Artist’s Palate: Mark Titchner’s scrying crackers with yeast extract

‘Dauville Charcoal’ small plate, £42 for set of four, by Canvas Home, from Amara. Horn butter knife, £11, by Hornvarefabrikken, from SCP. Lifestyle: Emma Moore. Food: Peta O'Brien
(Image credit: John Short)

Twelve months after the Brexit vote, mandarins in Downing Street and Brussels are tackling the question: ‘What now?’ Mark Titchner – the 2006 Turner Prize nominee behind installations comprising existential koans like Why is there something instead of nothing? – may have the answer. He turned to John Dee, Elizabeth I’s advisor, who used an obsidian mirror to peer, or ‘scry’, through time. ‘We are trying to discern the post-Brexit future with a reflective “scrying bowl” of yeast extract,’ says Titchner. ‘Which is probably higher tech than what the Tories are planning!’


Cream crackers
Yeast extract

To make the yeast extract:

A litre of brewer's yeast (top fermentation from a brewery)
Sea salt
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 turnip, diced
1/2 celery stick, diced


1. Wash the yeast. Put the top fermentation into a jar full of water. Eventually, the yeast will settle to the bottom of the jar. Pour off the water, and fill the jar again with fresh water. Do this several times to wash the yeast.
2. Put a litre of the washed brewer's yeast with a little salt, in a bain marie. Simmer at blood heat, 30 to 40ºc for ten hours or overnight.
3. Then simmer this mixture at 50 to 60º c for 2 to 3 hours.
4. Boil at low temperature 90ºc for half an hour.
5. Filter though coffee papers or a sieve and cheesecloth
6. Let it cool for a day or so. It separates further.
7. Filter again.
8. You then want to convert it to a paste. This is best achieved by putting it in a large flat pan and carefully, gently simmering. 
9. Meanwhile, boil up all the vegetables until they are cooked. Strain off the liquid and incorporate into the paste. 
10. Let the mixture reduce into a smooth, tar-like texture. Do not allow it to burn.

The entire process takes about ten days.

11. Apply the home-made yeast extract with a knife or spatula, thickly to a dry cream cracker. Do not use butter or margarine. The yeast extract should be applied thickly to form a smooth, brown reflective surface.

As originally featured in the June 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*219)


For more information, visit Mark Titchner’s website

Daven Wu is the Singapore Editor at Wallpaper*. A former corporate lawyer, he has been covering Singapore and the neighbouring South-East Asian region since 1999, writing extensively about architecture, design, and travel for both the magazine and website. He is also the City Editor for the Phaidon Wallpaper* City Guide to Singapore.