Mycelium, cultivated lingzhi mushrooms, wood chips and wood
I’m fascinated with the way technological advancement gives humans the illusion of power over nature. Now I’m playing with a range of collaborations between the human element and the natural element by designing a controlled, human environment that, over time, gives way to an organic process. When I create my lingzhi sculptures, I first put woodchips and lingzhi spore mixtures into the mold I created. With the control of humidity, temperature and light, lingzhi mycelium starts to grow. Once the lingzhi mycelium had bound the wood chips into the mold’s shape, I removed the mold and put the bonded mixture into a small greenhouse to let it keep growing. After a few weeks, the body of the roots began to grow and created their own transformative sculpture. These new mushrooms, in turn, dropped more spores, thereby providing the delicate brown powder that now covers the sculptures. The beginning of this hybrid science/art/ idiosyncratic/secular experiment satisfies me. I am no longer in control… nature is. For me it’s important that each side of this equation has a chance to shine.
Similarly, multiple meanings grow out of this work. Deer, for example were often held in high esteem in China because they were believed to be skilled at finding sacred mushrooms in the wild. As a result, in many Chinese paintings deer are portrayed with lingzhi. The rabbit, called in Chinese the Jade Rabbit or the Moon Rabbit, is also a symbol of longevity. It is believed to live on the moon with the Moon Goddess who never grows old and who makes a mysterious elixir of immortality with a mortar and pestle.
I have experimented to produce sculptures that integrate the natural growth cycle of this mushroom and highlight its amazing properties, such as adaptation, self-organization, self-healing, and regeneration. While evoking traditional Chinese medicine, mythology and religion, the lingzhi mushroom, as an innovative green material, also speaks to the role of environmental sustainability in contemporary art production.