How do we know when a plant has died? You, yourself, will expire a final breath as neural activity comes to a halt and your 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 the oddest hybrid of alive and dead. Having no excretory organs, each cell in a fungus must deal with its 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 essential dualisms. No last breaths will punctuate the border between subjectivities of alive and dead.
The fungi teach us that our representation of the world is limited, divisive, and subjective. Our sense organs constantly act to cleave information 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 affects 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.
with Bradley Cantrell, Emma Mendel
LA+ Imagination Design Ideas Competition, The University of Pennsylvania, Stuart Weitzman School of Design, Philadelphia, PA
Peer reviewed finalist, competition winner
Jury: James Corner, Marion Weiss, Javier Arpa, Mark Kingwell, Richard Weller