Mara-Johanna Kölmel: In a way, then, one could say that you imitate the very idea of brewing in the digital medium and in the sense of bringing different heterogeneous materials together to create one powerful potion. I think there is something magical in brewing itself but also in the concept of brewing as a cultural praxis to access our contemporary. How would you describe your artistic notion of brewing?
Marie-Eve Levasseur: As for brewing or cooking, art could be understood as a »container« that is filled with materials, images, associations, colors, textures, fictions, and experiences, then being submitted to different transformations with various tools and techniques, accepting the sometimes mysterious accidents and glitches on the way and maybe learning from them. While brewing, there are also many containers, one for each step of the transformation, and each time it contains the liquid in the process of becoming a beer. Although the result is planned, the taste and the nuances that you can then perceive are never the same (if we’re not talking industrial production, of course). They have been influenced by the moment, the brewer/brewster’s mood, what was available within the spice shelf, which malts were in storage … and maybe even the moon phase can change something, since it has an effect on so many bodies of water and living beings. There is also the actions of a very invisible wild yeast in the air, or from the skin of the brewster, so there is a part of homebrewing you can’t completely control, and I like that. I think the magic often comes from what you can’t control or reproduce. It’s often through some sort of unconscious collaboration with glitches, errors, or in the case of brewing, wild yeast, that we come to a result that has an unusual potential.
Mara-Johanna Kölmel: What is important to emphasize is that your work actually celebrates co-authorship with the nonhuman. Its protagonist is the yeast that activates, transforms, and gives life. To close our conversation, what does symbiotic care in the twenty-first century mean to you? How does it manifest, and how can we attune our surroundings to take on the responsibility of caring?
Marie-Eve Levasseur: I see symbiosis here as mutualistic, where each organism contributes something that benefits the survival of the other. And being mutually beneficial, the symbiosis becomes caring in itself. The brewing person is feeding the yeast with sugars and takes care of the optimal conditions in temperature and humidity, and in return, the yeast cells will ferment the beverage. Without this collaboration, beer cannot exist. I think it is part of a post-anthropocentric strategy to acknowledge the doings and importance of other beings, which reminds us of a deep mutual dependence on this planet. Thinking only through and with the anthropos is an error that has shaped our species for too long. I understand Muntu Maxims as exactly this: a symbiotic caring future with awareness of the connections and mutual dependencies of everything that lives.
May Ninkasi live with you – let her pour your beer everlasting.
Marie-Eve Levasseur’s work deals with intimacy, interactions, and non-human ecosystems. She works with video, installation, sculpture, and 3D animation, among other techniques. The method she uses feeds from feminist science fiction and its emancipatory potential. Her projects produce speculative fabulations; imagined situations with fictive devices, extensions for human and non-human beings that open a cross-species dialogue.
Mara Johanna Kölmel is a London-based curator and art historian with a special interest in (post-)digital art and culture. She has performed international curatorial roles for the Biennale of Sydney/Australia and Kunsthalle Hamburg/Germany, also realizing exhibitions at Somerset House and The Silver Building in London/UK with the curatorial collective Approved by Pablo.