Inspired by the almost archetypal characters of handpuppets that I remember from my childhood in Germany, this project sets out to create "Body Puppets," with similar distinct characters. These body puppets are slightly bigger than life so that a person can enter one, physically, or pull one over to put it on. Thus one can become that character. These puppets are installed on a metal and wood armature in space. Armature is minimal as to not obstruct the puppets.
I grow the Kombucha-fungus culture as the material for these puppets. It grows in membrane form and is a symbiosis of yeast cells and different bacteria. It feeds off a solution of black tea and sugar. The fermentation process generates a liquid that is considered a panacea and is valued for its healing properties in Asia and, more currently, throughout the rest of the world. As the culture ages in time it organically evolves a thicker layer upon layer of living skin floating on top of the liquid. If the liquid is not periodically refreshed with the feeding solution (black tea and sugar) the culture will feed until there is nothing left but the skin itself.
A desired shape for the puppet is molded into one of the three ten foot by ten foot tanks that are insulated and temperature controlled at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The shape is made from sand and is lined with plastic sheeting. Then the Kombucha starter culture is poured into the shape and the feeding solution added. Away from the sunlight, with adequate ventilation and attentive care, the membrane grows into a milky, white, tough skin that covers the entire surface of whatever shape it is contained within. When the time and the thickness are right, the pellicle is taken out of the tank to dry (about 30% shrinkage occurs due to evaporation). The skins are sewn back-to-back, or according to a pattern. Then they are treated with frankincense and myrrh resin to protect and preserve them. The skins remain alive in organic stasis and will regenerate if returned to the feeding solution.
Though the puppets occupy a large amount of space when installed, they come down very easily and can be folded into shallow crates and shipped, either together or independently, from their armatures.
In September 2005 - ten years into working with the Kombucha Culture - my relationship with it found its deepest expression.
After consulting with the Homeopathic Doctor Miranda Castro i asked Helios Laboratories in Great Britain to develop the first remedy ever made from Kombucha Culture.
The sample for this came from my studio.
I will be the first person to experience and catalogue the effects of this medicine. Before this moment my relationship with the Kombucha had always manifested itself in sculpture.
From this intense exploration i realized that i was mostly using this living entity as though it was simply another material. Even though its properties and inherent nature were emphazised i kept feeling that this process is lacking something.
Would it be always so that the artist's hand forced form upon the unsuspecting, the chaotic, the seemingly disorganized body of matter?
And how could the artistic process open up and set free rather than close down and define the spaciousness and the momentum of life?
- Nöle Giulini, September 2005
Slides, photographs and/or video are available upon request.
(Click on photos for larger image)
Kombucha culture, felt, myrrh and frankincense resins.
21 x 26 x 2 in. -