“For to connect is to affirm, and to affirm, to connect.” – John Rajchman
Myconnect is an interspecies connector that emerged as an aspiration to enable human beings to transgress their own species and connect with another at a perceptive and physiological level. By entering the installation one joins with the otherness, another multiplicity i.e. the fungal mycelium.
In the Myconnect capsule the nervous system of a person is integrated into a human-interface-mycelium biofeedback loop via their heartbeat. The mycelium’s oscillations are produced by variable electrical resistance and correspond to the incoming temporally offset heartbeat. The hybrid sensation of electric resistance and pulse is then transferred back to the human body via sound, light and tactile sensory impulses. Transferred sensory experience indicates the notion of the dependence of perceivable reality on the sensory impulses in the environment. Such a symbiotic link highlights the integration of human beings in their multichannel network or their habitat.
Myconnect is a symbiotic interspecies connector that questions the anthropocentric nature-human division. With its circuit of signals and impulses, generated and translated by biological and technological organisms, Myconnect performs an immersive experience of symbiotic interdependence. Through this experience the technological nature-human distinction can be seen as an arbitrary definition that serves particular biopolitical interests in human society, which can then be shamelessly wrapped in an ideology of utilitarianism and may conceal excessive exploitation. Myconnect creates an experience of connectedness, of unqualified immersion through the sensory system of the body. The experience of symbiosis in the Myconnect capsule is somewhat isolated, in the same way as microbiological cultures are isolated in a laboratory. In Myconnect symbiosis is purposefully separated from the environment in order to make it visible, audible and haptic for the visitor.
Myconnect can be seen as a neural connection, a sort of “tsaheylu” from the sci-fi film Avatar. In the Na’vi language, “tsaheylu” means a bond, a neural connection between two. The Na’vis connect to animals or plants that have neural whips or antennae, a strong, emotional, lifelong bond. With this bond the Na’vis extend and transcend their bodies. They become the environment, thus blurring the body-environment division. In the context of Myconnect such a neural connection, a “tsaheylu” is formed via a “mycosynapse,” a two-way communication synapse that enables a constant symbiotic connection: one way leads from a heartbeat sensor to the fungal mycelium and the other from mycelium to the human body.
As one of the vastest planetary organisms, which can outlive and repeatedly transform forests that grow above it, a mycelium seems a perfect network to plug into and experience oscillations of the electrical current flowing through it. A mycelium has multivalent connections through branching and nodal network allowing material to pass around it in all directions, it also forms biological interspecies connections—“mycorrhiza”—with the environment around it. In this way the mycelium is able to accommodate flows, principally of water and nutrients, around its structure. In this mutually beneficial association the fungus is provided with relatively constant and direct access to carbohydrates while the plant gains the benefits of the mycelium’s higher absorptive capacity of water and mineral nutrients. In similar way Myconnect is an extension of fungi and human beings by enabling an experience of symbiosis.
Saša Spačal (SI) is a media artist with background in humanities who is currently working at the intersection of living systems research, media and sound art. Her work focuses primarily on the post-human state, in which human beings exist and act as one of many elements in the ecosystem. Portfolio: www.agapea.si.Anil Podgornik
Anil Podgornik (SI) is a DIY enthusiast with passion for electronics, mechanics and physics.Mirjan Švagelj
Mirjan Švagelj, PhD (SI) is a doctor of biomedicine currently working for a biotech research and development company. He finished his doctoral studies at the University of Ljubljana in the field of medicinal mushrooms.
Production: Kapelica Gallery
Supported by: the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Municipality of Ljubljana—Department for Culture and ŠOU—Ljubljana