Helena Tapajnova, what’s the topic of your final thesis?
My master thesis «Solidification of Foam» deals with the activity of microorganisms, which we cannot see by the naked eye. Microorganism cultures are all around us, and also in us, but we can hardly imagine what they do and what they look like. The unique mixture of microorganisms and porcelain called «fermented porcelain» reveals their activity in lasting, tangible material. In porcelain, yeast cultures have the freedom to express their natural creativity and can grow into foamy patterns. At the same time, porcelain can save vivid activity by forging an image of this process into hard material.
The growth of microorganisms allows the general appearance of porcelain to change. Their activity in the material results in porous porcelain. In fermented porcelain, we can observe the visual language of the natural process of microorganisms. The foamy structure in fermented porcelain is evidence of life in material. I think that the need for us humans to surround ourselves with natural materials is essential. We often forget where we come from. Microorganisms have been here on earth longer then we have; their only task is to, eat, reproduce, and die. Natural processes are connected with our culture. We can learn to understand them and become aware of our connection with nature which we are gradually losing. Fermented porcelain puts the spotlight on microorganisms, and tries to decentralize humans and their crafting skills. Microorganisms are here with us, in the air, in the water, on our hands, in our body. They can live in places where we can’t. I’m employing them to help us understand and create our material world.
How can you and your work contribute to the future of our society in terms of the current environmental, political, and/or economic challenges we face today? How do you judge your scope of action in this respect?
The created pattern displays the natural behaviour of yeast. In fermented porcelain, we can observe the visual language of the natural process of microorganisms. Fermented porcelain does not aim to copy the visual beauty of nature in a decorative way, no, it lets nature take over and reveals the natural behaviour in hard material.
The aim of this project is to raise awareness about the microorganisms that surround us because our limitation of visual perception impoverishes our ability to see and know about smaller worlds. What we think of nature is limited to observation. Fermented porcelain can inspire us to reconnect with what we are forgetting. The gap between humans and microorganisms is becoming more significant because we don’t need to understand how to work with yeast or bacteria. In fact, we don’t really need to care about our food sources, such as maintaining a garden or baking bread.
All our beverages are waiting for us, perfectly packed in plastic packages on shelves. Due to this separation, the appreciation of microorganisms has turned into aversion. Sterile environments, especially in cities, and separation from nature are the cause of allergies, owing to the lack of natural symbiosis with microorganisms. Sterile spaces are built with smooth, closed, hard materials, usually in white, in order to clean and kill everything that looks alive. That is how we are becoming segregated from natural, open materials which tend to shelter microorganisms.
Fermented porcelain grounds us through its ability to allow us to understand what is going on around us, even if we don’t see it — by establishing a connection between humans and microorganisms. We are not the centre of the universe. Our actions in the environment are affecting our future. And the environment has a direct impact on us. Microorganisms are around everywhere, very close to us. Collaboration with them is necessary. If we ignore invisible nature, we will destroy the balance: «If the gap between organism and environment is too wide, the creature dies».
Where do you think your professional journey will take you after completing your studies?
Most likely, I will stay in the field of my previous research on materials and material experimentation. There is much more to discover and to create in collaboration with materials, natural autonomous processes, and human creativity. My near future aim is to establish a studio with a critical focus on the relationship between society and environment through products.
Helena Tapajnova’s website