Revisiting SAMADHI: A STATE OF MYCELIAL ONENESS
Mycelial oneness is a concept I started researching in 2017.
Since its inception, my work has involved the potential of fungal "sentience" and where it sits or resides.
I started focussing on quantum entanglements, which brought me to dark matter and cortical columns. Through cultivating fungal mycelium, I began to see connections between these topics and visual data.
With sentience, I am also referring to consciousness.
What if non-Indigenous people accept that they are part of a greater, collective living ecological “interbeing” that includes all life on our planet?
Daniel Benor, MD from The Web of Life: Human Symbiosis with Other Life Forms and the Environment
My fascination with Mycelium (the root structure of mushrooms) is compounded by several factors: Fungi are neither plant nor animal, and fungi can clean up ecological disasters, filter out radioactive isotopes, and help people grappling with major depressive disorder, thoughts of suicide and the emotional repercussions of a cancer diagnosis.
THE ECOSOPHIC WORLD, BEYOND HUMAN SENSE
Expanding upon Samadhi: a state of mycelial oneness.
While Animalia and Fungi may look different, they are both Eukaryotes, multicellular organisms with a nucleus enclosed by a membrane. This allows them to grow complex structures with a range of unique cells differentiated by their genetic makeup and environmental influences. My proposal and project invite people to consider non-human sentience, for the possibility of nonhuman communication and intelligence that is palpable, comprehensible and emotionally impactful to a lay audience. Simply and eloquently, I strive to bring awareness to the moral and ethical weight of our complicity within an Anthropocentric model merely by introducing a paradigm shift that reveals our “Specist” bias in how we view our shared environment as a member of homo sapiens.
Sentience is the ability to perceive one’s environment, and experience sensations such as pain and suffering, or pleasure and comfort. In Buddhist cosmology; Every sentient being is part of the cycle of rebirth1. Many countries now acknowledge animal sentience, and animals’ ability to experience pain, fear, distress, hunger, and thirst, in their laws, which are designed to protect animals from such suffering2. In 1997, the European Union agreed to recognize animals as ‘sentient beings’ under European law. How might Brexit affect sentience?3 Species generally acknowledged to be sentient include those with backbones, as well as octopus and squid, and crabs and lobsters4. However, recently plants have been shown to exhibit pain, and send distress signals to fellow species when under insect attack5
Animals and fungi share a common ancestor and branched away from plants at some point approximately 1.1 billion years ago. It was only later that animals and fungi separated on the genealogical tree of life, making mushrooms more closely related to humans than plants6. Are Animals, humans able to infer sentience to fungi? Let us consider “the humongous fungus”, Armillaria 7 ostoyae of Oregon, United States. Estimated to weigh over 400,000kg, covering an estimated area of 9.1 km2 around 2,500 to possibly 11,000 years old! 8
This project invites awareness for the possibility of nonhuman communication and intelligence that is palpable, comprehensible and emotionally impactful to a lay audience. Simply and eloquently, I strive to bring awareness to the moral and ethical weight of our complicity within an Anthropocentric model merely by introducing a paradigm shift that reveals our “Specist” bias in how we view our shared environment as a member of homo sapiens.
This work asks people to consider the non-human sentience of fungi.
Animals and fungi share a common ancestor and branched away from plants at some point about 1.1 billion years ago. It was only later that animals and fungi separated on the genealogical tree of life, making mushrooms more closely related to humans than plants.
This interactive installation consists of 5 rectangular containers with living mycelium growing over agar covered armatures.
The agar covered forms vary from geometric to human in nature.
The Human armature: vacuum formed face.
Geometric armatures: vacuum formed 3D primitive forms.
The vacuum formed PETG forms are placed into rectangular Petri-like dishes, nutrient agar is poured over the forms which are then autoclaved, cooled and inoculated with Ganoderma lucidum and Pleurotus ostreatus spores. Over several days the spores knit hypha together forming a mycelial (leather-like) skin over the surface of the agar forms.
Each Mycelium form is connected with electrodes that run into a purpose made circuit for collecting biodata. This biodata is then translated in realtime to MIDI/cv (control voltage) out into synthesizers for the installation.
Visitors are invited to interact with the sculptures by placing their hands on touchpads that run through the mycelial forms, allowing them to hear and feel their own bio-sonification filtered through the fungi, in turn, the fungi react (or not) to the Human visitors.
As well as sending biodata through MIDI, creating a realtime fungi soundscape, the mycelium bio-electrical energy can control visitors through muscle stimulation.
Visitors send their bio-electrical back to the mycelium creating a feedback loop.
How will the mycelium respond to Human interactions? How might the interactions affect the mycelial growth? In turn, how will Human visitors respond to mycelial stimulation? Hearing and feeling the mycelium react to them in the space might create empathy or apathy, even fear.
Empirically, when fully connected and music is being generated, Mycelium consistently generates periodic patterns that are both enigmatic but also very musical.
Mycelium also appears to be particularly sensitive to the presence of people.
As visitors enter the installation are they relaxed, stressed, positive, curious, anxious? How might this affect the living sculptures? As more people enter the space will the Mycelium soundscape sound grow frenetic or more harmonic?
For reasons that I do not fully understand, the Mycelium reacts to the proximity of some people more than others.
Mask sculpted with Ganoderma lucidum, hemp 2017
1. Ethics and Trade – The Challenge of Animal Sentience (2006) ed Turner, J, and 1 D'Silva, J, Earthscan, London
2. Karma in Buddhism: reincarnation and rebirth, http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/ 2 karma.html
3. EU strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-15 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-3 content/ EN/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM%3A3004_1
4. Invertebrate Welfare Cause, https://www.rethinkpriorities.org/blog/2019/7/6/invertebrate-4 welfarecause-profile 5. Plants emit informative airborne sounds under stress, BioRxiv preprint I. Khait, View ORCID
5. Profile O. Lewin-Epstein, R. Sharon, K. Saban, R. Perelman, A. Boonman, Y. Yovel, L. Hadany doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/507590 6. Determining Divergence Times of the Major Kingdoms of Living Organisms with a Protein
6. Clock Russell F. Doolittle, Da-Fei Feng, Simon Tsang, Glen Cho and Elizabeth Little Science New Series, Vol. 271, No. 5248 (Jan. 26, 1996), pp. 470-477
7. Ethical Extensionism under Uncertainty of Sentience: Duties to Non-Human Organisms without Drawing a Line KAI M.A. CHAN Environmental Values Vol. 20, No. 3 (August 2011), pp. 323-346 Published by: White Horse Press https://www.jstor.org/stable/23048366
8. USDA, The Malheur National Forest Location of the World’s Largest Living Organism [The 8 Humongous Fungus] Craig L. Schmitt, Forest Pathologist Michael L. Tatum, Forest Silviculturist 2008
Ecosophic: Ecosophy or ecophilosophy is a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. The term was coined by the French post-structuralist philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari and the Norwegian father of deep ecology, Arne Næss.