This Artist Makes Cheese from the Mould That Landlords Won't Remove
July 24, 2019 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Avril Corroon has been collecting samples of mould from rental accommodation and using it as bacteria starter culture to make cheese. "The idea is to juxtapose precarious living standards with that of wealth, gentrification and thinking about where money is invested and where it is disinvested, and how often products are all made from a type of exploitation."
posted by Amberlyza (23 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am scared of this tasty looking death cheese
posted by aubilenon at 8:07 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


This is amazing art. My goodness.
posted by sciatrix at 8:23 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


That is revolting.

Not as revolting as the fact that people are forced to live in the conditions from which the mold was taken.

But still revolting.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:44 AM on July 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


Related: On the eve of the publication of The Recognitions, [Martin] Dworkin and [William] Gaddis were talking and drinking all night in Dworkin's one room apartment in the Village. The metal plates had already been prepared and were ready for printing. Toward morning, Dworkin, always the good host, asked Gaddis if he wanted something to eat. He then went to his small refrigerator and took out some fully ripened gorgonzola and said, with the book clearly in mind, "Here's one example of corruption that won't do anybody any harm." As Dworkin tells it, Gaddis's face fell. This had to get into the book. Later that morning, as soon as he could reach his publisher by phone, he authorized the scraping of the already printed metal plate to include the changes he wanted. From The Novelist and His Mentor by Bernard Looks
posted by chavenet at 9:02 AM on July 24, 2019


But that's dirty mold.
posted by waving at 9:09 AM on July 24, 2019


Jesus Christ
So, using it in the milk. The resulting cheeses are large, artisanal-looking products. They look edible, but they are in fact poisonous.

Poisonous?
Yeah, they're toxic.

How toxic are we talking?
I don't know officially because I couldn't afford to get the cheese tested in a food lab, but I’ve given myself some food poisoning in the past just from touching it and not washing my hands properly. Maybe I touched it and had a drink of water, I think.

And that was enough?
Yup. And my housemate’s boyfriend got a bit of it as well. At the beginning, I didn't really know how powerful it was.

I was kind of excited about making cheese for a minute, but not anymore.
posted by saysthis at 9:55 AM on July 24, 2019 [5 favorites]


"The idea is to juxtapose precarious living standards with that of wealth, gentrification and thinking about where money is invested and where it is disinvested..."

And surely cheese is the ideal vehicle for expressing that.
posted by Naberius at 9:56 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Why would this mold be more dangerous than any other mold when made into cheese? (honest question)
posted by mkuhnell at 11:31 AM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


The photo of 'Cheese curds mixed with bacteria from the rental property mould' reminds me of my previous bathroom ceiling half way through scrubbing it. This is perfectly creating something as disgusting as living with it. Imagine having one of those cheeses in your fridge and your friend opened the door and saw it! As well as the health risks, a mouldy flat make me ashamed - not the vile landlord who ignored it. Wonder what his flat's death cheese would look like now.

This is fascinating, thanks for posting.
posted by peepofgold at 11:52 AM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


After seeing several "and then they made cheese from [a disgusting mold from somewhere]" articles on the Blue, I am now a vegan.

Thanks, Obama!
posted by allthinky at 11:52 AM on July 24, 2019


Why would this mold be more dangerous than any other mold when made into cheese?

Cheese cultures are pretty specifically controlled to encourage the growth of certain sets of organisms that do desired things to the underlying animal product. You keep cheeses at certain temperatures / humidities / salinities precisely so that they don't grow other, undesirable microorganisms.

Which is to say, unless you know what you're doing, you don't need black mold to make your rotting dairy poisonous; it turns inedible pretty easily on its own.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:55 AM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


Nope. Not clicking.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:00 PM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


Why would this mold be more dangerous than any other mold when made into cheese?

Probably in part because the "good mold" that is carefully selected for artisan cheese does not produce any metabolic byproduct that is toxic to humans. With any kind of food poisoning, it's often a substance produced by a mold, bacteria, or virus as a metabolic byproduct of that microorganism growing in the food, and not the microorganism itself, that makes us sick. Some metabolites are actually tasty and essential to the finished thing - take lactic acid, which is what makes yogurt and cultured dairy things tangy. You're not tasting the bacteria in the yogurt, you're tasting delicious bacteria poop. Some molds will not have metabolites that are toxic to us, some definitely will.
posted by slow graffiti at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2019 [4 favorites]


Cheese cultures are pretty specifically controlled to encourage the growth of certain sets of organisms that do desired things to the underlying animal product. You keep cheeses at certain temperatures / humidities / salinities precisely so that they don't grow other, undesirable microorganisms.

Which is to say, unless you know what you're doing, you don't need black mold to make your rotting dairy poisonous; it turns inedible pretty easily on its own.


This is a big huge part of why the FDA won't let Americans make delicious European style (mostly French) unpasteurized young cheese. Basically, we don't really know how to do it right and can't be trusted to actually bother to do it right commercially. So there is a near blanket ban on some of the most amazing tasting food there is.

(Listeria isn't something you want to mess around with and I am not sure I have sufficient trust in American late stage capitalism to even try some if it were made here).
posted by srboisvert at 1:19 PM on July 24, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was lucky to be able to see this last weekend and can confirm that the critical-political-commentary cheese smells powerfully delicious. It filled a whole room with rich cheese-smell, and it was hard not to grab it off the shelf and scoff it. (After I watched the making-of video which was playing, it was slightly easier to resist.) That was on day 2 of the exhibition, so I'm not sure how it progressed; I didn't know that the fridges weren't plugged in...
posted by Socksmith at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2019


Erm, molds (a subset of fungi) are eukaryotic - they're definitely not bacteria.
posted by porpoise at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I usually can't grok any kind of installation art at all but this is COOL, especially that she's going to send the cheeses to the "responsible" estate agents. This kind of political art must be applicable to the 0.25%'s favourite, De Pfeffel...
posted by runincircles at 1:37 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


The possibility of some of the cheese not being carefully tracked during the project and safely destroyed immediately afterward, drifting away from its framing as art and coming to someone's attention as just a delicious-looking piece of cheese is giving me anxiety.

OTOH, if anyone needs a novel assassination method for a story...
posted by acb at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


That was on day 2 of the exhibition, so I'm not sure how it progressed

I saw it Sunday afternoon and, well, it definitely still smelled, and that smell was definitely no longer "powerfully delicious".
posted by severalbees at 5:10 PM on July 24, 2019


Incidentally fresh raw-milk cheeses are legal in some form in several states, although there are a lot of weird loopholes and distribution issues.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:05 PM on July 24, 2019




I think this is one of the few times I've seen an art piece that seems like arbitrary bullshit, I've seen the artist statement, and had my opinion on the piece do a complete 180. You're right, Mr Corroon, this is actually a powerful metaphor on exploitation and corruption and not just makin' a bunch of cheese and calling it culturally significant
posted by Merus at 9:57 PM on July 24, 2019


@EXISTENZ, I think the similarities are pretty superficial. I mean, sure, they're both gross cheeses made out of surprising ingredients, but Corroon is making a much broader statement about how culture (in both senses of the word) arises out of exploitation. An expensive fancy product is built on the suffering of poor people, and it might well kill the rich too.

If anything, it reminds me the most of a project from decades ago where a photographer developed photos in untreated Lake Ontario water. Those of us who are old enough to remember the smell of a darkroom have a visceral understanding of how toxic photo chemicals are, and yet Jeremy Lynch was able to develop a photo in the lake on whose shores eleven million people live. (It took him ~26 hours rather than a few minutes, but still.) I can't find any images of the photos, but I remember finding them very haunting at the time -- poor quality, grey and washed out, but definitely real photographs of the Toronto skyline.

@Merus, Avril Corroon is a woman. She is interviewed at length in the link.
posted by Amberlyza at 6:59 AM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


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