Mycelium and Fungal Networks

I found the magnitude of the significance of fungi in the natural system – and in science as a whole – to be super eye-opening. I didn’t realize just how “everywhere” fungi and fungal networks existed. In lecture, it was mentioned that the largest living organism on earth is a fungus, and I thought it was fascinating that the biggest singular lifeform in the world is something we can’t see.

I found our conversations about mycorrhizal networks to be super interesting; the fact that trees have a way of “signaling” to each other – including warning each other of danger – is incredible, and the fact that they use fungi to do it is even more fascinating. Trees transport nutrients, water, and signals through the networks (frontiersin.org).

Furthermore, I found the applicability of mycelium throughout science to be super interesting and innovative. Use of mycelium to decompose bodies, for instance (as in Jae Rhim Lee’s Ted Talk), is efficient, beautiful, and good for the environment. Outside of the human body, mycelium serves as an all-around strong composting agent, as it is highly renewable, low-cost, and produces little to no emissions (National Library of Medicine).

Furthermore, mycelium and other fungi can be used to create otherwise unsustainable materials. Mycelium can be used to create strong packaging and serve as a good alternative for leather, which is incredibly powerful because of its highly renewable nature and, again, sustainability (The New York Times).

Fungi also make powerful, fascinating art not only because of their physical beauty, but also because of their surreality, magnitude, and meaning-packed nature. Fungi symbolize growth, progress, union, and interweaving in an incredibly unique way.

While researching fungal art, I came across an exhibit by GroundWork called “Nature’s Mysterious Networks: Mushrooms, Mycelia and Yeasts,” which contain a bunch of beautiful, captive art using mycelia and other mushrooms. Artists use mushrooms to make spore prints, or a print made by cutting off a mushroom stem and putting it on paper. This simple idea creates stunning circular patterns that look almost wrinkly and three-dimensional.

 

Furthermore, microscope-level depictions of fungi are equally as stunning. They bring with them this branched nature, allowing for, again, beautiful patterns and unique separation.

I found the works we saw in the gallery to be incredibly interesting because of the different ways they used mushrooms as symbols. Specifically, the stained glass piece used mushrooms to depict beauty, simplicity, and the structural nature of mushrooms. One of the other pieces, which used fungi to create an outfit of a person with body hair, examined the natural themes that surround mushrooms and this idea of emphasis on what is, not what something or someone should be.