Mycocene

Researchers: Matthew Halpenny and Owen Coolidge, BFA students, Design and Computation Arts

Project scope: “Mycocene is an art installation exploring speculative futures that move past the notion of an Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is stuck in a negative feedback loop in which humans and our ecosystems are assumed to be in a fixed state. This state is one that humans have created through industrial and information technologies; it is one we cannot exit without causing irreparable damage to our global ecosystem.

The Mycocene speculates on a future that can live in harmony with nature, one that composts our current use of technology into one that has symbiosis in mind. Symbiosis within the Mycocene blurs the line between conventional technology and nature and explores uses of technology that do not attempt to save nor exploit our ecosystems, but augment and communicate with them. How does mycology tie into such a future?

“Mycelia is a highly redundant, complexley branched, self-repairing, and scalable communications network linking many species over tremendous distances” (Paul Stamets). Mycelium is the communication highway between species, it is an integral link within ecosystems, functioning much like an internet of nutrients (much of which it creates through compost) and signals. In the spirit of this metaphor, the Mycocene project will repurpose electronic waste to be in symbiosis with this highly advanced natural system of mycelium. In doing so, foreground the immense intelligence that nature exhibits which, as a species, we (humans) choose to ignore.

Mycocene is an interpretation of a future where humans play a positive role in the Earth’s complex system of self-regulation, feedback, and evolution. It symbolizes a social and ecological revolution to save our planet and those living on it. Technology is part of our collective identity, we do not have to stop using technology as a species to help the Earth survive – we just need to change how we view our technology and our place in the global ecosystem…

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For Mycocene, we will be building a symbiotic structure that incorporates mycelium into reclaimed electronic waste. This waste often gets bundled together and shipped away due to environmental toxicity, which creates a myriade of environmental problems globally. The mycelial network we are growing will be housed in a controlled acrylic habitat based off a rhizotron, which is used to study mushroom/plant growth. This will allow viewers to see the internal workings of the piece…

Reinvigorated with life and repurposed back into the earth (soil) from which their components are mined from, the electronics (in the form of old phone LCD screens, piezoelectric speakers, computer fans, etc.) will behave organically – unraveling memories from their past, but, most importantly, continuing their life symbiotically within the natural ecosystem.”

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