Week One Reading Response

Apr 5, 2019 01:34 · 594 words · 3 minute read Fungus Among Us

What struck me immediately in all three readings — this has to be said at the outset — is the hyperbole and evangelism with which the writers speak about all things rhizomatic or mycelial. And that when Deleuze & Guattari or Stamets or Tsing are talking about mushroom and mycelia, their form (or formlessness) and structure (or lack thereof), they’re always also talking about something else.

For Tsing, the human domination of nature and of other human life. For Stamets, its sustainability and resuscitating the broken or brittle earth. For D & G — this might be a bit of a controversial take, but it is my feeling nevertheless — what is under discussion is nothing short of a recursive model of the book they wish to bring about, and which ended up being Thousand Plateaux.

It stands to reason that this is so, as one thing all three seem to agree on is that rhizomes, mycelia, whatever — they are uniquely amenable to offshoots and outgrowths.

“Principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be.”

Per D & G, they have a canny ability to be hooked up to other entities — if we’re acknowledging mycelia’s potential for parasitism, we can refer to these entities as the host. In this frame of understanding, mycelium is something that, if not always, then is at least very frequently, existing for or because of something else. A host or a medium of required.

[Few paragraphs TK — notes on horizontal structure and ahierarchy contrasted with more hierarchical structures, specifically with a view to looking at intelligence and memory — contrasting D & G with Minsky’s Society of Mind and Stamet’s claims on the intelligence of mycelia]

As for my project outline — Michael (Fuller; I’m not speaking in the third person) and I haven’t yet convened, as this week was a particularly busy one for us both, what with everything surrounding thesis.

Nevertheless, we discussed some possible inroads. It looks like the two tentpoles or nodes of our project are architecture and music — thinking about mycelium as:

1) A manipulable, possibly ad hoc or temporary substrate for building (infrastructure or dwelling). A material in which we can find a deep utility (rigid and durable, biodegradable, available) and an original, even potentially unpredictable form (outgrowths, unique contour).

2) Something that could be conceived as possessing a unique sound signature, something that can be sonified. Whenever sonification comes up, my mind wanders to Satie’s concept of “furniture music,” which was essentially a kind of “background music,” and which forms the basis of much of the Western conceptualization and composition of ambient music today (furniture music, as it happens, was also revived by one John Cage, a great fan of all things mycelial). One of the things furniture music aims to accomplish is to compose a score of the psychological as well as geospatial signature of the room. One interesting way of doing this would be to minimize the subjectivity in the equation, and instead allow light and contour (the segments and hue of things) to be translated into numbers, which can then be hooked up to any number of sound-dictating tools in a modular synthetsizer or similar environment. Depending on the beauty of the sprouting of the fruit of our mycelium experiments, this could be something that could yield some very interesting results.

Fusing these two ideas explores a scenario where the mycelia is at once instrumentalized (in the first case) and recognized in itself (the second).