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Green burial project developing corpse-eating mushrooms

By

July 29, 2011

Visual artist Jae Rhim Lee is currently training shiitake and oyster mushrooms to feast on...

Visual artist Jae Rhim Lee is currently training shiitake and oyster mushrooms to feast on decaying human flesh to develop a new green burial system, while also increasing knowledge and awareness of the concept of death acceptance

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As part of a project aimed at getting people to accept and embrace their own mortality, visual artist Jae Rhim Lee is training mushrooms to decompose human tissue. This doesn't involve cruelly prodding unruly shrooms with electric goads or whipping them into submission, but rather introducing common fungi to the artist's own skin, hair, nail clippings and other body tissue so that they start to digest it. A prototype body suit has been created that's embroidered with spore-infused netting. This would be used in conjunction with a special spore slurry embalming cocktail to break down the body's organic matter and clean out the accumulated toxins, producing a nutrient-rich compost.

Searching for a formaldehyde-free, environmentally-friendly way to break down the body and clean up its lifetime accumulation of toxins after death, Lee is experimenting with two varieties of common mushroom that can be adapted to grow on the artist's own collected hair, nails and skin. She's built a tarpaulin-covered mobile laboratory to cultivate and fine-tune the tissue-digesting fungi, and has also developed a prototype of a spore-laden body suit that the dearly departed would be wrapped in while the mushrooms do their work.

Jae Rhim Lee wearing the Infinity Burial Suit prototype

The Infinity Burial Suit prototype is made of organic cotton and covered with an embroidered net of thread which resembles the growth pattern of mushroom mycelium, and that has been infused with mushroom spores. A special cocktail of minerals and spores will also be introduced into the corpse itself, that will encourage mushroom growth from the inside. Special make-up based on the spore slurry is also being considered that will quickly break down and assist the decomposition process.

The project is aiming towards the development of a natural burial system which will facilitate decomposition of the body, remediate accumulated body toxins, and deliver nutrients to plants in the surrounding area. Lee also hopes that the Infinity Burial Project will help raise awareness of the concept of death acceptance, rather than continuing to try and detach ourselves from our inevitable end.

A group called the Decompiculture Society has been formed to support the project and is made up of such people as green burial providers, health-care workers, and curious individuals.

Infinity Burial Project updates are available by registering at the project website.

Source: DVICE

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12 Comments

Two things about this article bug me. First of all, no one can quantify what they mean by "accumulated toxins." This is just one of those BS marketing phrases that make weak minded people think they need to buy something to get rid of these phantom toxins or waste money on overpriced organic foods.

Second, and more importantly, this is a solution in search of a problem, and really something that has no business in a technology oriented magazine.

phydeaux
31st July, 2011 @ 06:59 pm PDT

I agree with the first comment, I do not believe three's any evidence that our modern bodies are so full of "accumulated toxins" that we can only be sent to hazmat waste recycling facilities.

William Blackburn
31st July, 2011 @ 10:54 pm PDT

Interesting.. but silly if this is to be taken seriously :)

Can anyone say "pork barrel" projects ..

Michael Glazer
1st August, 2011 @ 07:20 am PDT

If they could develop a "spray on" version or a shotgun, mortar, or grenade delivery system for this technology, this would really help defend against the eventual Zombie Apocalypse.

Gene Jordan
1st August, 2011 @ 09:18 am PDT

Aren't there already several varieties of fungus that are more than happy to digest our skin and tissue? Ring worm comes to mind.

Phydeaux: there are lots of good reasons to purchase organic food, but you are right that "toxin accumulation" is not a great one. We do, of course, accumulate and disperse all kinds of toxins over the course of our lives, but most are biodegradable and easily dealt with by a normal healthy body. However, once we are dead normal burial procedure tends to include introducing all kinds of toxins into the body before stuffing it under several feet of concrete. I think I am happy enough to go in the incinerator rather than wearing some funky suit to the grave, but I can see that some people want to mark out a bit of land as some place Walmart will have a little extra trouble rebuilding.

Charles Bosse
1st August, 2011 @ 10:56 am PDT

Shouldn't the title be the "Soylent Green Burial Project"? Just thinking about it makes me hungry. So remember Tuesday is Soylent Green day.

Lsaguy
1st August, 2011 @ 11:23 am PDT

The toxin part may be hype but anything that will keep the body snatchers from profiting is good. Mark Twain talked about the cost and suffering they cause in "Life on The Mississippi"

It's still true today.

And I use the term body snatcher because I've worked for them and know what they do.

MikeFromHC
1st August, 2011 @ 11:58 am PDT

What's green about shipping dubious products around the world? Get buried in the earth without a casket, without any products. - That's green.

In Tibet, thy feed your dead flesh to vultures. This way you provide sustenance for other living things without expending extra energy or fuel.

If you're going to make false claims about accumulated toxins and sell products to ship around the world using supply lines, planes, and trucks plus the energy used by the factories in which their made, you're not really going green.

Evets
1st August, 2011 @ 12:33 pm PDT

Although i agree about "accumulated toxins", which goes along with such myths as 8 glasses of water a day, 20 year old corn flakes in your colon, health benefits of organic food, the benefits of taking vitamins (and almost any other 'food supplement'; i think the lady is quite creative. I seriously doubt if the project is 'pork barrel' if by that term one means 'paid for by the government'. Anyway doesn't the burgeoning world population suggest that shortly we will need very energy efficient ways of disposing of corpses? We certainly will not be able to bury them all and cremation is not energy efficient. Besides think of all the fine mushrooms we can harvest.

I'm 74 and I'm for it. Probably be a candidate pretty soon...

Page Schorer
1st August, 2011 @ 12:50 pm PDT

i can see it now. these fungi grow out of control growing on everyone. eating everyone.

time to write novel.

Michael Price
1st August, 2011 @ 01:16 pm PDT

Fade in:

"Detective, the body is gone. Looks like the Fungi Killer has been at work."

"Drat - shroomed again!"

There is nothing about how long this process would take.

Of course, using a wood chipper and mixing the output would speed things up.

The latest thing for the community garden project.

Remember Wednesday is Soylent Blue day; Thursday is Soylent Purple, etc.

Gotta love the sequels.

bandit
1st August, 2011 @ 02:31 pm PDT

Love the chipper idea. Freeze the deceased then run them through a big wood chipper, spraying the bits onto a field somewhere.

BTW, some guy did exactly that. Killed his wife, cut up the body and froze it. Then he rented a chipper, towed it onto a bridge and sprayed her into the river.

Unfortunately for him it was in winter, the river was low and somebody saw him on the bridge with the chipper. Forensic investigators collected bone chips from the riverbank and matched gouges in them exactly to multiple places on the chipper blades.

Gregg Eshelman
2nd August, 2011 @ 02:07 am PDT
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