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Return to: Georg Dietzler

Sculptural Experiments--Biotechnological Soil Redevelopment


(1995)

Oyster Mushrooms Eat Up Hazardous Waste

Environments and Short-term Interventions in Public Peripheral Zones for Contaminated Industrial Sites--Experimental Methods Between Art and Science

Experiment duration: approx. 18 months

Contamination of the earth's soil through particularly dangerous chlorine products, such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)--fireproof cooling, weather-proofing and insulation materials--finds its way to human beings through the food chain. This occurs through redevelopment of hazardous waste by way of chemical "washing" and high-temperature burning. During this process, harmful substances are bound in solvents and centers for purification of exhaust gases; these bound substances have to be safely disposed of through special waste management. The result is biologically dead mineral flour--too expensive to use for building roads. The Oyster mushroom has turned out to be the "specialist" for bioremediation of soil contaminated with PCB--a mushroom renowned as a delicacy among connoisseurs.

A breeding ground for Oyster mushrooms is to be laid out on a PCB-contaminated space of approximately 100 square meters (328 square feet). A sculptural arrangement of space is created on the experimental field using available railroad ties and massive, felled coppices from the area. The breeding ground and wood are then inoculated with Oyster mushroom spores and/or mycelium. Depending on the weather, after a couple of weeks living situations will arise and change due to growth. According to substantiated scientific research, after awhile this mushroom network will begin to split PCB bonds--through organic "blasting" of the toxic chemical bonds that causes them to develop into non-toxic substances, without depositing poisonous substances into the mushrooms. Highly fertile garden soil cannot yet be generated from this, but the soil is suitable for covering garbage land fills and landscaping them. At the very least, this is a ray of hope for the necessary 26,000 soil redevelopment areas in Germany (according to information from the Federal Ministry for The Environment). The project is accompanied by soil analyses in approximately two-month intervals. These, as well as the entire experiment, will be--among other things--documented through electro-microscopic photographs and the drawings that result from them.

With the "Oyster Mushrooms Eat Up Dangerous Waste" experiment, the following questions are examined:

+++ To what extent do PCB bonds accumulate in the "delicacy food"--the Oyster mushroom?

+++ Can the mushrooms continue to be used for financial means without hesitation, or do they have to be disposed of and to what degree must this disposal take place?

+++ How does the human organism react when it consumes Oyster mushrooms that have been used in soil redevelopment?

+++ How can people be protected from possible misuse and poisoning?

+++ Can artistically aesthetic aspects be tied into biotechnological development of industrial soil?

+++ How can remaining buildings and infrastructures be used?

+++ Can something--like the "intervention" already described--exist as an independent work of art in process?

+++ Is this about "industrial design" or "scientific design" since ecological redevelopment of health-hazardous industrial sites has become a central issue aesthetically?

+++ What are the connections to "art in public space" and "art in construction"?

+++ Looking ahead: how can a biotechnological "soil sewage plant" be developed from this project?

Revised concept: Copyright Georg Dietzler, March 1995

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