Tosca Teran and Andrei Gravelle have been interested in collaboration with non-human organisms for several years now. Primordia, their installation for Grow Op 2019 at the Gladstone Hotel involved biosonification of a large-scale mycelium sculpture, requiring human contact to activate a powered biofeedback system that creates ethereal patterns of music.
Mycelium is the underground, non-fruiting, component of fungi. The actual fruiting component we know of as mushrooms or toad stools.
As Andrei explains, “It’s based on a galvanic response.”
“Like a lie detector,” adds Tosca.
After “biosonifying” a number of organisms, including slime moulds, Tosca hit upon mycelium. “When I said ‘hey, let’s look at mycelium,’ and Andrei was like ‘hmmm,’ and we put electrodes on it, we set the parameters, and we had an Animoog [synthesizer] app on the iPad with whatever the default voice is on there. It was just so immediate and unexpected! As opposed to when we did slime mould—it was just tonal clusters, it would set off a kind of ping, and then it would be silent.” The mycelium was delightfully amazing. “[It] has different notes happening so it was very melodic.”
“When we stumbled onto mycelium,” Andrei continues, “it started to produce patterns that felt intrinsically much more musical. There’s a more intrinsic sense of pattern to it because, while we mediate the biodata and how it is output to a western scale and we give it a timbral voice, all the different things we connect to still have patterns. We really hear patterns from mycelium that we don’t hear from anything else.”
“To us, it’s also interesting to use mycelium as a point of conjecture for non-human communication because it is referred to as the ‘internet of the forest,’ connecting all the roots of all the trees.”
“The wood wide web!” laughs Tosca.
BIO/ ERIC KLAVER, OALA, IS CHAIR OF THE GROUND EDITORIAL BOARD AND A PARTNER AT PLANT ARCHITECT INC.