Carrier Bag Fiction interview with Anna Tsing

I thought this interview was really interesting. However, I wish the part that I found the MOST interesting was talked about a little bit more is "Every event in history has been a more-than-human event". Tsing does go on a bit to talk about how they felt as though they missed a little bit by instilling blind hope into their work, but the idea gets sort of dropped at that point (not entirely, but saliently).

What made this so interesting to me was the anthropological implications of COVID. A virus is just a virus. It does what it does to survive and has no or very little autonomy. Humans and how we prefer to interact is what caused the pandemic. It is an insanely human thing to do to take quick risks for social contact that cause a global pandemic. Even natural disasters like a Tsunami are more devastating by our choices/needs to live near bodies of water. And what is global warming but the human desire to be efficient and succeed and grow.

I think if we did connect with organisms on a different world, they would have no real way to understand what we do without just studying us. The confusion around how a mycelium network communicates and why is a fascinating manifestation of this. This network does what it does very intentionally, so why do we not know what's going on?

Mycelium as Nature's Internet

This was a great crash course on the relationship between living things and the history of mycelium. The fact that research suggests modern life is a direct result, in some way, to mycelium, is fascinating. And it isn't difficult to understand, which is what I love about it. The way that the organisms feeds can directly explain photosynthesis or the development of the stomach as we know it. But what is absolutely way cooler is the Gaia Hypothesis. It is a bit weird to wrap your head around by definition, but just by seeing how things in this universe grow, we see directly how this hypothesis came to be. Think about a mycelium network, the human nervous system, and a map of our galaxies and you can see that mycelial archetype immediately. What is even cooler is that we can directly see how mycelium is the immune system of our environment, but our own processes to maintain homeostasis follow similar structures and patterns.

Entangled Life: Living Labyrinths

This piece felt the most technical, but the parts that felt the most important to me were about the behaviors we see in mycelium. The way that an entire, decentralized, network can actively redirect its growth and remember a path (even after being severed) opens the doors for so many pathfinding experimentation. But, unlike looking at super high level structures (like in Gaia theory), thinking more granularly about decision making among a colony of single-cell thick organisms with no center of control is way harder to digest. Also, I really love this idea of bioluminescent mycelium networks and mushrooms. I am curious if that is something that can be grown and turned into mycofoam. My guess is no since bioluminescence requires a luciferin and once it is baked down, it likely cannot make or maintain luciferin in its state. It is more active than "glow in the dark".

Project Idea

I am really interested in the more architectural applications of this material. My father is an architect and has begun exploring more ways to use natural materials. He is dipping his toes into the research (but still has to make a living ya know?), but recently completed this house. From what I understand this decision is two fold: 1) it looks great 2) using the grass can reduce the temperature of the house as well as use less energy to keep it cool.


It is fascinating to see this kind of work beginning in residential architecture since so much of the current work is speculative. Take TerreformONE for instance. Their entire philosophy is Design Against Extinction, which esentially means that they are designing for a post-climate crisis world. They design for a point in time where we may need to reconsider all of our building materials, carbon footprints, and protein sources (they made a bug farm). They have an office out of NewLab @ the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is where I discovered them. While I was there, they had 2 benches on display from a project they called MYCOFORM.


These benches are made with mycelium foam with a core that is build from the substrate (though that is what the foam is, so it could just be extra jargon). These, like all mycelium forms will decompose safely at the end of their life cycle. Which makes them ideal for the type of utopian environments designed by TerreformONE



I love the work at this place, but between my father just now accessing what we already know, TerreformOne designing for a future years down the line, I want to consider what can be done on a small scale now. What can we make that can introduce the public to a more sustainable city? I want to explore unique ways to use mycelium in products that can capture that utopian essence, while considering where we can feasibly use them right now. Last week, while I did touch on a more practical use for scoby leather, I spent more time on the artistic application. This week, I want to do the opposite and think about what we can use.

When thinking about this, I needed to actually consider the strength of the mycelium foam as well. It can handle about 30PSI of pressure which isn't very much compared to up to 5000PSI pressure for concrete. Because of this, I felt it made more sense to focus on its tensile strength, ability to resist odor, easy and cheap to grow (~12% of the cost of regular foam), and its fast as well.

I came up with an idea for modular mycelium cushions. These would be placed in places like the NYC subway where a lot of foot traffic exists. Since these cushions could be made out of Ecovative's Mycoflex, giving them a lot of cushion and comfort. However, once they are layered together and covered with a nice, natural, biodegradable material, they can be disposed of and replace frequently. This will keep the subways clean, and maintenance low, likely while saving money.

Additionally, they benches would not be anti-human and would be able to serve a homeless population by providing a safe place for people to be if they need to. Any sort of issues with current NYC will be alleviated by the replaceable nature of these cushions.