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Insights of an Eco Artist

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Creative Studio

09: Contemporary Currents - Contamination as Collaboration: The Interdisciplinary Practice of Alanna Lynch

Join us as we delve into the captivating world of Alanna Lynch, a Canadian performance artist whose unique blend of biology, psychology, and visual arts challenges our perceptions of identity, society, and the human condition. Discover how her innovative use of materials like bacterial cellulose and her thought-provoking projects, such as "Gut Feelings," blur the lines between art and science, inviting us to rethink the interconnectedness of life and the complexities of our symbiotic relationships.

Today, we explore the captivating world of Alanna Lynch, a Canadian performance artist, who delves into contemporary questions through an interdisciplinary lens, merging art and science. Her background in biology and psychology, coupled with an MFA in visual arts, uniquely positions her to explore various domains simultaneously, blurring the boundaries between the humanities and sciences.

Lynch's work serves as a provocative exploration of the human condition, prompting critical reflection on the interconnectedness of life, identity, and societal constructs.


Alanna Lynch is a Berlin-based artist and researcher working with living entities, organic materials, smell, and performance – examining the politics of affect, questions of agency, and the stickiness of feelings. She draws on diverse studies, activism, as well as her own embodied experiences.  She has exhibited and performed internationally and was a recent artist in residence at the Banff Centre (Canada).  She was a founding member of the artist collective Scent Club Berlin, and her work has been supported by grants from Germany, Canada, and Sweden.  In 2018 she was awarded the Berlin Art Prize.

Meet the artist

Her artistic research centers on themes of disgust, fear of contagion, and the complexities of life and death, which makes you contemplate medical, psychological, and cultural dimensions.

Just to give you a glimpse of her practice, Lynch's ongoing project, "POTENTIALS," one that I found particularly interesting involves cultivating colonies of fruit flies, a process she meticulously documents through observation, microscopic photography, and performative displays. This project not only engages with scientific research but also challenges viewers' perceptions, evoking reactions ranging from curiosity to discomfort.

Lynch's work invokes tactile, olfactory, and emotional responses, prompting viewers to confront their own identities and societal constructs. Through unconventional mediums like hair and urine, Lynch explores themes of gender, race, and societal norms, challenging viewers to reconsider their perceptions of the human body and identity.


By transforming her studio/laboratory into exhibition spaces, Lynch offers viewers an immersive experience into her creative process, demystifying the artistic and scientific approaches. Underscoring the convergence of art and science and making the research accessible to a broader audience.

Gut Feelings, Fermenting Feminism, 2019

“Alanna Lynch’s Gut Feelings is a research-based project on the microbiome … The work features sculptural objects such as gloves made from dehydrated kombucha SCOBYs—a bacterial cellulose “fabric.” The gloves, which are typically meant to protect a human wearer from a contaminating agent or material, are themselves composed of the contaminating material—in this way, they come to symbolize a cross-species, “contamination as collaboration” ethos of feminist fermentation. The co-mingling of contamination and protection reflects the blurred lines of mind and body, gut and bacteria, self and other, human and non-human, of the microbiome and its intermeshing of borders and bounds. Lynch is energized by the idea, now echoed in science discourse, that “symbiosis is not mutually beneficial” (notably: in biology, the term “symbiosis” has recently been redefined to reflect the often disproportionate dynamics in symbiotic relationships). Alongside the sculptural gloves is a salon-style hanging of Lynch’s drawings and sketches, photographs, and written reflections on “abnormal” SCOBY growth based on her observations of her many SCOBYs in the studio. A variety of different fungi and moulds—other microbes which coexist in strange ways with Lynch’s kombucha—grow on the surface of the booch, on display in this wall-based installation that provides a glimpse into the artist’s experiments in her studio-cum-laboratory.”

 Gut Feelings, 2016-ongoing

This performance in particular entails a visceral and immersive exploration of bodily fluids and their permeability, as well as the communication of smells.

In the performance, a long glass container holds 18 liters of liquid, filled with skin-like substances, symbolizing bodily fluids. As the performer plunges their arm into the container, the liquid overflows onto the table and floor, emitting an intense, acidic smell reminiscent of kombucha tea. 


The performance underscores the significance of smells as molecules suspended in the air, which trigger sensory perceptions and emotional responses. Smells serve as a means of communication within symbiotic relationships, whether between microorganisms or humans and their microbiota. 


The performer interacts with the material, pulling out cellulose biofilms housing microorganisms and hanging them to dry, further diffusing the smell. Ultimately, leaving behind a wet mess, symbolizing the labor required to contain and clean up bodily fluids and their lingering effects, offers a profound exploration of the complexities of bodily fluids, their communication through smells, and their impact on perception and the environment.


In summary, Lynch's work with bacterial cellulose reflects her interdisciplinary exploration of the material's conceptual depth and challenges, while also raising questions about sustainability, industrial practices, and the potential for conscious communication in the natural world.

Find more about the artist here.

All images courtesy of Alanna Lynch.

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