Phil Ross’ artwork revolves around repurposing and re-contextualizing natural systems to highlight the relationships between human beings, technology, and the greater living environment. One of Ross’ most recent ventures has focused on developing sustainable and durable materials from mushrooms. These creations can be used for sculptures and pieces of furniture- which Ross hopes will grow in popularity and begin to infect the modern living room.
These creations start with Reishi mushroom, an edible fungus, which grows out in its unique root structure, known as Mycelium. Fed from agricultural waste like sawdust, the mycelium forms networks which can be molded into elaborate designs. The material is then dried out and baked to kill the fungus so that it doesn’t, “come alive again and infect your house and start to eat it” said Ross. (Roth-Johnson, Liz, August 26, 2014, A House Made From Mushrooms? An Artist Dreams of a Fungal Future)
Ross’ work has typically been met with doubt. Due to fungus’ negative connotation as well as general lack of knowledge people do not understand the material and are skeptical. He says, “the first thing that people do” is, “…grab [the material] and they smell it”. But according to Ross the material smells natural like the woods instead of mushrooms. (Roth-Johnson, Liz, August 26, 2014, A House Made From Mushrooms? An Artist Dreams of a Fungal Future)
People also doubt the strength of the material but it is in fact, “stronger pound for pound than concrete”. (Mok, Kimberley, September 26, 2012, Mycotecture: Building with Mushrooms? This Inventor Says Yes)
This skepticism becomes an integral part of Ross’ artwork for this is how his work is greeted. Thus Ross strives to create structurally sound and impressive structures that break down the doubt of his natural material.
Though, “the fungal tissue that binds the furniture together is durable, lightweight, stronger than concrete, fireproof, waterproof, mold resistant, and has better insulation than fiberglass” it has not flourished. However, Ross is optimistic for the future, saying, “They’re inevitably going to be part of our world because they’re so energetically low and there’s no waste generated from this process.” (Roth-Johnson, Liz, August 26, 2014, A House Made From Mushrooms? An Artist Dreams of a Fungal Future)
Phil Ross’ projects center around the power of natural technology. Ross’ exhibit at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco titled BioTechnique featured ecosystems which grew out of their containers and in some cases knocked over sculptures. This exemplified humans process of restricting and using nature to advance, showing the power and ability of nature, as well as its wildness.
Amy M Youngs projects like Fishphonics and Wormphonics demonstrate a complete cycle of life in which consumption and waste contribute to the growth and development of a biological system. These pieces were originally meant to be adopted into homes to bring humans closer to this circle of life and become more comfortable with composting. Instead these pieces were mostly featured in museums, having a different reception than intended like Ross’ furniture.
All of these artworks had different interpretations and receptions than originally intended, which factors into their meaning. Young and Ross highlight natural materials and processes to advance our understanding as well as comfort. By presenting biological work as art and also as home decoration, people are forcibly brought close to nature. These artworks advance our societal reception to effective natural alternatives, making them very poignant and successful works of art.
Ross' Fungus Furniture has been featured in:
Germany's famous Eat Art exhibition,
San Diego's New Children Museum
Ross, P. (n.d.). Philip Ross : BIO. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://billhoss.phpwebhosting.com/ross/index.php?id=2
Mok, K. (2012, September 26). Mycotecture: Building with Mushrooms? This Inventor Says Yes. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/mycotecture-mushroom-bricks-philip-ross.html
Roth-Johnson, L. (2014, August 26). A House Made From Mushrooms? An Artist Dreams of a Fungal Future. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2014/08/26/a-house-made-from-mushrooms-an-artist-dreams-of-a-fungal-future/
Newitz, A. (2008, January 16). Biological Art Mixes Plant Clones, Human Flesh, and Beautiful Bacteria. Retrieved April 19, 2016, from http://io9.gizmodo.com/345334/biological-art-mixes-plant-clones-human-flesh-and-beautiful-bacteria