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David Zilber and Heather Barnett on Co-Creating with Nature


Collage of David Zilber, man in blue suit and glasses, and Heather Barnett

David Zilber photography credit: Armin Tehrani

Join chef, food scientist, author, and photographer David Zilber and artist, researcher, and educator Heather Barnett as they share their unique perspectives on co-creating with nature.

From fermentation to slime moulds, David and Heather will discuss what it means to put biological systems in the driving seat and consider the role that microbes and more-than-human species can play in the creative process.

Barbican Encounters stages interdisciplinary dialogues between major figures shaping our culture, from the visual and performing arts to fashion, design, and technology. At each encounter, the Barbican invites two people from different creative worlds to share their experiences, giving speakers and audiences alike a unique insight into their knowledge, influences and creative process.


David Zilber is a professional chef, food scientist, author, and photographer who hails from Toronto, Canada. He has worked in some of the world's top kitchens since 2004–most notably serving as the director of the Fermentation Lab at Restaurant Noma, where he employed microbes to transform familiar foods into bold new ingredients. During his 6 plus years there, he authored the New York Times Bestseller, “The Noma Guide to Fermentation” becoming a voice for science communication in the world of gastronomy. His joy for sharing knowledge has led him to teach and lecture at the likes of Harvard, Cambridge, and Stanford Universities. Striving to build a more sustainable global food system, he continues to work in the fields of food science and fermentation in collaboration with leading bioscience companies like Chr. Hansen from his adopted home of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Heather Barnett is an artist, researcher and educator working with natural phenomena and emergent systems. Employing live organisms, imaging technologies and playful pedagogies, her work explores how we observe, influence and understand multi-species ecosystems. Recent projects centre on nonhuman intelligence, collective behaviour and experimental systems for co-enquiry, working with slime moulds, ants and humans. As Artist in Residence, she has worked in diverse settings from research laboratories and remote ecological sites to museums, botanical gardens, and restaurants. Her work is exhibited widely, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Pompidou Centre, and the New Institute, and she is regularly runs workshops and gives talks, including a TED talk on the art and science of slime moulds. Heather is Pathway Leader on the MA Art and Science, and director of the Art & Living Systems Lab at Central Saint Martins.

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