'Spit Drink', Jenna Sutela, 2021


Jenna Sutela in collaboration with Markus Shimizu, Mimi Ferments Berlin
Spit Drink, 2021
Three hand blown glass bottles, approx. 15 x 24 cm each

Spit Drink comes to life during an onsite fermentation workshop where a group of people prepare alcohol together based on the ancient method of mouth-chewed sake, known in Japan as kuchikamizake. Here, the enzymes in human saliva, together with yeasts from the air, function as agents for fermentation. Three hand blown bottles are used to preserve the communally produced drink, while also hosting the process of fermentation throughout the duration of the exhibition. The shape of the bottles is inspired by a biomimetic ‘flowform’ that produces rhythms similar to blood flow in the drink when it’s poured. One of the bottles will be left behind in the E-WERK archive for perpetuity.

The work addresses the idea of the ‘hypersea’ by geologists Mark and Dianna McMenamin. According to them, terrestrial organisms are bonded by the fact that their body fluids commingle and that this connectedness forms a sea through which other organisms and nutrients can move.

The Spit Drink “score” can be performed and replicated as follows:

To celebrate this symbiotic planet,
Chew and spit grains to convert their starch into sugar,
Leave the liquid to ferment by wild yeast in the air,
Get drunk on the alcohol brewed with your saliva.

— Sutela, Jenna. 2021. 140 Artists’ Ideas for Planet Earth, edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Kostas Stasinopoulos. London: Penguin Press.


Spit Drink, Jenna Sutela, The Archive Show, 2021. Photo courtesy of Andres Villareal

Click here to listen to the first in a new series of podcasts, The Artist as Consultant in which Jenna Sutela and Dr. Astrida Neimanis will discuss "the Hypersea" and other watery issues. Neimanis is a writer and cultural theorist who works at the interface between feminism and environmental change. Her research focuses on the body, water and weather and how they can help us reinvent justice, care, responsibility and relationship in times of climate disaster.

Jenna Sutela. Image courtesy of Ellie Lizbeth Brown

Jenna Sutela

Jenna Sutela works with words, sounds, and other living media, such as Bacillus subtilis nattō bacteria and the “many-headed” slime mold Physarum polycephalum. Her audiovisual pieces, sculptures, and performances seek to identify and react to precarious social and material moments, often in relation to technology. Sutela's work has been presented at museums and art contexts internationally, including Guggenheim Bilbao, Moderna Museet, and Serpentine Galleries. She is a Visiting Artist at The MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) in 2019-21.


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