Residency artists and researchers

Multidisciplinary art

Aliisa Talja

Artist, researcher, writer


I will be working with sourdough culture at the Saari Residence. Sourdough culture is a fermented mixture of water and flour that humans have used for millennia to make bread. It contains a collection of microbes that are beneficial for the body, wild yeasts that occur in nature and lactobacilli. Each culture is unique. Its microbiota is unique, as is the taste of the bread made from it. That’s why bakers throughout the ages have protected sourdough cultures that produce particularly tasty bread. What can baking with sourdough culture teach us about care?

During my residency, I will examine the care relationship between the sourdough culture – that is, a particular microbiota – and the baker – a human being. This relationship consists of reciprocity, preservation, reviving, feeding, touching, kneading, enjoying… What else? It extends beyond the baker and the culture: to the landscape, the earth, the plate, the stomach… Where else? It intertwines chains, structures and practices of care… What else? In my research, I will pay special attention to the connection between gender and care.

My work at the Saari Residence will include baking, performances and documenting my work. Baking with a sourdough culture is a concrete way of caring for others, whether they are humans, habitats or microbes. It requires being present, as well as patience and slowness. As a way of working, performance requires peace, courage and privacy. By combining sourdough baking with performance, I will explore the physical and functional knowledge related to care.

Other actions that support my work are reading, writing and analysing the care cultures that have emerged around baking from a design and organisational perspective.

This residency is an important opportunity for me to develop my personal practice. I am practising tolerating uncertainty. While I don’t know if it is possible to explore cultures of care by baking and reflecting, I will explore the opportunities this starting point will open up one loaf of bread, one reading experience, one thought and one performance at a time.


Aliisa Talja is a researcher, writer, facilitator and artist. Her previous collaborations with microbes include, for example, growing the kombucha fungus into a digital synthesiser interface, running a sourdough culture baking-ASMR session on a streaming service and facilitating a pickle workshop at the Kosminen Gallery. Aliisa has a Master of Arts degree in design. She uses her education to examine social and cultural structures, to perceive them as designed and implemented by someone, and to imagine and organise other types of structures. Aliisa is also preparing a publication on emotions, feminist awakenings and influential relationships in design work.