Articulated Works

MYCELIAL ACOUSTICS

March 23, 2017

I have started working with "panel" forms to fabricate simple, inch-thick, mycelial panels which I might use in acoustic wall treatment or sculptural forms. Simple Workflow and Tutorial below. Very special thanks to Marina Zurkow and ITP/NYU.

~ FUNGUS FABRICATION ~

STEP 1: Gather Materials

Grain Spawn: This is a bag of grain which has been inoculated with the spores of the type of mycelium or mushroom you want to grow. I am using oyster mushrooms aka Pleurotus ostreatus. You can order it from suppliers but it needs to be kept refrigerated and free from open air (bacteria). This is important.

Grain Spawn: This is a bag of grain which has been inoculated with the spores of the type of mycelium or mushroom you want to grow. I am using oyster mushrooms aka Pleurotus ostreatus. You can order it from suppliers but it needs to be kept refrigerated and free from open air (bacteria). This is important.

Coffee Chaff: It's very a lightweight and fluffy agricultural byproduct of roasting coffee. Your local roastery will have bags on hand from their roasting process that you can pick up for free. Call them and ask them if you can come pick up a bag. They produce A LOT. Often, gardeners will use it for compost too.

Coffee Chaff: It's very a lightweight and fluffy agricultural byproduct of roasting coffee. Your local roastery will have bags on hand from their roasting process that you can pick up for free. Call them and ask them if you can come pick up a bag. They produce A LOT. Often, gardeners will use it for compost too.

Pasteurizer & Strainer: The coffee chaff will need to be pasteurized (not sterilized) by placing it in around 170F water for around 20 minutes. Then it will need to have all the water pressed out so that none squeezes out by hand. Above, you will see we are using a large coffee urn for pasteurizing and a converted cider press to squeeze out the water.

Pasteurizer & Strainer: The coffee chaff will need to be pasteurized (not sterilized) by placing it in around 170F water for around 20 minutes. Then it will need to have all the water pressed out so that none squeezes out by hand. Above, you will see we are using a large coffee urn for pasteurizing and a converted cider press to squeeze out the water.

Mesh Bags: For pasteurization, stuff these bags full of the chaff and immerse in the 170F degree water in the coffee urn. These will go in the cider press to be squeezed out after the pasteurization so they need to be durable and porous.

Mesh Bags: For pasteurization, stuff these bags full of the chaff and immerse in the 170F degree water in the coffee urn. These will go in the cider press to be squeezed out after the pasteurization so they need to be durable and porous.

Growing Containers & Sterilize: Because I want to create simple panel forms, I am using plastic trays but really any shape container is ok. The final sculpture will take on the detail of the form and will shrink a bit when dry. Same principles of mould making apply here. STERILIZE EVERYTHING: wipe everything with 70% alcohol in distilled water. containers, mixing surfaces, your hands, everything. Do not let the grain spawn get sterilized by coming into contact with the alcohol. It will kill the mycelium and will not grow, The alcohol solution will evaporate quickly. Be patient.

Growing Containers & Sterilize: Because I want to create simple panel forms, I am using plastic trays but really any shape container is ok. The final sculpture will take on the detail of the form and will shrink a bit when dry. Same principles of mould making apply here. STERILIZE EVERYTHING: wipe everything with 70% alcohol in distilled water. containers, mixing surfaces, your hands, everything. Do not let the grain spawn get sterilized by coming into contact with the alcohol. It will kill the mycelium and will not grow, The alcohol solution will evaporate quickly. Be patient.

STEP 2: Prep Materials

After being pressed the chaff will be very compacted and will need to be separated by hand into small fluffy(ish) chunks before being mixed with the spawn. CAREFUL: It should be no surprise that 170F water is HOT.

After being pressed the chaff will be very compacted and will need to be separated by hand into small fluffy(ish) chunks before being mixed with the spawn. CAREFUL: It should be no surprise that 170F water is HOT.

Once the chaff has been broken up, we've been using a 4 parts chaff : 1 part grain spawn mixture. Dump the grain spawn directly onto the chaff. Be careful not to contaminate the grain spawn. Seriously, don't contaminate it.

Once the chaff has been broken up, we've been using a 4 parts chaff : 1 part grain spawn mixture. Dump the grain spawn directly onto the chaff. Be careful not to contaminate the grain spawn. Seriously, don't contaminate it.

I drilled air holes in these trays to allow oxygen to get to the bottom of the mix. Mycelium likes air but also likes humidity so don't let it get to dry.

I drilled air holes in these trays to allow oxygen to get to the bottom of the mix. Mycelium likes air but also likes humidity so don't let it get to dry.

STEP 3: Fill the Forms and Wait Patiently

Day 1 - Notice the consistency of the mix of chaff and grain spawn.

Day 1 - Notice the consistency of the mix of chaff and grain spawn.

Day 8 - Small amount of growth

Day 8 - Small amount of growth

Day 16 - Lots of coverage. I took these out at this point put I could've let them go for longer.

Day 16 - Lots of coverage. I took these out at this point put I could've let them go for longer.

Background on My Interest

This interest is spawned from the field of Mycoremediation, the practice of using fungi to remove pollutants from the environment.     I am focused on is the sonic environment of the world... a practice referred to by some as Acoustic Ecology, a term coined by R. Murray Shaffer in the late 1960's.

The motivation behind this inquiry is two-fold.

1) ...explore ways in which I might address the concept of noise pollution and remediation by operating in the realm of sound, creatingdialogues about awareness through site specific installations. Fungus is widely known for its role in soil remediation. My interest is to extend the application of remediation from the soil to the air.... specifically, the turbulence of air we call sound.

2) ...explore ways in which the acoustical properties (diffusion/absorption) of this material may be used to greatly improve unfavorable classroom environments that are overly reverberant or generally loud. Classroom noise abatement has been a focus of study for at least 30 years and has generally yielded evidence that excessive noise / reverberation in a classroom can be problematic for language acquisition in young students and that loud, noisy classrooms generally cause extra stress, depression, and fatigue in students. This is reportedly a particular problem in developing countries where classrooms are very loosely constructed and there may be much noise coming through the walls from the walls of adjacent classrooms. This leads to distraction which leads to ineffective classroom time.