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the Tentaculae

The Tentaculae is an interactive musical instrument installation that allows for an audience to generate live music in collaboration with mushrooms and artificial intelligence. This musical instrument was designed by an AI and allows for humans to pick up bio-sensors and allow their bodily functions (skin conductivity, heart rate, temperature) to control sounds. While humans bio-data effects sounds, similar bio-sensors (electrodermal needles) in mushrooms are also effecting sounds in the space. It has a central body with many long ‘tentacle’ arms, one of which leads to a tank of mushrooms growing. The audience is encouraged to explore the ends of each tentacle, trying to figure out which bio-data is being collected and what their effect in bio-generated sound has on the space.

The work explores listening to, and collaborating with non-human living partners. It encourages a deeper focus on respecting other organic forms through a unique shared creative practice. Playing the instrument is like stepping onto a new planet, one where humans, machines and mushrooms can communicate through music. The longer a visitor stays, the more they might begin to develop a language. They might breathe quickly and accelerate their heart rate making lower sounds, a frequency which mushrooms favour and will spike activity in their sonic response. Or they might chat with the AI and realise they can have absurd and yet creatively stimulating conversations. These are experiences for trying out new ways that we might live in a wholistic society. These lessons are both ancient and futuristic, a call from the past to respect the non-humans we share the planet with, and a glimpse of future human-machine communities.

Mushrooms are chosen as the non-human partners in this project because they are wise social beings. They will play a large part in the stemming of climate collapse as they help us clean up nuclear waste, provide alternative options for textiles, building substitutes, food sources, and even decompose our bodies after death. This is a project where an audience is encouraged to notice mushrooms more, think with their logics, and learn new forms of social virtuosity – being a member of this planet planet by thinking with mycelial knowledge.

The work is at the forefront of new technologies utilising AI within the design of the system in a novel way. Moreover the involvement of both the AI and mushrooms in this project propose a new form of collaboration which might be made beyond the human. It highlights subjects surrounding new form of social living and community building while also considering the role technology can play within our futures As AI becomes a more present element of contemporary society this is a work which utilises the power of artistic thinking to re-situate a role that these machines might play in these stories. Through the abstract connection between mushrooms and AI audiences are invited to evoke their own agency in seeking communication between humans, machines and organics matter and take away memories of this experience into their greater lives.

The project was developed with expert guidance and feedback from mycologists, bio-feedback specialists, psychologists and AI engineers. At the heart of the project is the creative AI ‘Chimere’ who is felt as a close working partner in all of Maria’s work.

Created at Theatre Snt. Gervais, Geneva, Switzerland, (2022) with subsequent showings at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra Festival (2022), the Creative Climate Awards (2023, NYC) and at the Intergalactic Space Jungle by the Makers World Artists in Huddersfield (2023)

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