Aya Koné

Meeting Mycelium

First Encounters at Dutch Design Week

The material is strange, thick, sometimes oozing, with an odor that rises up just after you break open the plastic.


Aya building the mycelium tower - The building of mycelium pigeon towers, a collaborative project between Arne Hendriks and Mediamatic moves to Eindhoven for Dutch Design Week! These structures are an experiment to build with living mycelium waste from oyster mushroom farms.  Caroline Aravicius

With: Aya Koné

I am standing in front of a block wrapped in a light grey plastic sheet. I rip it open. There is some sort of order I am supposed to follow when opening up the bricks- to follow a knife across to the four corners in an upside-down U shape, but I like to use my hands. The inside of the plastic is dark black- maybe to keep the light out? Holes have been punctured along one face side of the plastic, where mushrooms used to pop out. Every time you open a block you find something different. Sometimes the bricks are covered in white puffy mycelium. Sometimes it is more indirect, variations of skin-like textures soaked in brown mushroomy liquid. Sometimes they smell absolutely rank. Sometimes you get these sweet notes of something soft, familiar. I used to hate mushrooms growing up. This is all unfamiliar. Once I’ve pulled off the plastic and stuffed it under the table in a box somewhere, I take a look at the brick in front of me. It’s quite sturdy after having been compressed. I’m not sure what I was expecting.

After a certain amount of contact, patterns/rituals/things become familiar. You develop the space to come into contact with what you are dealing with. First the smell hits you, something slightly sweet, but it keeps changing. After a while you notice that same underlying smell. Then the weight hits you: heavier than you expected. But it’s size fits comfortably in your hands. Then the look of it hits you, changing constantly but these colors are the same. You dig your hands into it and begin to understand the composition: how the mycelium weaves it’s way around the outside surface until it finds itself satisfied enough to dig in. It takes a while before the thing you’re dealing with starts to feel alive. You know that it is. You’ve known that it is, theoretically. You wonder if when you slice the thing, it would feel hurt? I wouldn’t want to be sawed in half. But it isn’t me. It’s something else. It feels close to me. The white fuzzy layer it develops feels like skin when it’s wet, a soft fur when it’s fresh.

I never ate mushrooms when I was young. Weird slimy bits.
I tried them again, properly, only a few years ago and suddenly they were these almost mystical puffballs that pushed themselves out of the earth. That could spread out so wide.
I think I could admire them when I stopped trying to shrink myself.

Growing back together.