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What's with the name?

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And Now For Something Completely Different

Artist Trains Mushrooms to Someday Consume Her Body In Environmentally Safe Funeral

New life goal: be the sort of person who could plausibly have “death mushroom trainer” on my resume, and doesn’t live in the world of Pokémon. Forgive us for never bringing Jae Rhim Lee to your attention before. Her Infinity Mushroom project and its accompanying TED Talk have been around for a while, but this is the first we’ve seen them. Lee is pictured above, wearing her Mushroom Death Suit.

And now you have to read the rest of the aritcle, don’t you?

Lee’s Infinity Burial Project is concerned with fighting what she calls “cultural death denial.” As she says:

I am interested in cultural death denial, and why we are so distanced from our bodies, and especially how death denial leads to funeral practices that harm the environment – using formaldehyde and pink make-up and all that to make your loved one look vibrant and alive, so that you can imagine they’re just sleeping rather than actually dead. The US government recently upgraded formaldehyde from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen, so by trying to preserve the body we poison the living.

Specifically, in her TED talk she mentions that prolonged exposure to embalming chemicals over their careers “causes respiratory problems and cancer in funeral personel.” How to dispose of the human body in a way that filters out harmful chemicals before they enter the environment? In her research, Lee found that some of humanity’s favorite edible mushrooms were also really good at cleaning toxins out of the decaying remains that they grow on. So she started teaching shiitake and oyster mushrooms to eat her shed hair, nail clippings, and skin cells.

Gross? Yes. Cool? That too!

Periodically, she selects for the mushrooms that thrive the best on her dead tissue, and figures that by the time she needs them, she’ll have a crop of mushroom spores just itching to decompose her. The white lines on her Mushroom Death Suit are infused with those spores, and the suit itself would serve to cover a couple mixtures of mushroom spores and mushroom food that would be applied to the skin. Here’s her site, and here’s her TED Talk:

(via Jad Abumrad.)

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  • Elani Temperance

    This woman is my new hero <3

  • Anonymous

    That’s awesome! Also, didn’t know that cremation was harmful too. Good to know.

  • Null

    Very creative, but how about a simple burial–just drop her body into the ground? Completely natural, and as old as the waves and as new as the dawn.

  • Avaylee

    The simple burial doesn’t address the toxins that are already in our bodies, from what I gathered in the talk. The mushrooms would remove the toxins and filter them out of the environment. Amazing if she actually gets this going.

  • Anonymous

    Considering we mostly end up in coffins, this is quite literally some “thinking outside the box” type stuff! I would like to see where this goes…

  • Magic Xylophone

    Anyone else reminded of the aliens from the Identity Crisis episode of Star Trek TNG?,_Identity_Crisis.jpg

  • Veronica

    So, this woman is spending her life preparing for the disposal of her dead body….healthy!

  • Octochan

    Now I want this as part of my wicker coffin, which will be shaped like a chrysalis.

  • Edcedc8

    I’m pretty sure she’s a super villain.

  • Miriam Rubinoff

    Jewish and Muslim burial customs call for burial as soon as possible after death, with no embalming or makeup, and no fancy casket – wrapped in cloth, and if a casket is used, it is a simple wooden box. This facilitates the body’s return to the ecosystem. Green burial practices are a reinvention of these ancient traditions.

  • Anonymous