Yeast Culture

Small loaf of bread issued as food to prisoners in Holloway jail. Removed as a souvenir from Holloway by a released suffragette prisoner, Museum of London. Image:

First, another apology for the infrequency of posts over the last few months. All I can say is that I predict a new wave of momentum some time around mid-March, when I’ll suddenly find myself with nothing to study anymore. I’m also mulling over the prospect of forging a community of networked blogs of which the O.E. will be a link in the chain, since increased collaboration means increased activity. If you’re interested by the sound of this, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the here and now, I return all too briefly to talk to you about bread. Yesterday saw the opening of a duo of intertwined shows at Collective: In what was the main reception area, the fantastically brilliant Kate Rich has installed one of her Feral Trade Cafes (expect more on these at some later date), while in the main gallery space Rania Ho of Arrow Factory has installed a “mobile bazaar” crammed full of goods sourced from markets in Beijing and Istanbul. Throughout the run of Rania’s installation, the gallery will also play host to Sunday markets, geared around different themes. Today’s theme was “bake-off”, which afforded me the opportunity to become acquainted with a group calling themselves “The Globalised MotherDough Network”. Theirs is an ambitious, yet eminently realisable project: to create ‘a global community formed by the circulation of 40 yeast cultures formed from the same source. By baking a loaf of sourdough bread from the culture, and then feeding it and passing it on, your activity creates the network.’

It’s a charming idea, and offers a pleasing continuation of Rich’s practice two galleries along. But what made this Network really stand out was the doughy matter at its core. Last summer, on a visit to the Museum of London, I was struck right between the eyes by what must be one of the institution’s least flashy objects: the antique bread roll pictured above, which had purportedly been smuggled out of Holloway Jail by an unnamed hunger-striking suffragette. There’s a weird paradox in this object: a loaf of bread is just about the dumbest object one can imagine (I’m pretty sure that the stock airline bread roll is the most boring foodstuff ever created, and at least in the top ten most boring things), yet in its absolute quotidian-ness it possesses a certain scope for lyricism. That’s what the Globalised MotherDough Network does with panache, in a manner more satisfying than my own idea of building an igloo out of these (top centre).

by Luke Healey


One response to “Yeast Culture

  1. Nice post. What a fascinatingly symbolic bit of bread! I think the picture of it against the white background sums up both its blandness and it’s symbolic power.

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