Wednesday, May 06, 2020

MATERIAL DRIVEN DESIGN. Sculpting with Bioplastic Textile Workshop/ Livestream with Fara Peluso


Today Material Research is a central point in the theory and practice of designing new technologies, in cooperation with art and design. These fields are currently collaborating, merging their knowledge and practice to develop a new generation of materials, by focusing on specific characteristics, to create new environmentally friendly materials. Another approach, however, has also arisen in the last years combining making, crafting and personal fabrication of new materials through a form of Do It Yourself (DIY) biology and craftmaking.

This Mind the Fungi workshop discusses this new material driven design movement and methodology, learning how to build a new material by studying and using a living organism like mycelium. Discovering the features, possibilities and limits of mycelium-based materials, the participants will work together growing material and developing new material, building sculptures, assembling DIY packaging and drawing and cutting patterns on a new material made of biofilm.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis the initial workshop has been postponed and will hopefully take place later this year. But on 6 May Fara Peluso led a discussion and online workshop More information at

Thursday, April 30, 2020

'Mind the Fungi' exhibition at FUTURIUM

Photos from our first Mind the Fungi exhibition at the Futurium, which just ended. The second exhibition, featuring the works of Theresa Schubert and Fara Peluso, from their artist-in-residency a the TU Berlin , Institute of Biotechnology, will open during the Summer

Photos by Tim Deussen

Mind the Fungi
is a collaboration between the TU Berlin Institute for Biotechnology and Art Laboratory Berlin, combining scientific research, citizen science and artist and designer residencies-in-lab. The project researches innovative uses for biomaterials produced from tree fungi. Researchers at TU Berlin create new materials from natural sources. How and what you grow the materials on defines its qualities. For this topic Art Laboratory Berlin brings together artists, designers, scientists and the public to share knowledge and experience new forms of creativity through exhibitions, talks and workshops.

The exhibition shows how we have cultivated various tree fungi with different media (i.e. on substrate such as sawdust), and produced biomaterials with different shapes, structures and qualities. Some current examples range from mycelium bricks to 'vegan leather' and other design products. Videos and slide shows document the Art Science project "Mind the Fungi", introduce the individual team members and provide a deeper insight into the creative world of an interdisciplinary work process.Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz (curators)

More information

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Microplastics and Coexistence Kat Austen and Nana MacLean

Discussion Workshop and Livestream

Wednesday 22 April 2020 from 5:30-7:00 pm

What we consider to be our environment unequivocally and ubiquitously contains plastic. It has been found at the outskirts of human reach: at the top of Mount Everest, in Arctic ice, and at the bottom of the Mariana trench. Plastic is becoming part of our geology and the lively surrounding of many organisms on this planet – a new material and habitat providing new stories and life forms.

The overabundance of this human-made material challenges our concepts of the natural and former sites of waste and refuse might have gotten a new fertile potential: Trees grow on plastic dumps, bacteria and fungi evolve to feed on PET. Plastic might be disrupting our idea of nature but is it really disrupting nature itself?
While plastic can be detrimental to the quality of an ecosystem, plastic pollution is also a carbon sink, storing carbon and keeping carbon dioxide and methane out of the atmosphere. But is this carbon sink, itself an embodiment of industrial processes that contribute to the climate crisis, in competition or complementarity to forests? Using DIY science and artistic research, Kat Austen has been working on a new project Stranger to the Trees* exploring the coexistence of microplastics with birch trees.

In soil, microorganisms are involved in degradation processes of both natural and synthesized material. In order to build a first understanding of the plastisphere as a living micro-habitat, Nana MacLean started characterizing the microbial community on plastic debris in soil and landfills she has visited during her Phd research. With molecular data in her hands, she’s questioning if bacterial life isn’t already “owning” the plastisphere as a new nature.

In the DIY Hack the Panke programme's (Un)Real Ecologies workshops by Nana MacLean and Kat Austen, participants work together to research the coexistence of microplastics with the Panke River in Berlin Wedding. The Sushi Roulette workshop series uses DIY chemistry to search for microplastics in fish guts. Coexistence of plastic with non-artificial entities in the environment, and with humans, is a burgeoning area of research, which has been explored through participatory interdisciplinary techniques and should be discussed from many different angles.

This Earth Day, join Kat Austen and Nana MacLean to discuss the coexistence of microplastics in the environment and what it means for nature and ourselves. During this online talk, we will invite your minds with us to go visiting the plastisphere as artists, chemists and biologists, trees and bacteria, humans and particles – negotiating together a plan of coexistence with microplastics on this planet.

More information at:

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash - Ken Rinaldo Opening tonight

Opens 25 January 2020 at 7PM

Exhibition runs: 26 January- 1 March 2020, Fri - Sun 2-6PM 

Here is a sneak preview:

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash discusses important current aspects of biopolitics. By visualising microbiome landscapes of banknotes, the project invites us to reflect about the interconnectedness of ecological and economic exchanges.

Much recent attention has been given to the human microbiome, the microbes which live on and within our bodies. These communities also exist on most surfaces around us. When we touch objects, we exchange bacteria, fungi and viruses, leaving some microbiota behind. It is no surprise that one of the objects we touch most – money – is not only a medium of economic but also microbial exchange. According to a study conducted by the NYU Center for Genomics & Systems Biology, 3000 types of bacteria were identified on dollar bills from just one Manhattan bank.

Ken Rinaldo, an established artist in the field of Bio and Postmedia art, develops hybrid human-nonhuman ecologies. Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash explores the hidden microbiome of money within a critical framework that also sheds light on exchange and power. Do Chinese Yuan and American Dollars share bacterial and fungal communities?

This micro-performative project is intriguingly simple in its setup: Various bills of international currency are displayed in square Petri dishes on enriched agar. Time plays a crucial role, as a microbial landscape grows and realises itself over the course of several weeks.

On an aesthetic level, the iconography of the currency literally loses face as microbial growth undermines the representational aspect of the banknotes. The official character of money is subverted. As its microbial nature comes to light, it appears far less representative: a fine network of mycelia covers the head of George Washington on a $1 note; on a 10 CHF note, Le Corbusier is no longer recognisable due to bacterial growth.

Wishing to lessen his carbon footprint, artist Ken Rinaldo expressed the wish that the work be made without his travelling. This work was first made in 2017 during a residency at Cultivamos Cultura, Portugal. Some of the works in the exhibition were created with students from the Gustav-Freytag-Schule in Berlin-Reinickendorf as part of a collaboration between the school, ALB and the DIY Hack the Panke collective*.

Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz (curators)

Part of the Vorspiel programme in partnership with the CTM and transmediale. 

Special Thanks to the Berlin Senate Office for Culture and Europe and  
*Berliner Projektfonds Kulturelle Bildung