LIFORM: Living Megastructures
The LIFORM project is an ongoing investigation on 'interspecies collaboration’ for the generation of soft megastructures, or how the collaboration between humans and bio-organisms can change the world we live in. LIFORM is a series of curated experiments with the ambition to grow new types of complex morphologies and weaving techniques where mycelium starts performing in a new way. Designed ecosystems are the starting point for living megastructures. The goal of the current experiment is to create an ecosystem, a living harmony, by generating a suitable growth environment inside an incubator. The object of art is the incubator itself, the ecosystem inside it and the process of structure formation.
Mycelium is the root-like fibrous material of fungus, mostly composed of chitin. Mycelium acts as a bonding agent that penetrates in fibres and closes gaps of woven structures with new patterns. Initially, the experiment follows natural growing rules, but is altered by introducing new conditions that are unfamiliar to the mycelium. Changing parameters, like light, or reducing the amount of air, affects its structure, growing speed, direction and colour. It’s possible to grow unique structures by navigating the organism with different types of food or physically guiding its growth. Moreover, you choose your collaborators as different types of fungi species, nutrition substrates and methods of interaction.
The weaved structure is a suggested growing direction with required nutrients for the mycelium organism to follow. The mycelium binds and enswathes weaved structure gradually. Mycelium networks, spiders and silkworms weaving, are inspiring examples of soft systems that infinitely construct dynamic environments in nature. Knitting materials by hand is a very sophisticated weaving practice with unlimited patterns, combinations and applications. It carries a long history, mainly associated with feminity, soft textile crafts and a skill that is passed from mother to daughter. Like many other processes in our life, the analogue processes like weaving may be automated to be more continuous and efficient. However, automation challenges our human biochemical nature, it becomes harder for humanity to accept nature’s imperfections. The modern world tries to balance between artificial and natural aesthetics shifting more toward the synthetic. The intention of this experiment is to combine analogue methods with bio organism to retain a higher level of creativity found in human craft and acknowledge the beauty of natural aesthetics.
Bio fabrication incubators were designed to form artificial environments to support and stimulate the megastructure’s growth on view during the exhibition. Uniting handcrafted techniques, technology and living organisms through experiments produces novel symbiotic outcomes and structures, which would never occur naturally, without human participation. Here, human and natural systems engage in an interspecies learning process, constantly pushing boundaries and adjusting to each other.
The project is presented in two distinct stages: The Dark Phase and The Final Phase. The Dark Phase is the active process of growth and formation. When objects are growing, they smell nice, like a true forest, and recreate a natural environment (experience). Every visitor has a chance to interact with the form and embed his or her presence in the organism’s memory by altering the light it receives. In the Final Phase, the organism is dried to stop the growing process and solidify forms.
People are always learning from nature and replicating different processes like growing food, cultivating pearls or creating nature-inspired designs. Our Anthropocentric presence is either altering or establishing all systems, and more than ever we are getting disconnected from our origins. The shift between the Anthropocene and Biocentrism, from hard to soft powers, requires introducing flexibility to improve the balance in our world by researching new possibilities for constructing living megastructures. The goal is to form spaces finding a balance between analogue and computation, natural and artificial leads to the creation of a balanced environment, where we can collaborate with nature and let its intelligence fully unfold.
LIFORM: Living Megastructures (Video)
KATYA BRYSKINA: LIFORM—LIVING MEGASTRUCTURES (Article)