Art’s hidden wonders

2018 Feb 12

Take a closer look at the art installation Relationscape. One of the discs – a sealed mosaic of living fungi – has multiple hidden stories to tell.

As the  installation stood for a few days in the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, it reminded commuters of all the biology that surrounds and defines us.

In a spiral structure, four large discs celebrated nature and helped start a conversation about how biology can help solve global problems. One of the discs – a sealed mosaic of living fungi – has multiple hidden stories to tell.

The fungus Penicillium malachiteum has spread its beautiful green pigments across the disc. It gets its name from malachite, an opaque, green-banded mineral. And among its many relatives are the species of fungi that produce penicillin.

At the center of the disc grows Fusarium sp. – a type of mold often showing reddish or pinkish colors. A close relative to this fungus is used to produce protein-rich meat substitutes.

Pycnoporus sanguineus can usually be seen in the bracket fungus on trees. It has a very bright orange color. The fungus digests moist wood, causing it to rot. This type of fungus is used to help out industry and can even help out patients relieve symptoms of fevers, tooth aches and arthritis.

Across the petri dish, the organisms are competing and working together for space. Some are masters at keeping others at bay; some fungi grow into each other. A snapshot of co-existence.

The art installation Relationscape is created by the art collective Studio ThinkingHand and Nana Francisca Schottländer. The artists worked with fungi from the enzyme laboratory at Novozymes.