Sensory Kinship Mushroom

Sensory Kinship of the Third Kind

Sensory Kinship for the Third Kind is an artistic research project that engages in creative production through multi-sensory engagement with mushrooms. At Emerge, we will be exhibiting some of our sensory exercises, as well as a documentary video of our field-based workshop series and a printed field guide. In our workshops, we lead participants in interactions with mushrooms and mycelial communications through the use of technology and creative prompts. The workshop includes activities that explore how we can sense mushrooms, and speculate as to how mushrooms sense their own environments.

Fungal bodies represent a ‘third kind’ in their occupation of liminal spaces between life and death, hovering between our world and the underworld of subsoil. Although they are essential to the function of ecosystems, most fungal labor and energy are hidden temporally and spatially from human sensing. We are interested in what kind of interspecific relations can be forged through encounters with cryptic information that are primarily sensory and embodied. Our artistic work explores the potential for sensing mushrooms’ ‘third kind’ liminality; from this ‘in-betweenness,’ we can learn much about the complexities of ecological entanglements.

Our work features sound-based exercises that explore both how we might hear or feel mushrooms, and how mushrooms might sense vibrations in their soil and vegetative environments. In our workshop at Emerge, we will invite participants to listen to the vibratory sound as heard through the mushrooms themselves, and through their growth substrates. Participants will also “listen” to mushrooms through “translation” of MIDI data from live mushrooms grown in mycelium blocks. The workshop will feature olfactory meditations, fungal perfume, and olfactory exercises to sense the environment (inspired by fungi’s ability to sense volatile chemicals in their environment). Smell is an intimate and corporeal method for engaging non-human bodies; smell lingers in the same way that fungal and ecological entanglements do and asks viewers to participate in a kind of invasive aesthetics to relate to the mushroom’s materiality.