The mycorrhiza connects to the outer roots of trees, the tree sends down its carbon, which goes through its root system and through into the connecting fungi via an interface between the root cortical cells and the fungi cells. This is where the exchange goes on.
This mycorrhiza can spread out in a branch like system reaching meters beyond the tree root system. It will then connect to another plant- sharing carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and water according to which plant needs it. The ‘mother trees’ of the forest, what we think of as the large, old trees, will have an enormous network associated with it, including trees of other species. When a ‘mother tree’ dies its nutrients are released back in the same way, almost like an inheritance for the forest.
The earth from above and below
There is something about the forest which reminds me of human communities- trees standing in groups, co-existence, pathways of communication, birth, death and regrowth. I found some of the images of mycelium absolutely magical. Their communication and trading systems similar to our own.
These long exposure photographs reveal the wonderful world of fireflies. The photographer based in Okayama, Tsuneaki Hiramitsu, has taken pictures of fireflies for years, often leaving the city to dark, wooded areas where they live. The process to capture the yellow dots involves long exposure photographs of 8 seconds and then superimposing them on the forest images to create the dreamlike scenes. The visual instantly reminded me of what I was trying to achieve in my idea of this secret underground mycorrhizal network.
The Mycorrhizal Highway
I wanted the emphasis to be on the floor drawing, rather than the sculptural trees. I also felt the viewer should be able to enter and experience the space. By creating an under-lit raised floor I felt the sensation of a magical, communicating underground mycorrhizal network could be realised.
A borderless society
In the forest there are no borders, even plants of different species relay on one another. One of the ideas I toyed around with was separating one tree from the forest network, surrounding it with a large metal barrier, contorted and stunted roots which were unable to give or receive water or nutrients from other plants. Underneath this tree I placed a red flashing light, acting like a warning sign or a cry for help.
Trees in our cities grow like this every day and most people think that this is perfectly fine…they survive.
However studies have shown that group plantings of trees in cities do much more than survive. They grow into healthier specimens, much more resilient to drought and disease.
Humans too can live in isolation, our society feels it is normal. We can ‘survive’.