the right people to build those bridges in order for that to happen. So that's really what we do, at Ma-tt-er even, and through material.

So that's kind of like what the change- those kinds of conversations can kind of like come up with basically. And it really fits within the broader, direction of Synthetic Ecologies Lab that Yas is leading as well, and she's sort of the curator of contributors in regards to like Angela was very much the curator of the creative direction and content. But Yas was really careful to make sure that we had the right bridge builders, otherwise we couldn't engineer what we needed to engineer. But the next question, this is kind of specific to collaboration, but how do you kick off when working with new collaborators, especially those from different disciplines? Do you have any strategies for icebreakers or knowledge sharing? Yes. The quiz! Oh, the materials horoscope? Yeah, all of these things make life a lot easier to get to know one another because I will do it with them also.

And it's just fun and you get to know their personalities, but also some of their processes that they want to maybe take in, it's a catalyst to therefore write a brief as well with them. So I always make sure that the brief is with, not for, only. So I think these little tools may sound like fun and it's just fun, but actually it's so thoroughly researched in so many scientific methods as well- I'm going to be really trash here. I was really inspired by Just 17 magazine as a kid.

So, you know, you'd go through these little tests, like what's your ideal boyfriend? And then end up with this summary of what he may be, you know, his personality traits and this kind of thing. And then obviously at the end you'll have like horoscopes and this kind of thing. So like just these magazines or like even newspapers that we read daily are such a great kind of way in, because people are familiar with it.

So it's taking something that's unfamiliar to be familiar. And collaborating is really a way to kind of like- again it's like, what is that little pull? What is going to capture your attention but also get to know each other and what we want. Cab called them the cookie crumbs. Bread crumbs. Sorry, the bread crumbs. Yeah.

But how about for you, Namita? I mean, you have to collaborate with so many people at the Crick. Yeah. So the unique thing about the Crick is that on each floor there's actually four quadrants. So they're like neighbourhoods and they, I think they purposefully put different research areas on those floors because then we have the collaboration areas that people- you have to go there to make coffee or something- And then you just end up talking to someone there and they just may have, I don't know, heard something about something else that we've- Undiscovered DNA. Yeah. Is useful to your research or someone- so it's great for networking and the other thing- So that's what they do within the Crick.

But the other thing I love that the Crick does is the discovery days and I'm pretty sure- so I've been to a couple now and you don't need a kit to go along really. I've taken a few friends. It's for everyone because it's so accessible. Like everything they have there is, it just makes it easier because it's all, I guess things like this, where people just ask about the little, you know, what is this and how does it relate to what? And I've had a few people who have just come up and said, Oh, I'm doing this, this, and this, do you know anyone who'd be interested in this. And yeah, maybe you don't know or you do, but you know someone you can pass it on to, to try and find out. So I found those days super helpful as well.

Just to kind of facilitate- collaborate. Very process led. Yeah I remember one of our early jams to sort of start the process of compendium theme and content building also Angela Dimayuga is like the ultimate bridge builder between all the contributors, but one of the earlier ones is that deities.

And I know Chiara also informed that too, but I found that really like, wow, okay, you could come at it in whatever abstract way that you want to, but I found that really helpful as an icebreaker because it was related to the content, but it was adjacent enough that you could kind of find your own way into it. I mean, for me, I think I was looking up. I play a lot of World of Warcraft and there was that character that was derived from fermentation and how they sort of existed within their ecosystem as like a stewards of knowledge. I think Roisin has one more question for me.

For us, not me, because we've only got about a minute left. But do you have any favourite writers, thinkers, artists, scientists in regards to fermentation that you could recommend for people wanting to further their own fermentation journey? You begin, yeah go ahead. I was looking at you because my mind went blank, I knew you'd have a lot. David Zilber. Oh yes, yeah, yeah.

And he co-wrote a book about Noma fermentation, which I think is really, really brilliantly written. And Sandor Katz The Art of Fermentation, and he's even written a book called Fermentation As Metaphor. Very. It's excellent.

There's many more. And just specifically about fermentation? Okay. You go ahead. I'm very boring. The fermentation books I have is all from when I went to university. So they're all like big textbooks to do with- I think I have one of the bioprocessing ones up there. I can't remember. On Compendium?

Yeah. Maybe I can get the titles of some and then- For sure. I was going to say on this, we've got an article coming out on Serpentine Art and Ideas by Claire Evans and she kind of maps out some key landscape, fermentation people from across a variety of disciplines. So be sure to keep checking that. We'll publicise that when we press produce this Twitch. But I just wanted to say thank you both for joining us and for everyone at home.

And to Georgie and to Roisin and Ralph. But that's all we've got time for. We'll have more in the coming months with other guild members, so we hope to see you then. Thank you.

Thank you.

2022-10-05 15:53

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