“In the face of catastrophic climate news, I find myself vacillating between abject despair and stubborn optimism. The 'Mushroom Cloud' Project was forged in that dynamic nexus and dwells in both spaces simultaneously."
Mushroom Cloud is a multi-faceted, participatory, and immersive art experience in Miami, FL. This artwork exists in augmented reality (AR); in sculptural objects; in the embedded and associated expository “Blueprint” and writings; in the conceptual framework of the blockchain; and in the form of NFTs.
Mushroom Cloud begins as an animated AR drawing created by artist Nancy Baker Cahill and accessed through her free 4th Wall app. Viewers will experience a bespoke digital artwork, geolocated in two separate locations, which will appear to emerge from the ocean surface, grow upward and explode into a mushroom cloud. Then the cap of the cloud metamorphoses into a web of mycelial filaments mimicking rhizoid structures, and branching hyphae spread overhead across the sky. Our hope is that viewers will experience the “ergonomics of awe” in gazing up at a sparkling web of interconnected arteries overhead, and imagine how, using nature as a model, we might collectively survive our endangered future.
Mushroom Cloud is informed by the architecture and function of fungal colonies, or mycelium networks, that form the connective tissue of all carbon-based life on earth. Mycelia extend for vast distances underground, and communicate warnings, transfer nutrients, and signal shifts in ecosystems to an infinite number of plants and organisms.
In an ambitious amplification and expansion of the celebrated Contract Killers project, Nancy Baker Cahill and art attorney and collaborator, Sarah Conley Odenkirk, dig deeper into what it means to be part of a decentralized and sustainable network. The mycelium in the sky--a “cloud” of hyphae--is the point of departure for the NFT experience. It indexes the ideals of Web 3.0, decentralized blockchain technologies, and the accountability inherent in the NFTs’ armatures (imprecisely called “smart contracts”). Collectors will have the opportunity to collect a unique NFT bundle; a bespoke Unity video capture of the AR artwork, seven sculptural “nodes” in the form of exquisitely hand-crafted, transparent Caribbean blue cubes, each with a single pearlescent sphere, or “spore” floating inside, a digital image of the cube, a diptych of the Unity animation, and the opportunity for the collector to have the AR artwork geolocated in the location of their choosing. The blue cubes echo the hues of the AR artwork, and acknowledge the precarious future of Miami, FL and other coastal cities threatened by rising seas. The suspended “spore” is a reminder of the power of each individual to act as ground zero for the germination of another mycelium structure: a conduit for resources, shared support, and ultimately a balanced ecosystem.
The “nodes” are presented as a single primary node (6”x 6”), two secondary nodes (4” x4”) and four tertiary nodes (2”x 2”), mimicking different artery sizes. In order to contest value in the NFT space, owners of the nodes are invited to “gift” the smaller nodes to someone meaningful in their social network or community. Along with the “nodes”, recipients will receive the “Blueprint” (crafted by Conley Odenkirk and attached to the NFT through the eco-friendly Algorand blockchain). This act of gifting stimulates a generative force, building the network outward and connecting communities across the board.
This is a project focused on accountability; one that values sharing and conserving resources, and strengthening networked systems through participation, communication and advocacy. Together these prompts aim to inspire us to create a global, intentional, and conscientious network of mutual support and respect which ultimately provides a strong platform from which collective problem-solving can occur.
This project invites direct action in the form of NFT video captures, related sculptural objects or “nodes”, and purely
digital images of abstract spores. Each represents a stage of engagement and participation in a newly imagined
system of accountability. In collaboration with art attorney Sarah Conley Odenkirk, she and Nancy Baker Cahill are deploying the transparent, contractual language of blockchain in a web 3-friendly “network blueprint” to frame value as ethical values, asking collectors to seed regenerative networks of care by gifting one or more of the “node” sculptures to a person or people to whom one is deeply connected. Digital “spores” might be more widely distributed as an appeal to build
infinite hyphae- the branching filaments of mycelium. Slowly but powerfully, we could grow a supportive network,
like mycelium, based on self-repairing structures. By blanketing the sky with this poetics of interconnectedness, Nancy Baker Cahill invites viewers to perceive a multi-nodal, communal, often invisible cloud—one that might privilege interdependence and generosity. With reconceived accountabilities, perhaps one could prompt a productive balance of grief and hope, shattering and coalescing, and decomposition and rebirth.
Experience The Artwork on Nancy's 4th Wall App