New forms of harvestSYNCYTIUM

Collaborative art with the slime mould Physarum polycephalum

A slime mould individual is born from a spore. When they meet more of their kind, they merge into their plasmodial form, and grow as a single-celled decentralised organism.

Physarum polycephalum is an ambassador species for slime moulds; famous for their intelligence, creativity, and willingness to collaborate.

SYMCYTO

Sub-Gen 1

Collection of video art exploring the sculptural characteristics of mushrooms and cypress knees in collaboration with the slime mould Physarum polycephalum.

Each video is a 4K seamlessly looped timelapse, comprised of 100s of individual photos, accompanied by an original score of music and field recordings.

Please be aware that the slime mould is 100% real; it is not computer generated.

Physarum polycephalum on Artist's Conk #1

Duration: 00:16 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Artist's Conk #2

Duration: 00:16 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Artist's Conk #3

Duration: 00:16 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Artist's Conk #4

Duration: 00:16 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Artist's Conk #5

Duration: 00:16 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Artist's Conk #6

Duration: 00:16 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Cypress Knee #1

Duration: 00:26 | 2160 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Cypress Knee #2

Duration: 00:09 | 2160 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Cypress Knee #3

Duration: 00:09 | 2160 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Cypress Knee #4

Duration: 00:08 | 2160 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Cypress Knee #5

Duration: 00:07 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | No Soundtrack

Physarum polycephalum on Cypress Knee #6

Duration: 00:30 | 3840 x 2160 | Seamless loop | Soundtrack

The organisms in this series are justified and ancient. They have amazing stories to tell, and have managed to stay low-key and mysterious.

This slime mould is mobile and agile through cytoplastmic streaming; squeezing their cell contents back and forth in a pulsating rhythm. This is also how it shares nutrients and, critically, information.

Physarum polycephalum is an ambassador species for slime moulds, famous for their intelligence, creativity, and willingness to work with humans. The name comes from the many branching "heads" that sense and explore their environment.

The mushroom commonly called the Artist's Conk is the fruiting body of the fungus Ganoderma appalantum. The underside of the Artist's Conk starts off white and soft, and when scratched turns brown, making it a sort of a natural canvas, which gives them their name.

They can grow for decades, adding a new layer underneath every year to release spores, which gives them their shape. The total number of these layers can be counted to indicate the age of the mushroom, and the individual layers can be compared to read a year-by-year account of what they have experienced.

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Cypress knees are mysterious characters that grow from cypress tree roots, no one knows exactly why. These knees come from a Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, which have been around since Jurassic times, and can live for thousands of years. An interesting theory is that cypress knees could have evolved in response to environmental conditions that no longer exist.

Researchers recently found a cypress tree at least 2,764 years old, living in the <1% of old cypress forests that remain after intensive logging, giving hope that even older trees could still be around.

BEHIND-THE-SCENESBEHIND-THE-SCENES

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This series of timelapse photoshoots were done in one of our timelapse enclosures, which we built from repurposed materials foraged from the streets of Amsterdam. Adaptive re-use is a key principle for our designs.

The case is specially braced and stabilised, because in our old building even the distant tram causes vibrations that would otherwise create complications with the timelapses.

The case is equipped with smart lighting, ventilation, and humidifiers. We set a programme to maintain high humidity and low light, to create comfortable conditions for the slime mould.

We used various mirrorless DSLRs, iPhones and dedicated timelapse cameras.

We set the cameras to shoot 1 photo every 10 seconds, which we found results in the most pleasing pulsating frequency of the slime moulds movements when the photos are composited into a timelapse.

The scenes were originally shot with black velvet backgrounds. In the final videos, the backgrounds have been augmented using Adobe After Effects.

The original soundtracks for each video were made using Ableton and using our own field recordings as samples.

Beyond

How did we get here and what's next?

Plasmedium

DOLORMI IPSUM

Physarum polycephalum is from another dimension