One Potato: A Cabinet for Unexpected Life documents the unexpected organisms that populated Basement lab area during Svenja Kratz’s six month residency as Fringe Catalyst at The Edge, a digital cultural centre at the State Libary of QLD in 2013. The works comment on the artist’s experimentation with plant culture techniques, particularly the creative deviations inspired by the culture process.
During the first few months of the residency, Svenja produced over 50 clones from a single sweet potato plant using a simple sub-culturing technique. Following the initial successful subculture of sweet potato plants, the artist started experimenting with different methods of plant micro-propagation using African Violets. A fungal infection that originated in the kombucha cultures (used in The Edge’s “Grow and Sew” workshops) spread throughout the basement area requiring the disposal of these early plant culture experiments. Following the contamination of plant cultures by fungal spores, the artist observed that other organisms had started to populate the basement space including fruit flies (attracted to the kombucha cultures and plant based paints the artist produced), algae and pond life (accidentally brought in on plant cuttings from the artist’s home), as well as spider mites.
While many of these unexpected organisms were detrimental to the plant cultures, they inspired the artist to experiment and learn more about their particular attributes and culture requirements.
The resulting artwork consists of a furniture installation incorporating glass, light, video, algae and fruit fly cultures. While the work makes a literal reference to the different organisms that came to occupy the space, it also celebrates the wonder and joy of discovery and the creative potentials that unexpected connection, encounters and outcomes can produce. The installation is exhibited in conjunction with additional works on paper composed of plant based paint and algae, as well as photomedia images on slides.