A Real Life Snow Globe Making in which Rice Grains Decompose and Fall Like Snowflakes in the Metabolic Process of Microorganisms
The research project "Summersnowglobalism" in and through a series of artistic practices delved into the relationship between matter and meaning conveyed through aesthetic experience. It focused on the vitality of physical phenomena and the emergence of phenomenological connotations in order to develop an artistic framework and methodology for reconfiguring reductive formulations endowed with mechanical worldview into performative alternatives.
The artistic research, in parallel with the scientific reflection, consists mainly of the following three stages:
1. Summer Snow
2. Snow Globe
In the first and second chapters, as part of the initial stages of research and the pre-treatment of research objects prior to subsequent hands-on practice, several historical events were examined in order to dispel still-life-like spatial orders that have haunted 'modern' countries: One was the large-scale reforestation of poplar trees in the northern areas of China, initiated by Mao's government to combat desertification. Another was the appearance of the first snow globe with the Eiffel Tower at the Exposition de Paris in 1889, which showed visitors the fruits of Western technological progress and colonised cultures and peoples in sealed or fenced allocations. However, these fictional yet actual heterotopias were reviewed as straightforwardly as possible until they are stripped down to their essence as body itself.
The focal point of the research veers toward bodily frictions that produce flamboyant 'snow' effect: The snowpocalypse caused by the fluffy white seeds that female poplar trees shed every summer in Beijing putting their 'masters' at risk of various health issues, fire hazards, and property damage. On the other hand, the jumbled animation folds and unfolds latent spaces in, out, and through the material continuum of a snow globe, whispering its reproductivity as a sort of image generator. The highlighted materiality of their bodies raises an ironic question, “Did we ever really have things under control?”
Based on Le Guin's carrier bag theory of fiction, we re-appropriate the snow globe and the poplar trees as containers and carriers to gather various elements for so-called feminist "world-making" as an artistic practice. As actors in the performance of a new kind of narrative, they have nothing to do with the celebrated cliché of untamed wildness or subversive ones against their creator's will.
In this respect, the third chapter, 'summersnowglobalism', presents the materialisation of a 'quirky' snow globe as an evolving society, using the body parts of the poplar as a microbiological medium and the snow globe as a fermentation vessel and magnifying glass to illuminate miscroscopic interaction between critters. As a methodological strategy, the practice partially appropriates the microbial fermentation recipe of Dongdongju*, a type of rice wine characterised by the appearance of falling or floating rice grains as they decompose during the metabolic process of microorganisms.
A 'queer' snow globe realisation, which we would ultimately call Summersnowglobalism, is outlined as follows:
1. The fluff and leaves of the poplar tree are spread in a dough made by grinding soaked rice. The dough, in which the microbes have migrated, is then placed in an incubator at the right temperature and humidity until it becomes yeast, covered with white filamentous and yellow-green fungi.
2. Place the yeast, steamed rice and water in a spherical glass vessel. During the fermentation process, the residual rice and yeast will separate from the wine, engendering a continuous transformation of 'earthly' or 'climatic' patterns, including 'snowfall', projected onto the performance of the living members of the small world.
This artistic research can be understood as a postcolonial production of knowledge through materialisation that simulates open-ended spatial possibilities that go beyond predestined organisation, which need be neither the starting point nor the goal of a production.