(  w O mb  )




Part of "Precarious Circumstances"

group exhibition with the QM&A Artist Collective




I am human. I am lost.

Since we were born, since we left the womb of our mothers, we feel naked and defenceless.

We built encompassing incubators: houses, cities, civilizations, immune systems,

borders between you - my microbial ancestors - and me.



Maaijke Middelbeek, SCOBY,  artificial womb, post-humanist, becoming with


symbiotic cultures of bacteria & yeast (SCOBY)

in acrylic glass womb




Bacteria merged to create humans cells. They are what we grew from. They date back almost 4 billion years, while we, homo sapiens, emerged only yesterday on earth’s scale, about 300.000 years ago. Some of those ancient microbes still guide us today. They are on and in and around us. 



Maaijke Middelbeek, SCOBY, Other-Mother, post-anthropocene, post-humanist, interspecies care


SCOBY in glass with embalming fluid

February 2022


"My womb" is a symbol of connection. The fantastic apparatus allows me to make contact- and fuse with my other-than-human kin. It helps to rehabilitate a bond to those that were at the very beginning of life. No other human experience comes close to the symbiotic state of connection to another being than growing a child within the safe borders of your own body. But then it is "my artificial womb". It is a technically induced, externalized intimacy. My bodily fluids mingle with the symbiotic mothercultures of the bacteria and yeast. I inhale the vapors and steams of this process of life. We care for each other, we contaminate each other. We communicate, although there is this "artifact", through this artifact, the artificial, the cultured, we become with eachother. 


my artificial w O mb

a posthuman birth

a birth out of fermentation,


& interspecies care

Maaijke Middelbeek, SCOBY, artificial womb


Acrylic glass womb on foot, with Baby SCOBY & amniotic fluid

Funnel with dried SCOBY cellulose

Tubes with mother's milk




Fluid bags with: 

my blood, my urine, tea & sugar


Ultrasound of artist in womb,

Nov. 1979 preserved with SCOBY cellulose


The first week of my life I was isolated in an incubator. Even though I was born post-term I was underweight. I was taken from the utopian state in the uterus to a sterile place without mother, without touch, without bacteria. Yet our bodies are a microbial cosmos, according to bacteria we are billions. They don’t understand isolation or sterile environments, this is not what sustains them, this is not what sustains us. 



A new SCOBY only grows from a mother culture and is therefore also called Baby SCOBY

Maaijke Middelbeek, SCOBY, bio cellulose, mother culture, interspecies care


I  Mother Culture in Incubator


Umbilical Cord from SCOBY cellulose. umbilical cord clip

Acrylic glass, SCOBY cellulose hanging to dry, incubator

with mother culture, tube with mother's milk 



II  Mother Culture under Skin

Skin & umbilical cord from SCOBY cellulose, umbilical cord clip


tube with mother's milk, acrylic glass 

incubator with mother culture 


III Mother Culture in glass