Green burial project developing corpse-eating mushrooms
By Paul Ridden
July 29, 2011
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.
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.