Image courtesy: fineline.my.co
Even though we might usually be too busy to contemplate about it, we all know it: the world today faces a lot of problems. Whether they are environmental, political or economic or whether they arise by mistake, ignorance or culture, we have to deal with them sooner or later. When enough resources are found, researches are undergone, which increases the chances for that problem to be eventually tackled. But even though you presented facts to a person which would make you more credible than if you only talked about it, it is not certain you would produce a change of perspective – humankind can be particularly stubborn when it comes to holding on to its interests and beliefs.
In these kind of situations, art comes in handy. For centuries, it has served as a tool for artists to spread a certain message, to reflect the society or to underline perhaps a not so evident thing to people. It can be an effective way of critique towards the establishment and could bring societal change or simply raise awareness. Obviously, as any tool, it can be used in malevolent ways, just like the dictatorial states have used it for propaganda. However, it can do what sometimes incomprehensible and dusty researches cannot do – convince the people.
This is what Liora Yuklea, a MFA student at the Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, tried to do in her first semester. The result of the semester was a piece she entitled “A Fine Line”.
The project started out from the problem of food waste: a third of the food produced is thrown away. Imagine the world’s biggest stadium full to its entire capacity – that’s how much good quality untouched food goes to waste every single day in the USA. But simply throwing food away is not the only cause for this problem; a lot of food gets wasted because it doesn’t meet the “aesthetics standards” of size, color, weight and blemish level. In Britain, 40% of the fruit and vegetable crops don’t make it to the shops because they look too “ugly”. Our obsession with appearance creates ‘a fine line’ between two types of fruits or vegetables perfectly good to consume.
She created a dining set (a table with two chair and two plates) halved in two different realities – one part that is industrially produced and with a perfect finish and the other part, grown organically from a mix of mushroom mycelium and wood waste. She based the naturally grown part in the principle that the fungus can digest anything that is cellulose based. In the process of growing the material, the mycelium forms a spongy matrix of a material called chitin; it can take up any space and the growth continues as long as there is something for the mushroom to feed on and as long as there is moisture. If you dry it (at around 180 F) you stop the growing process.
This principle is the same Ecovative uses when manufacturing the packaging or the bricks. Liora started experimenting by inoculating petri dishes and jars of woodchips, gypsum and wheat germ with Reishi and Oyster mycelium. However, because of lack of experience a lot of the samples were contaminated and thus unusable. This lack of experience with growing organic furniture and also the pressure of time made her contact Ecovative itself to ship her their live mycelium and wood waste mix plus some already prepared mycofoam panels as back up. In the end, she managed to have the art piece created in time for the exhibition and deliver her ingenious metaphor.
You can find the whole development of her project and get inspired at fineline-my.co.
A report by Ioana Popescu