By Laura Killingbeck

This November the Round the Bend Farm Fermentation Team took a wild adventure to the big city of Boston to see my friend SE Nash’s art exhibition, Krautsourcing. Krautsourcing uses images and sculptures of food and microbes to explore the boundaries of gender identity through the lens of microbial transformation. It coincides with New England’s Fall fermentation season as well as Transgender Awareness Week (November 13-19).

To kick off this exhibit, Nash gave a live performance lecture about his work. He discussed each art piece, projected images of microbes moving under a microscope, and led us to participate in a symbolic mixing of various sauerkrauts. Everyone contributed their own jar of sauerkraut to mix into a single batch, which we then sampled (it was quite tasty!). Nash used this shared experience to reflect on the ways that cultures—microbial or human—cross boundaries, mix, and transform.

As I sat and listened to Nash’s lecture, one of the things that struck me was his attention to the process of change itself. Fermented foods transform over time, and so do bodies, and so do social conversations. As difficult as transformation can be, it also has some magic in it. It contains its own possibilities and its own presence. It is something that we can taste and something that we can embrace.

I met Nash in 2014 at a three-week fermentation residency with author Sandor Katz. During this time Nash was considering the possibilities and implications of his own gender transition. Meanwhile, I was being faced with the consequences of my gender in ways that I struggled to accept. In the years since then we have both changed, and so has the world around us. The Metoo movement catalyzed a new wave in gender civil rights, and conversations that were previously private or impossible have started to become public and acceptable.

Krautsourcing reminded me that this is a process that we are all in the middle of, and will always be in the middle of. Transformation is difficult, it is art, it is celebration, and it is us.

SE Nash’s Krautsourcing Exhibition will be available through February 26 2020 at the Kniznick Gallery at Brandeis University:

“The Kniznick gallery is proud to present a solo exhibition of Kansas City-based artist S.E. Nash. Krautsourcing is a socially engaged exhibition that continues the artist’s investigation into the collective and creative inventions of people and microbes. At the opening event for Krautsourcing, Nash will combine jars of fermented sauerkraut brought through an open call for participation. When tasting the resulting collective kraut, Nash asks us to consider our bodily entanglements with each other and the innumerable microbes in the ferment.

In his ongoing work with fermentation, Nash creates sculptural homages to fermented foods. The ferments are seen on display in concert with sculptures, and perceptual changes in the ferments are observed over time as part of the sculptures. The gaps between living and nonliving, active and static, art and nonart, are ontological questions that the work takes on. For Krautsourcing, Nash constructs a series of sculptural and wall-based works that draw on the spaces of the kitchen and the science lab as extensions of the studio and sites of knowledge production. Krautsourcing generates a heterotopic space for working with microbes and for thinking through connections between the artist’s transgender experience, family history, fermentation, and microbial existence. In this space, all organisms and atoms produce knowledge and subvert subject positions by engaging in a perpetual dance that observes the observer observing.

This exhibition is made possible thanks to the generous support of Rosalie & Jim Shane, the Marcus Arts Endowment, and the Rosenberg Arts Endowment.”