Bodies of Change
Physical decay and physical death are natural processes, without which there could be no new life. On the contrary, traditional existentialism focuses on how people make sense of life in the shadow of death. Aiming to question such attitude, ‘Bodies of Change’ dives into a research about the realm of fungi and about their fundamental importance in the environment with regard to decomposition and transformation of organic substrates and the resultant cycling of elements.
How could we make use of fungi’s activity and knowledge as a guidance for a better understanding the cyclicity of every existing thing, including ourselves?
The direct collaboration with mycologists becomes the base from which to explore the potential of recent scientific discoveries related to fungi, and open up both scientific and cultural subjects and contents, otherwise out of a reach to a general audience.
The Mycelium Shroud
If we are no longer dressing for life, what are we dressing for?
Consisting of a hand-made felt shroud inoculated with fungal mycelia from the species Schizophyllum commune, this design project comes as a direct challenge to the general attitude of denial, that most of the traditional burial practices tend to enhance, aside from harming the environment and wasting energy. The shroud’s action contributes to favour the decomposition process of the body, while collecting and neutralising toxic elements stored within the organism and distributing the different nutrient supply harvested from the body, to surrounding life forms. Through this process, ‘Bodies of Change’ aims to explore and demystify the feelings of denial and anxiety, related to the acceptance of the loss of a beloved one, by transporting the process of decomposition of human remains to a more natural level, through an ecological, cyclical re-connection with our changing environment.
The Ephemeral Icon
Informed by the research conducted on the interaction between organic materials and fungi, during the development of ‘Bodies of Change’, this research-project looks at the study and at the application of a different fungus, Phanerochaete chrysosporium, to synthetic, toxic materials, that do not naturally decompose and that are found to provoke unhealthy, risky consequences for the entire ecosystem: Plastics.
By having researched and demonstrated the ability that such micro-organism has in decomposing phenolic resins and, more generally in degrading plastics, and by merging this finding with a vision, the project creates a social narrative to help us questioning our “throw away” culture, while addressing the designer’s role and responsibilities.
“…why should not a plastic chair dress up for death?”
Having deliberately chosen a globally well-known, pragmatic object – the Monobloc plastic chair -, the project makes use of such image, as a statement about the life-cycles of consumer products, in direct comparison with the immortality of the materials, most of the consumer products are made of.
Highlighting the complementarity of life and death as a whole, the ‘Bio Cover’ comes as a tool-product for turning an inanimate, synthetic object into a living entity and to therefore trigger the process of its final dissolution.
The woollen cover is, in fact, capable of promoting the action of the fungus, by feeding and nurturing the organism, while starting the colonisation of the plastic material. Once fully colonised, the user can dispose of the chair, by placing it in the garden or by literally burying it. The resulting organic material, once plastic, can be now used as a natural fertiliser, providing extra nutrients to the soil for the growing of new life.