M for Mycelium

Mycelium bowls.  Photo: Nomeda Urbonas
Mycelium bowls.
Photo: Nomeda Urbonas

Zooetics is a five year research project by art collaboration Jutempus*, exploring the possibility of bringing human knowledge, technologies and processes into closer collaboration and understanding with the knowledge, technologies and processes of other life that we are co-existing with on the planet.

This month the Zooetics Pavilion is in the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius in Lithuania. It was inspired by British novelist J.G. Ballard writing about living plant technologies in his collection of short stories Vermilion Sands (1971). In his fictional world Ballard describes a psychotropic house that interacts with its inhabitants and bio-clothes made from hypersensitive plants that respond to their wearers. Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas created a laboratory in the gallery making living material by mixing mycelium (mushroom root) with agricultural waste (sawdust, straw etc). Every week high school students and gallery visitors can work directly with the mycelium themselves. The material is strong and waterproof and can be used to create many forms: bowls, bricks, packaging, houses, perhaps boats. It is sustainable and could replace plastics, polystyrene and cardboard. Some of the mycelium was allowed to continue living and flourishing with its mushroom fruits. What would happen if we built our houses and other objects out of living material? What would happen if we engaged in more than human collaboration? What do we still have to learn from nature’s own technologies, especially from its systems of balances and symbiosis?

*Jutempus consists of artists Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas and writers / researchers Viktorija Siaulyte and Tracey Warr.

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