An interactive video installation where participants take on the role of a sound wave modulating the growth of fungi.
Media: 4K interactive video with sound and photographs.
Sound for Fungi. Homage to Indeterminacy began as a laboratory experiment where Schubert played sinus frequencies to fungi mycelia she collected from forests near her home in Germany. After several weeks of observing these collected specimens housed in custom-built sound-insulated boxes, most showed a positive response to the influence of sound by growing faster and denser than samples grown in silence.
This interactive video installation simulates Schubert’s laboratory experiment where sound impacted on fungi mycelium growth. Audiences can explore this biological process by using a tracking sensor where hand movements simulate the role of a sound frequency and change the fungi’s growth in real time. The digital 3D environment shifts between macro and cellular level perspectives, revealing fragile topologies comprised of multiple nodes and connections, offering a glimpse into the complexity of the underground network of microbes that connect the “Wood Wide Web”.
The work’s title, Sound for Fungi. Homage to Indeterminacy draws reference to American music composer John Cage’s development of ‘indeterminacy’ as an improvisational technique where aspects of a composition are left open to chance and free-choice. A further reference is the work of Anna Tsing and mycologist Alan Ryner who have linked mushrooms to this notion of indeterminacy on account of their shape-shifting gestalt. Some fungi keep expanding and growing through different life cycles and therefore, in theory, are immortal.
Improvisation – not so much as a musical process but understood as a natural life phenomenon – represents a condition of existence itself. This state of being without intention enables spontaneity and emergence, and has been a guiding principle through Schubert’s artistic practice. By allowing many pathways and experiences of the fungi data in this work, Schubert applies the same open-ended codes to audience engagement – facilitating an interspecies experience which works best when the visitor brings tranquility and patience to their interaction with this work.
This work has been developed within “Mind the Fungi”, a research project (2018-20) between the Institute of Biotechnology TU Berlin and Art Laboratory Berlin funded by the Citizen Science Initiative of TU Berlin.
This presentation is supported by the Goethe-Institut.
Theresa Schubert is a Berlin-based artist exploring unconventional visions of nature, technology and the self. Her work spans audiovisual and biomedia to conceptual and immersive installations and performances.