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.
The Ecosophic World, beyond Human sense.
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 attack. 5 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
I am interested in furthering my current work with mycelium and bio-sonification by creating a multi-sensory experience. Part of my concept is to create works that consider deaf, and blind people, creating realtime bio-sonification work that can be felt as well as heard. If awarded a 2-month residency my plan would be to utilize each month towards the creation/ realization of the following project.
Precision Microdrives, 5mm vibration motor
8mm Vibration motor, Linear Resonant Actuator (LRA) vibration motors (also known as linear vibrators). LRA motors are different from Eccentric Rotating Mass (ERM) vibration motors in the way that they work, they are used, and how long they last
Month 1: Experiment with local Ganoderma taxa as well as purchased Ganoderma cultures to grow over 3D bio-filaments, and thermoformed structures that have been covered in nutrient agar. Nutrient agar is food for the mycelium, agar thickness determines mycelial thickness. During the mycelium growth cycle, some of the specimens will have haptic sensors introduced, the mycelium will (if successful) grow over and around the haptic motors literally embedding the sensors within their skin. The concept here is to include a vibro/tactile form of “listening” to the mycelial frequencies. The particular haptic sensors I intend to employ quietly and accurately transfer deep bass frequencies to create an immersive, full-body experience. While the mycelium forms grow, I will record a time-lapse video of their growth cycles, as well as microscopy images to be used in a final presentation/installation.
Month 2: Working with microscopy imagery/videos (perhaps SEM), from the agar plates I will create a virtual world, taking viewers inside the mycelial hyphae. Concept: Humans feeling the nonhuman life cycle, the living fungi control the augmented/virtual/haptic user experience.
One idea is to have bio-data recorded from me as well as visitors and/or assistants to control/influence the user experience. Realtime recorded mycelium bio-data is translated through the haptic sensors and analogue and/or digital synthesizers creating I would like to share my research/progress through a presentation and workshops, and/or public open studio/lab visits. Workshops I currently teach out of the University of Toronto’s iSkills program are Bio-Sonification: nonHuman collaboration. During these workshops, I take participants step by step through Breadboarding a bio-sonification Arduino shield. Other workshops I teach out of InterAccess.org new media maker space in Toronto are Touchpads, participants learn how to make bio-data recording electrodes, and Mycelium Bio-Material workshops.
Tools/equipment: Laminar/Flow/Clean hood, Malt agar & Petri dishes Microscopes/USB video accessory Prusa (or simular) 3D printer, Vacuum former or thermo-former, Arduino UNO, Magic Leap AR or equivalent headset, biodata recording modules (my own purpose-built circuit), 4-channel Ganglion board, electrodes, biomedical pads.
Software: Unity, OSC, OpenBCI, Magic Leap SDK (the Lab), Arduino, Processing, Max/Live
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.