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.)