[-empyre-] rehearsal of a network - [week 3]

black at x-i.net black at x-i.net
Mon Jun 18 07:26:34 AEST 2018

Hello mycelium network,

Thank you Shu Lea for the invitation and thank you all for the thought 
provoking and sometimes even disturbing discussion that took place here 
for last few weeks.

Let me introduce another mycelium perspective that brought me here, that 
of social mycelia. It's about a symbiotic colony of acetic acid bacteria 
and yeast fungi, colloquially called tea mushroom or t-shroom, or 
otherwise known as Kombucha. The history of this culture is rather 
mysterious. No-one really knows where it came from and it cant be found 
in nature. It has been suggested that the first record on the use of 
Kombucha was made in China in 221BC during the Tsin Dynasty, others 
assign its origination in Korea. There is a legend saying that in year 
414 Korean Dr. Kombu brought the fungus to Japan to heal Japanese 
emperor Inkio. The Emperor was healed, and from that time the mushroom 
and its medicinal qualities became highly valued in particular among 
samurai worriers.

The spread of this fungus across century's has depended on human 
networks and activities such as trade, missions or war. Its spread in 
Russia, for example, is noted in the aftermath of Japanese-Russian war, 
as it was brought back by soldiers as a war trophy, or its spread in 
Western world is assigned to post WW2.

Whatever its early history, its heydays undoubtedly were during the 
Soviet time when Kombucha became a widespread household item, achieved a 
status of a national drink and usually had a pet like family-status. 
Tea-mushroom was kept on the windowsill in kitchen, in a three-litre 
jar, and had to be fed daily with black tea and sugar. In most cases it 
was grandmother’s “thing” to take care of the tea-mushroom, and 
grandchildren’s fun to consume, thereby providing a specific link 
between generations. As it couldn’t be bought in a shop, tea-mushroom 
was a family heritage or even a long-living family member.

The Russian investigation conducted in 1951 on why cancer appeared to be 
on the increase found that two particular areas of the country stood out 
like neon signs because they were almost cancer free! (The few cases of 
cancer they did find in those areas were from newcomers who had just 
settled there). Not only were the people healthier but they all seemed 
to live longer! As if that weren't enough, the Russians claimed that 
alcohol and tobacco consumption was much higher in the area, yet had 
less of an adverse effect than else- where. They reported that the men 
of the region were used to drinking large quantities of the Kombucha tea 
before their drinking bouts, which, they claim, resulted in far fewer 
auto accidents. The intense Soviet investigation, coupled with other 
large bodies of evidence indicates that the Kombucha tea is, indeed, a 
dramatic immune system booster and body detoxifier.

It is these, but in particular, the social qualities of the fungus 
culture that led to the establishment of T-shroom research office in 
post-soviet Riga, in 2000. At that time the political changes and market 
liberalization have rendered the t-shroom's outsider status more 
visible, as invasion of the global brands of soft-drink companies 
demoted it from the position of a respected family member to that of a 
minority. What followed was a series of events, research and direct 
actions taken by the artist collectives Primitive and Open that aimed 
not only to re-articulate the T-shroom in terms of a natural "old 
school" product or as a radical in the technologised world of consumer 
capitalism, but also by assigning the refugee status to this culture, 
supported its spread and settlement beyond the geographic borders of 
post-soviet zone.

In last 20 years there have been increased interest in Kombucha and the 
growing body of scientific research has interrogated its biological 
structure, chemical composition and beneficial effects (mainly in animal 
studies). It is clear now that Kombucha is not really a mushroom but 
rather a combination of bacteria and yeasts living together 
symbiotically in a matrix of mycelium-like threads containing one or 
more species each of bacteria and yeasts, which form a zooglean mat also 
known as a "mother." Because they have three-dimensional structure and 
represent a community lifestyle for microorganisms, they have also been 
metaphorically described as "cities for microbes”. Yeasts and bacteria 
in Kombucha are involved in such metabolic activities that utilize 
substrates by different but complementary ways. It has been shown that 
it can prevent hepatotoxicity induced by various pollutants, it 
facilitates both antioxidant and detoxification processes in the liver, 
and its anticancer qualities, accepted by most researchers are described 
in following mechanisms: a) inhibition of gene mutation; b) inhibition 
of cancer‐cell proliferation; c) induction of cancer‐cell apoptosis; and 
d) termination of metastasis. In short its effects are exerted at the 
cellular level.

To conclude, I would like to put forward the notion of symbiosis for the 
post-net network imagination! Mycelium networks offer us organic 
metaphors to re-evaluate ourselves, as humans, and our role and 
relations in this man-made world (ref Arendt here). They show us the 
value of altruism, hospitality and endless gifts of giving. They give us 
a chance to move away from human=machine rhetoric, from cyborg like 
visions of future transhumans, and possibly change the course of current 
industrial enterprise. This, however, requires for every supporter to 
become a symbiosis partner, to be considered as a cell in a social 

Join the network of vanguard in the zone of symbiotic and relational 
mushroom-based autonomy!

Simply put, this is a well-meant offer to become a mushroom.

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