OENOGRAF at MCA Sydney, for The National , a survey of contemporary Australian art
March – August 2021
Oenograf is a sculptural drawing instrument making live drawings powered by fermenting wine. As yeast eats sugar in fresh grape juice, the bubbling Carbon Dioxide released moves a carbon-fibre drawing arm, marking paper which is slowly rotating on a trolley moving approx. 1mm per hour along a table to make week-long drawings. The activity in the grape juice is like a tiny weather system, unpredictable and interesting, leading drawings into unpredictable twists and turns.
Oenograf is in collaboration with the French wine maker Gilles Lapalus of Maison Lapalus in Harcourt, Victoria Australia, who suggested I visit his wine-lab, to see if I would be inspired by the bubbling fermentation. Gilles supplies freshly fermenting wine for the project, which is then bottled and labeled.
The carbon footprint of the wine industry is very complex to assess. While fermentation releases some CO2 – which the drawings utilise – much of the carbon in the grape vines is re-composted into the vineyards, thereby keeping it locked up. But then we must look at the machinery, transportation, stainless steel equipment and so on to estimate the carbon footprint. Which I will leave to the scientists.
Yeast belongs to the family of Fungi. Many great books have been written on Fungi, and it is revealed that they are neither animal nor vegetable, and one of the most prolific, durable and mysterious lifeforms on the planet.