Tracing Lichens | Leonardo/ISAST

Tracing Lichens

By Sarah Brady
Since my time at Djerassi, one cannot help but admire the beauty of lichen, following their tangles and patterns. It is everywhere, growing on and over things, pale green strings. Each pattern unique to its kind, with incredible adaptive abilities. Its structure and symmetry decenter their objects, covering them in fibrous threads that allow for a means of transformation. They are nature, alive, ancient, not built by humans. Lichen can undergo photosynthesis in outer space and found in the earliest fossils of plant life dating 460 million years ago. They grow slowly over time, immortal, in evolution and harmony. Yet, a litmus test for pollution, which is why they are only found in abundance above the Santa Cruz mountains.  

They are the perfect hybrid of both fungus and algae. Lichen are a world of themselves, as a mutualism of two species joined as one. Lichen proposes and enacts patterns for us to follow. We are all created by multiple relationships and connections with one another. What lichen has shown me during my stay has solidified my practice as an artist.

Lichens require sympoiesis, or making-with, rather than autopoiesis, or self-making. We must follow patterns where humans and non-humans are inextricably linked. Combining past and present technologies, Human and Nonhuman, hybrids reveal their agents in co-evolution within global networks for survival. The future is combining Human/Animal, Life/Nonlife, Ancient/Modern, and Biological/Technological. Our ability to coevolve and think outside ourselves will benefit us when we reorient outwards.