INTIMACIES AND ENTANGLEMENTS
FROM MUSHROOMS TO WORLDBUILDING
At first glance, Entangled Life: Worldbuilders seems like a straightforward NFT series, adapting the field recordings of an esteemed biologist into an assortment of scans and animations of mycorrhizae. The project is, in fact, a conceptual work of art more complex than the sum of its parts, bound to expand in scope and grow in value as it takes digital root.
Roots are, of course, its very subject. The Entangled Life: Worldbuilders collection comprises a limited set of images showcasing the symbiotic rootscapes of non-photosynthetic Panamanian ‘ghost plants’. These rare images were captured using a novel photographic technique that provides unprecedented access to the fungal relationships that underlie all life on land. This extraordinary lensing tool reveals the intercourse that takes place between plants and their fungal partners by inviting scientists and audiences alike to probe the interstitial spaces within roots or, in Sheldrake’s words: “subterranean worlds of intimacies within intimacies”.
Intimacy is the thematic core of this NFT project, providing both its organizing principle and its aesthetic. Entangled Life itself is like an astrolabe for intimacies. Sheldrake’s definition of symbiosis as “the intimate associations formed between unrelated organisms” grounds his inquiry in a perspective that is able to collapse telescopy into microscopy and vice versa, to show how intimacy operates at scale. Add to this that intimate fungal relationships are not only the “foundation of all recognizable terrestrial life” but the basis for all future human development, which is contingent on their proper functioning. The result is that, when it comes to fungi, intimacy is life-changing, life-saving and life-preserving—as well as pictorially charged.
Entangled Life presents a plethora of cases for how fungi have affected and will continue to impact all forms of human endeavor: from industry to introspection, from waste-management to health. With fungi recognized as a separate biological kingdom only in the 1960s, we are still scratching at the surface of our intricate relationships with them. They are so finely inscribed within the fabric of reality as to seem invisible, their purposes so intimate and yet so alien.