Our Body is a Planet is an art/science collaboration between Léonie Hampton of Still/Moving and scientists at the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Exeter. This short film challenges the way we think of ourselves as individual genetically prescribed entities, independent from our surroundings. Without fungi and bacteria our bodies and biosphere would not exist; we are in partnership with the microbial world. Our bodies are made up of more microbial cells that our own ‘human’ cells. This symbiotic life sustaining alliance is under threat, partly as a result of the colossal scale of the destructive practices wrought by humans on the planet during the age of the anthropocene. The delicate balance between living bodies and the world is in danger. Fungi are being forced to adapt to changing environments and this is leading to an increase in fungal pathogens and the spread of new diseases. Today, mostly as a result of modern medicine, HIV, and climate change the number of lethal fungal infections is increasing, killing 1.5 million people a year. If these practices continue to grow scientists warn that we will face a medical emergency with an increase in drug resistance, and the threat of fungal virulence due to climatic change.
Simultaneously there is so much to be gained from the study of fungi; about which we still understand very little. They offer us collective, resilient, regenerative ways of being that might in turn lead us back to a more balanced partnership with the microbial world and one another. The symbiotic and pathogenic pathways of fungi challenge our animal imaginations and mechanistic modern systems of life, offering new possibilities of how we might learn to “live and die well together on a damaged planet” *
*Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the end of the World