[-empyre-] Introduction

High, Kathy highk at rpi.edu
Fri Jun 8 21:13:47 AEST 2018

Dear empyre Community!

Greetings. And forgive my delayed introduction, but I have been traveling. Thank you Renate and Tim for your continued dedication to empyre and keeping it going as a community based discussion! And thank you Shu Lea for pulling us fungal types all together!

By way of introduction I would like to talk about the project that I am currently coordinating called NATURE Lab. NATURE Lab stands for North Troy Art, Technology and Urban Research in Ecology. This project started about 6 years ago in tandem with an amazing community media arts organization that I have been on the board of directors for the past 13 years called The Sanctuary for Independent Media. The Sanctuary started in an old church in North Central Troy, New York, about 150 miles north of New York City in a post-industrial city that is at the head of the Hudson River. At The Sanctuary, we have dedicated our energies to develop a space for independent voices, politics and art creation in a neighborhood that is economically and environmentally devastated. We have created a local “campus" repurposing abandoned lots and buildings (think Detroit). We have an ongoing presentation series of music, film and speakers, a low power FM radio station with local news shows, youth media and environmental education workshops, and have planted multiple gardens and food forests.

Situated one block from the Hudson River, we find our location adjacent to brownfields, industrial waste remains and an abundance of toxic lead soil. NATURE Lab seeks to understand and remediate this urban landscape and create new resources and inspiration in the urban ecologies around us. We have just purchased an old building (this is among three others that we have) for $7500. We will develop this space into the home for NATURE Lab, with a community bio science lab offering ongoing workshops and eco-artist projects to create a sense of our surroundings and an appreciation for our ruderal ecologies.

When Shu Lea came to us this past spring with the idea of joining the Mycelium Network Society, we jumped at the chance to do so. I have been close to Shu Lea since the 1980s when we were in NYC together. As my own media work has shifted to a focus on bioart, and ecological systems and concerns, the opportunity to collaborate with a rhizomic network of nurturing like minds seemed perfect. The work I have done with mycelium has been around soil remediation. Five years ago the eco-artist Oliver Kellhammer was in residence at NATURE Lab. Oliver is a permaculturist and artist who works extensively with plighted environments thinking about re-growth and recovery – the symbiont relationships that we all need to consider now. We used mycelium as an accumulator in a toxic soil bed – and it was truly successful. But what to do with that material in the end is a question we still struggle with!

Going forward, an architect Mae-Ling Lokko, who teaches in the Architecture School at my university (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) will be working with NATURE Lab to think through mycelium’s strengths. Mae is in UK at present for the Liverpool Biennial using mycelium for an exhibition at RIBA. Mae is interested in thinking about “how to develop a staged performance piece on the ‘natural decay’ of the mycelium structure that is built in Liverpool as the focus for a project for the Mycelium Network Society.” She has made a 20 foot tunnel with mycelium panels and is “ thinking about how to use this opportunity to ‘stage’ [the mycelium’s] graceful return into the environment.”

I thank Shu Lea for this opportunity to join forces and share our creative energies! Also thank you to everyone for your wonderful posts to date.
More to come, Kathy

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