This morning, the Speculative Life Lab at Milieux gave birth to a new microbial offspring: A kombucha SCOBY (an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) that will be draped into a skirt. A microbial membrane for a shirt is currently in the growing phase and will emerge from its own life-giving kiddie pool in the coming days. For those unfamiliar, SCOBY is the fluid and bacterial cellulose that grows as a byproduct of the fermentation of the fizzy fermented beverage kombucha.
WhiteFeather Hunter and Théo Chauvirey have spent much of the summer experimenting with SCOBYs in the Spec Life lab. Hunter is the lab’s technician as well as its interim Principal Investigator, and Chauvirey is a Master’s student in design who works on creating alternative biomaterials.
For their latest project, Hunter and Chauvirey grew a SCOBY to cover the entire surface area of a kiddie pool. After the bacterial cellulose had begun growing, they embedded a series of 3D printed forms made of PLA (polylactic acid), which provide both a pattern for the textile and another dimension for its bacterial growth. PLA is an industrially produced cellulose, making this a hybrid cellulose biotextile.
After four weeks, Hunter and Chauvirey eased their SCOBY skirt from the pool and onto a tarp where they dried some excess liquid from its surface. Next they will cut a hole in the centre of the cellulose mat, and drape it on a vintage hoop skirt that dates to 1867.
This project, which Hunter and Chauvirey called Bucci, which is part of a larger biomaterials exploration. Bucci incorporates the agency of microbes and machines in an organic, mechanic mashup of media to produce a post-human garment. The wearing of the Bucci garment is the wearing of a living matter. When it’s dried, kombucha cellulose doesn’t die, but goes dormant.
The Bucci skirt, and its matching shirt, will be on display at Fashion POP, presented as part of POP Montreal on September 13th at the Rialto Theatre. More details on the event are available here.
The Speculative Life Lab is located on the 10th floor of the EV Building on Concordia’s downtown campus. Read more about work currently underway at the lab here.