Visual solution: The installation will take place in a relatively spacious room (~25-30 m²). At the center of the room will be a pedestal which will stand about 2 meters high. On top of the pedestal is a spherical "projector", on which the Physarum Polycephalum will grow. A shadow of the growing Physarum will be cast upon the walls of the room. The room will be otherwise empty. Access to the room will be achieved via a door which will blend seamlessly with the surrounding walls. Furthermore, visitors can only enter the room one by one, in order to intensify the intimacy and intimidation between the Slime Mold and the visitor.
Concept: Even though the Slime Mold is able to survive in such an incredibly unique way, I feel like we, as humans, subconsciously (or consciously) perceive this organism as a being that is ultimately inferior to us. My goal is to break this hierarchy in some way. As I was trying to explore ways of reversing the interspecific hierarchical pyramid, I am coming to the realisation that one of the reasons why humans see unicellular organisms, which are beyond a doubt the most fundamental members of the earth, inferior to themselves, is because of their size. Thus I am looking for a way for equalising and maybe reversing our sizes.
Technical aspects: To ensure that the shadow casted is sharp enough, a strong, linear light source will be placed inside a clear glass sphere. The sphere will be covered by a thin layer of agar medium and a couple of oat flakes stuck irregularly on the surface. A thin, tubular, golden substructure will give the projector its height and minimize potential shadows caused by visitors. The room will only be lit when a visitor enters room, in order to not disturb the Slime Mold with too much light and establish a healthy environment for its growth.
Experimenting with the Slime Mold and Researching
My first timelapse turned out pretty bad with lots of flickering lights and moving shadows. Next time I will try a darker background and artificial lighting. I also realized trying to record multiple petri dishes at once is not such a good idea. Something useful I learned with this timelapse is how difficult it can be to manipulate the slime mold. I tried using different arrangements and amounts of oat in each dish but at the end every dish turned out different than expected.
I found the Physarum to be a very powerful being in its own way. It is very resilient, very easily adapting to changes in the environment, capable of resuscitation and of course possesses a complex navigational mechanism. Even though this organism is able to survive in such an incredibly unique way, I feel like we, as humans, subconsciously (or consciously) perceive the Physarum Polycephalum as a being that is ultimately inferior to us.
''Anthropocentrism regards humans as separate from and superior to nature and holds that human life has intrinsic value while other entities (including animals, plants, mineral resources, and so on) are resources that may justifiably be exploited for the benefit of humankind."*
My goal is to break this hierarchy in some way and serve the Slime Mold. I want to allow the Slime Mold to exploit me. Some might say that this pyramid is already losing its form and (some) humans are starting to see other creatures at an equal level to themselves, in terms of importance. My observation is that almost everyone, including me, who thinks this way, only direct their sympathy towards complex, multicellular organisms, which they can emotionally relate to in some way. This is a reason why I want to go further than this selective equality and see the Physarum Polycephalum, a unicellular organism, as being not equal to me, but more important than me as an inhabitant of the earth.
To be the Physarum's "slave", I need to first be comfortable with letting it grow freely and to the max.
In order to achieve this I tried merging Physarum specimens from two different petri dishes. To my disappointment the Slime Mold hesitated to make its way out of the dishes. In order to make my table more appetising, I will be trying to cover it with a layer of agar.
I am going to try and grow the Slime Mold on my table, but I believe it can only grow to a certain size. Moreover, this won't effectively contribute to the message I am trying to convey.
Thus, I will be amplifying the Physarum's size artificially. My spherical Ikea table lamp will hopefully suffice to do this. The resulting projection will only be a shadow across the walls of my room, however I believe shadows can be more intimidating than the thing itself and intimidation is something that I believe contributes to hierarchical formations. Furthermore, with a colored LED, the result also has the potential to be aesthetically pleasing.