LA+ IMAGINATION Design Ideas Competition
Team: Bradley Cantrell (University of Virginia), Emma Mendel (Nelson Byrd Woltz)
How do we know when a plant has died? You yourself, will expire a last breath as neural activity comes to a halt and the heart discontinues the steady beating it began as you were born into this world. One would think there is no better metronome of vitality than the heart. As this restless muscle finally relents, death takes over. While certainly you understand life and death as a process, you will have no trouble distinguishing one from another. But the kingdom of fungi demonstrates a most odd hybrid of alive and dead. Having no excretory organs, each cell in a fungus must deal with its own waste. With growth, they build up non-living material in vacuoles or cell walls. This slow accumulation of death is contradictory to one of our most important dualisms. No last breaths will punctuate the border between subjectivities of alive and dead.
What the fungi teaches us is that our representation of the world is limited, divisive, and subjective. Our sense organs act to constantly cleave things from an undifferentiated medium. Our powers of perception fumble to see the unmediated SpaceTimeEnergyMatter continuum through which we exist. Here, in the undifferentiated medium, there are no islands, no binaries, no edges, no objects, no beholders, no life, no death. At stake is our isolationism, at all levels and in all forms. The way we perceive and describe the natural world consequently effects how we understand our human society. To see differently allows us to think differently. Through increasing our vocabulary of edges and challenging the existence of an absolute island, we seek to question other binary divisions: racism, sexism, speciesism, isolationism. Boundaries blur and walls give way to gradients.