A Survey in Organic Intimacy - Blog Feed for Synapse
biancatainsh | Jan 19 | 2 min read
First Steps to Organic Intimacy
A new partnership between art and science, merging interdisciplinary knowledges and perspectives, and shedding human-centricity to explore interspecies reciprocity and mutual endeavour.
Image - Organic Intimacy, 2023. By Bianca Tainsh
Humans have a long existing relationship with fungi, but this relationship predominantly involves providing favourable environments for fungal processes that benefit humans in functional ways. It is a partnership of practical value. The organism remains disassociated from our understanding of consciousness and intelligence.
But now our evolving technology can not only detect the complex languages and learning capabilities of non-neuronal organisms, but it is also able to create interfaces and data analysis for two-way interchange. Does this open a door to real communication with the unknowable other? And as we begin to comprehend the ethical implications of bio-tech and scientific research processes that ‘utilise’ what we are beginning to recognise as sentient organisms, how might our technology realign to decentre human enterprise and consider the experiences and aspirations of the organism.
This exploration begins with a collaboration between an artist and a mycologist. Dr Sandra Tuszynska is my research partner in this initial project that merges scientific, philosophical, and creative practice. Through our collaboration I will learn how to work with mycorrhizal fungi. These underground organisms exist in symbiotic relationships with trees and other organisms, their web-like mycelium forming a communicative, resource-sharing network. These mostly hidden entities function as agents for ecological vitality.
Sandra and I will implement scientific processes as we attempt to develop a communicative relationship between human and mycelia. But as beings situated in a culture of tech saturation and human superiority, how can we as researchers practice care and biological egalitarianism, especially considering our culture’s cynical attitude to sentience outside of human constructs. This is an artistic, scientific and spiritual journey to share over the coming months as I lose myself in an alternate world of organic realities.
This project is supported by The Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) which is a partnership between the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Sunshine Coast Council through ArtsCoast to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.
biancatainsh | Feb 5 | 2 min read
The Puffball Experiments
Day 1 to day 5
Image - Earth Egg, 2023. By Bianca Tainsh
Scleroderma. A mutualist mycorrhizal fungus that grows in partnership with the roots of Allocasuarina and Eucalyptus, or related species. I found this puffball despite this dry spell before the start of fungi season in South East Queensland next month. With a hole already in its shell the specimen was compromised. But as a first experiment (and as someone who embraces happy accidents wholeheartedly) it would do for now. The violet spore inside the shell was promising, if not a little alluring.
To get a feel for the outcomes of contamination vs sterilisation, different substrates (what it’s growing in/on) and spores vs existing mycelium, I set up a series of experiments to explore these variations in approach for growing outcomes and visual possibilities. I also want to test recycled materials, and situations that may be more familiar to the fungi as an alternative to the sterile, processed materials usual used in growing fungi.
Experiment 1: Was the clump of mycelium rich dirt that was attached to the base of the puffball. It was placed on a bed of sterilised coffee grounds and doused with homemade MEA, a nutritional liquid usually mixed with agar in a petri dish (a recycled takeaway container for me).
Experiment 2: The spore inside the puffball had already solidified and was showing the first fluffy strands of mycelium growth. I placed a slither of the spore in the centre of a bed of sterilised coffee grounds and doused it with the nutritional liquid. This one is slow to show signs. Mycelium is gradually emerging.
Experiment 3: This one was a renegade. I collected soil below leaf litter from a patch of undisturbed bush. Roots and mycelium were already present. I placed a eucalyptus leaf already being consumed by mycelium on the bed of soil and doused it all with the nutritional liquid. A gumnut was already part of the tangle.
Container 4: I used the same soil as Container 3, but I sterilised it first. I placed a slither of the spore in the centre of the sterilised Earth, and doused it with the nutritional liquid. This is also slow to show signs. Mycelium gradually emerging.
For art and curiosity’s sake: I created an archival print from a photograph of the puffball on fine art bamboo paper, and placed the print in the bottom of a salvaged fish tank. I poured enough of the nutritional liquid to make the print wet but not floating. A slither of spore was placed over the hole in the puffball in the image. The paper was not sterilised. The tank was not properly sterilised and not fully sealed. Transformation began. A more natural situation where fungi and bacteria share the field.
For art and curiosity’s sake
biancatainsh | Feb 14 | 0 min read
The Intimate Act of Observation
Desktop microcosms - revealing unseen plains and dissolving notions of the individual.
Two weeks into the experiments and my first attempt at a fungterrarium. As these close ups show, each outcome is so individual and fascinating. Maybe some people would find these organisms and their processes a little confronting, but I think they are exquisite.
biancatainsh | Feb 27 | 2 min read
Embraced by Place
Photograph of Lake Weyba from Eumarella by Bianca Tainsh.
I consider myself particularly fortunate to live and practice on an exceptional nature refuge, Eumarella. Subtropical forest meets wallum and melaleuca swathes along the shores of Lake Weyba, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. This varied and alluring landscape supports a diversity of ecosystems, making it a haven for all forms of fungi, above and below ground, often obscure, sometimes bioluminescent. But more about fungi in the next post.
Weyba has its own language. It is written in sounds, smells, manifest forms and metaphysical traces, all revealing a timescape layered with colonial crimes, indigenous presences, paradise commodification and natural phenomena. The place hums with energy, and it is easy to perceive that there are many more layers within this landscape than our superficial senses detect.
I was conceived on Eumarella, and though I grew up in the inner-city suburbs of Sydney, I have lived here on and off throughout my life. Visiting Eumarella always felt like a transition into an alternate reality, and maybe this dualism formed my parallel fascinations for both human and wild paradigms. But Eumarella has always been my anchor, and it is where the spirits of my family are embedded, perhaps in unison with the ancestral spirits of the Gubbi Gubbi that are this place.
After ten years in Melbourne to develop my arts career, I returned to Eumarella in late 2018. It was a major shift in environments and realities. My psyche was no longer being bombarded by commercial spectacle. It was now being flooded with natural phenomena and it was confusing the typically synthetic aesthetics of my practice. I had zoned into the colours, textures, the fascinating forms, and temporality, which were starkly contrasted to the digital graphics and commercial and institutional appropriation that I had developed over the past eight years.
It was this interruption and the disintegration of a major project with Covid-19 lockdowns that brought about a time of reflection, and eventually an epiphany. I had always considered my tendency for dualist interests as problematic.
consumerism, neuroscience, contemporary culture & experience, technology
connection to nature, speculative exploration, subjective spiritualism, the sentient landscape
Then I reminded myself that these dualisms are just the product of institutional categorisation and socio-political stereotyping. All I had to do was remove these perceived barriers and allow these spheres to coalesce, to intermingle and form new dialogues and propositions. These works are documentation of my first explorations as this new realm of possibility opened before me...
Archive of Meaning & Matter, 2022.
86.5 x 66.5 x 4 cm. Framed archival inkjet prints on Hahnemühle Bamboo paper, Weyba clay, ground volcanic rock and Swamp Mahogany bark.
The Semiotic Space called Earth, 2022.
86.5 x 66.5 x 4 cm. Framed archival inkjet prints on Hahnemühle Bamboo paper, Weyba sand, ground volcanic rock and Bloodwood bark.
biancatainsh | Feb 28 | 1 min read