Artist Alanna Lynch uses kombucha as an art medium to explore our relationship with the microbiome, which is now in the spotlight of human health.
Kombucha is an ancient fermented tea drink that is now, over 2,000 years later, exploding in popularity. Coca-Cola announced last month the decision to make its own version of the drink, which is believed to have many health benefits.
So far, scientific research seems to indicate some of these claims are exaggerated. But a whole new area of research developed in the last decade that studies the multiple implications of the microbiome on human health might bring a new perspective on kombucha. The drink is fermented thanks to a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast and, when ingested, the microorganisms can become part of our gut microbiome, which influences all sort of processes from digestion to the immune response and the brain.
As an artist and scientist, Alanna Lynch is fascinated by this idea of microorganisms becoming an essential part of our bodies and therefore our identity. Her latest work, Gut Feelings, takes the form of performative lectures where she invites attendees to drink kombucha with her and get their hands dirty to become familiar with the microorganisms that ferment the drink.
During the performances, Lynch shows how the microbes produce a cellulose material with a unique texture and smell that can be used to create textiles. She explains how the microorganisms in the drinks served during the lecture have been shown to influence the mind, and how the self becomes blurred when considering the role of microbes in our own bodies.
Originally from Canada, Alanna Lynch is now based in Berlin. Her latest performance of Gut Feelings was at Art Laboratory Berlin, offering a unique opportunity to the public to come closer to science and the fascinating new concepts that the most recent research in the microbiome field is starting to unveil.
Pictures by Alanna Lynch and Matthias Reichelt