Mother and Spawn

Mother and Spawn is an interactive sculpture that explores the relationship among environmentalism, sustainability, and the ethics surrounding artificial intelligence. The work (consisting of a mother and her offspring) is constructed from biomaterials: mycelium, bacterial cultures, mushrooms, and natural dyes. These strange, fungal organisms include photovoltaic and ultrasonic sensors that trigger various LED patterns and sounds when participants move within a certain proximity. Each sculpture not only talks to participants through an unfamiliar language of lights and sounds, but also speaks with each other through an infrared sensor that allows the mother to comfort and nurture its miniature offspring. Both resemble antique radio systems that communicate through bioluminescence. Here, I draw upon theories of speculative design to imagine a future in which technology and organic matter have reached a singularity, a complete and total integration of machine and living material. As an aesthetic practice, speculative design articulates different possibilities for the future through the material act of making. In defamiliarizing our expectations of technologies and biological processes, Mother and Spawn entertains a world in which digital systems and fungal colonization exist in harmony within the same intelligence network. Rather than paint the future of human-machine relationships in a negative light, Mother and Spawn encourages participants to consider a fictional reality in which digital and biological systems are imbricated in one another within the natural world. Link to schematics and photographs of prototype:

Interactive sculpture, Speculative design, Biomaterials, Physical computing

New Media, Technology and the Arts

Creative Practice Showcase

  • Eddie Lohmeyer
    • Assistant Professor of Digital Media, Department of Games and Interactive Media, University of Central Florida, United States United States