House of Words
The House of Words is a (re-)translation of the Toguna, a traditional technology of the Dogon peoples of Mali. It is a space designed for discourse, dialogue, conflict and compromise. When people of the village find themselves in conflict, the afflicted parties are sent to the Toguna to work it out. The roof of the structure is built too low for the average person to stand upright comfortably, so that when you enter, you are forced to crouch down and sit. The effect is humbling, with the intention to diffuse the (physical) tension an argument can create. It finds its function when persons in conflict step inside and agree to begin the conversation(s).
Mycelium, as the root system of mushrooms that threads itself underground, connecting trees to one another: facilitates communication. The use of this material is intentional and directional: there is a desire for the audience to emulate the material that surrounds them when they are within the structure. They are urged to bend their backs, humbling their bodies, rooting themselves back into the ground. They are reminded that sometimes, the most effective path towards discourse, is making a space, setting themselves down within it, and talking.
This iteration of the structure is formed from yellow oyster mushroom mycelium waste.
After 2 flushes, the mycelium, while still viable, has a lower yield and less predictability regarding the next flush. As industry creates its own rhythms, the mycelium becomes waste.
The landscape of the structure is a barren courtyard in the centre of an institution. The ground is made up of mostly rocks and sand. Throughout the construction of the structure, grass and growth began to sprout. Seeds were planted and various bugs and birds began to build homes within the surrounding site. The intervention is intended to be temporary. It can last comfortably around 4 months and then begins to require some tending to extend its lifespan. The grounds, however, remain altered, as a garden has begun to grow from its remains.
The structure is built from a wooden foundation and a combination of bricks of fresh mycelium and decomposing mycelium clay. The fresh mycelium bricks were compressed communally, with a host of feet flattening them down. After the compression, the bricks had to rest a few days, and once set were sawed into fourths. Those pieces were then stacked on top of one another, in piles of around 5 and once again, allowed to rest. Wooden skewers were added for additional support. This process of cutting, stacking, waiting, and shaping is what formed each of the Y-shaped support posts.
The base of the posts were then transferred to their final resting place, standing against the wooden foundation. They were stacked, skewered and then tied to the wooden beams with jute string for reinforcement. The remainder of the structure was then covered with a mixture of decomposing mycelium and pond water. The decomposing mycelium is most effective, as it has already become a sort of clay-like consistency. This, combined with broken pieces of fresh mycelium, was then pounded with a stick to fully integrate the materials. This new material, later referred to as Myco-clay, was then used to cover the remaining wooden beams and to form the reliefs on each of the Y-shaped posts. The reliefs are slapped, shaped and carved onto the posts, hardening in the sun to find their final forms: the structure becomes active.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Mycelium (yellow oyster mushroom), wood, jute string, chairs.
Joseph Palframan, Arne Hendriks, Mediamatic