No, I am not feeling morbid on this overcast Friday, but who can resist reading up on something called mushroom death suit? Inventor slash artist Jae Rhim Lee has taken on an immense project that crosses boundaries. On the one hand, she tackles the scientific aspect of training fungi to eat dead bodies. On the other hand, she tackles the prevailing attitudes of people towards death.
Lee was interviewed at the New Scientist, where she talked about her mushroom death suit, which is part of the Infinity Burial Project.1
The premise: we live in a culture of death denial, where the norm is to preserve – albeit temporarily – the bodies of the dead with materials such as formaldehyde. She talks about the negative effects of this practice on the environment and people.
The solution: toxin-cleaning edible mushroom to eat the body.
The method of delivery: mushroom death suit.
That’s the Lee herself wearing the suit at a TED talk. Obviously, the suit is not entirely made of mushroom. The diagram below shows how it is supposed to work.
As Lee has explained, the mushroom death suit is made of organic cotton (it has to be organic, of course!), which is covered by a crocheted netting. This netting is supposed to resemble the growth of mushroom mycelium and is also the medium for the infinity mushroom (the ones that will eat your body) to grow. She also does admit, however, that the netting might not serve the purpose as mushroom spores are difficult to cultivate outside of petri dishes. Her possible solution? Gelatin as a second skin.
This is really interesting, but I have to admit that I am feeling my stomach stir as I write. Lee’s ultimate goal is to increase awareness for her cause – environmental stewardship that does not necessarily end when you pass away. I applaud her for that, but I think I will stick to my original plan – the hottest of fires. I may be acting like a wuss here, but isn’t fire just as environment-friendly as the mushroom death suit?