Life on Earth has gone through some four billion years of evolution and has always already been together, intertwined with a network of intimate relationships. We all share a common ancestor, we all need the same compounds to live, and our structure is made with the same building blocks, we all share common understanding of “substance semiotics” . We maintain the most intimate relationships with the life closest to us, inhabiting all the surfaces of our bodies, with microbes. They are mediators of the exchanges with other forms of life.
It is possible to communicate and cooperate with these worlds, and one of the paths leads through ancient fermentation technologies. Fermentation is a method of preserving produce from times of surplus for poorer periods. A cultural assemblage has grown around it, as demonstrated by the Korean tradition of gimjang, the communal preparations of large amounts of kimchi for winter. It carries cultural meanings as a community affirming ritual. Kimchi has been celebrated as a superfood in recent decades and is becoming part of the vernacular culture around the world. Central European sauerkraut is not a suitable comparison. It has the status of “overlooked” food, is cheap and ubiquitous. Industrial production has overshadowed its folk magic. But kimchi still enjoys a special mythical status, still carrying the ability to provoke social interactions, in exchanges and giving gifts. Sin of cultural appropriation may be absolved by authentic relations beyond the capitalist logic of extraction and accumulation.
The origin of the video piece is situated in the Prague scene of improvised music connected with the space Punctum. Alexandra Morales and Georgy Bagdasarov, Marek Kimei Matvija, Tomáš Procházka and Pasi Mäkelä, all enthusiastic fermentation practitioners, contributed their own video material of their “pets”. The visual is accompanied with music by Petr Vrba, which was also presented as a standalone piece titled Opus symbioticum in the Czech Radio program Radioacustica. Acousmatic composition with ASMR elements is a reworking of kimchi field recordings of kimchi preparation and fermentation. Radim Labuda’s text is read by Žluna Sýkora, Ondřej Parus, Georgy Bagdasarov and Jindřich Mynarz.
The project of Petr Vrba and Radim Labuda was created with the financial contribution of the MKČR grant and in the production by the Mlok Association.