The short film Network tells a story about mycelium, the root network of mushrooms. A collaboration between Helsinki based design studio Caracara, Natura Design Studios (UK) and Helsinki based photographer Dennis Konoi, the project shows how a single growing organism can encourage international collaboration and self-sufficiency, and become the key ingredient of environmentally friendly design. Aleksi Vesaluoma, co-founder of the Caracara Collective answered some questions about the project.
How did you get the idea for this project?
For quite some time we have been developing design objects and sculptures using mycelium materials. So naturally, during the first weeks of isolation we were at our homes thinking what to grow next. But it occurred to us that it would be more interesting to tell a story about mycelium in a way that is entertaining and inspiring for the wider public. We thought that creating a short film would be a nice way to share our message while bringing together creatives from a broad range of backgrounds.
The use of mycelium as an environmentally friendly alternative to non-biodegradable materials is gaining momentum worldwide. Why did you choose to highlight this particular root network of mushrooms?
We work with mycelium because we believe in its power to help the environment. Our world is at a tipping point where we really need to change our irresponsible ways of manufacture and consumption. It is important to highlight environmentally friendly alternatives.
During the project you cultivated mycelium using biowaste. Were there any surprises during the process?
Nature has its own ways, so when working with a living organism like mycelium it’s good to be prepared for surprises. Once, our mycelium managed to glue a stack of wet towels together, because we forgot them by the side of our grow box. Later mushrooms popped out of the towels. So quite often the surprise is a free unexpected dinner or an awesome reminder of how persistent mushrooms are in finding a way to grow.
How has this project changed along the way?
Due to the pandemic, we were faced with an unfortunate delay in the postal delivery of our live mycelium. Therefore, instead of growing a whole universe of unique mycelium products like we initially planned, we decided to focus on creating a couple of simple objects and create a meaningful story instead.
What has been the best thing about this project?
We love how the project brings together people from different disciplines such as mycology, product design, film-making and sound production. It is amazing to have a team where everyone brings their own passion and angle into creating something together.
You said your short film has a real “mökki” spirit to it. What do you mean by this?
Nothing goes better with mushrooms than mökki, or the nature cabin. It is the place where time stops and we tune in with the local flora and fauna. In addition to telling a story about mycelium, our film is an expression of what it means to be Finnish, and this is shown through dreamy landscapes and simple cottage pursuits. The peaceful solitude of the mökki is also a symbolic reference to the isolation that many of us have felt lately.
Do you think these times of isolation have had an impact on how people perceive their homes and nature?
We can imagine that being stuck at home has made many people realize how much they miss being outside and in nature. We hope that as a result of this isolation, we come out with a higher respect for the environment and a more conscious collective effort towards preserving and nurturing it.
What would you like people to remember about Network?
We would like people to remember that we are part of a sensitive system, and that in order for our planet to thrive we need a harmonious connection between man and nature. Nature has the answers to many of our problems, if we just look closely. One of them is fungi, or the network that can be grown almost anywhere. When distributed across the world it can do all kinds of good, from providing us food to being an ecologic material.
Text: Estelle Leroux, Image: Caracara collective
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