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Out Of Tune: Living With Cacophony

Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

This research project investigates the visual, auditive, and tactile qualities of mycelium. 

Mycelium is the network of interwoven, thread-like hyphae that constitute the vegetative part of mushrooms. A hypha is the most basic developmental unit of filamentous fungi, which grows by extending and branching their hyphae into a substance. The industrial potential of fungi has long been explored in human history, from the production of food (cheese, bread, and beer are three examples) to biomedical technology (such as antibiotics and antivirals) and, more recently, the fabrication of everyday artefacts (such as vases, chairs, and garments). One unique feature of the material is that it can be grown inside a mould, which allows designers to grow the mycelium directly into the shape of the final object. 

Depending on the applied technique (cold or heat pressing, for example) the qualities of the mycelium-based materials can undergo significant changes. In recent studies, scholars explored the diverse effects of processing techniques, substrate, and strain type on the mechanical and experiential performance of mycelium-based materials. In those studies, mycelium is grown in optimum conditions. At the end of the growing process, the mycelium is often killed by drying the material at a minimum of 60°C. To date, end users of mycelium-based products only interact with the material once it is dead. What if the mycelium were kept alive in everyday products? How could our everyday living affect their livingness? How would their material qualities change for each of us? 

Sound

Scholars in agricultural studies have long explored the relationship between sound/vibration and the growth of living organisms. There is scientific evidence that sound can guide the direction and density of mycelial roots. Would sound change the material qualities of the mycelium-based composites? Drawing approaches from more-than-human ecologies, this project seeks to explore the relationships between two nonhuman entities – namely sound and mycelium – in a set of systematic experiments. 

Ongoing projects, started April 2019. 

Principle investigator
Wasabii Ng

Other researchers involved
BaharehBarati (Post Doc, TU Delft)
Ilaria La Bianca (researcher at CoE BBE, Avans University)
Willem Böttger (Professor of Biobased Building Group at CoE BBE, Avans University)
Diederik Sonneveld (Former intern)
Rachel Pringle (intern)
Lili Slusarek (
intern / student Avans ATGM) 

Professor
Elvin Karana

Funding
SIA RAAK project Building on Mycelium (NL)
KIEM GoChem 2019: Colouring Mycelium and Beyond
KIEM GoChem 2020: Fungal pigments and beyond (application)
Avans University of Applied Sciences 

Collaborators
Han Wösten (Utrecht University); Science Centre (TU Delft)
CoE BBE (Avans University) 

Industries
Impershield Europe, Bergen op Zoom 
Dorable, Oud-Vossemeer
BioscienZ BV, Breda
NSNP, Amsterdam
Rubia Colours, Steenbergen 

Institute
Avans University of Applied Sciences
TU Delft 

‘Exploring and integrating novel perspectives to our everyday through the eyes of fungi.’

Wasabii is a researcher within the Biobased Art and Design research group. 

Wasabii Ng arrow

‘I’m interested in harnessing the ingenuity of biological organisms to solve today and tomorrow's problems. ’

Rachel Pringle is an intern within the Biobased Art and Design research group 

Rachel Pringle arrow

Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.

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