Mushroom Cloud LA

Mushroom Cloud is on display in Los Angeles, CA at the Santa Monica Pier

Mushroom Cloud LA / Proximities

In the face of ongoing 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. 

I created an animated AR artwork of a mushroom cloud over the ocean to underscore both the destruction and fragility of all interdependent ecosystems, and to signal human responsibility. As a destabilized ocean stealthily encroaches on all coastlines, the mushroom cloud by contrast arguably remains the most recognizable symbol of man-made cataclysm. Our extractive disrespect for nature has turned nature against us, and we are unprepared for its impact. The AR artwork was originally commissioned by Aorist Art for Miami, FL with the intention that it would subsequently travel to endangered waterways across the globe. It is now situated off the end of the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. 

The AR drawing explodes up from the Pacific ocean surface and then transforms overhead into a cloud of a different kind; a resilient and generative mycelial network (fungal colonies which form the connective tissue of all carbon-based life on earth) in the sky. I’m considering the aftermath. How might we survive our imperiled future without coordinated leadership? And if current models are failing to produce that leadership, where should we turn?

I have summoned the decentralized and equitable model of mycelium once before, in a recent AR monument geolocated over Los Angeles City Hall, imagining a new civic accountability rooted in efficient regeneration and community care. In Mushroom Cloud LA, I want to extend this dialogue into the threat of extinction — a morbid subject of increasing urgency. This new iteration is designed to address twin climate crises of the West Coast: rising sea levels and unprecedented wildfires, both of which increasingly converge with uncomfortable proximity. A series of digital and analog artworks related to the project will be included in the project’s west coast debut, including a video sound collaboration with artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin. To support the action-oriented, collaborative goals of the project, 10% of the proceeds from any artwork sale will go to Winger-Bearksin’s Wampum.codes initiative, which gives financial support to indigenous innovators aiding Land Back Movements and Indigenous Sovereignty Economies. Winger-Bearskin, who is Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma (Iroquois/ Haudenosaunee) and is an artist and advocate for the responsible use of technology, has long been a leader in imagining and implementing systems of mutual aid and climate justice. She hopes to return land/resources/leadership to indigenous custodians of Turtle island.  

Each interaction with the project represents a stage of engagement and participation in a newly imagined system of accountability. In collaboration with art attorney Sarah Conley Odenkirk, we are deploying the transparent, contractual language of blockchain in a web 3-friendly “network blueprint” to frame value as ethical values, to highlight Winger-Bearskin’s work, and to ask collectors to seed regenerative networks of care by gifting one or more of the fire “node” sculptures to a person or people to whom one is deeply connected. These artworks/ experiences 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, I invite viewers to perceive a multinodal, communal, often invisible cloud — one that might privilege interdependence and generosity. With reconceived accountabilities, perhaps we could prompt a productive balance of grief and hope, shattering and coalescing, decomposition and rebirth.

Project page available here

App Developer and creative tech team: Shaking Earth Digital