A radical proposal for how a tiny organism can transform our understanding of human relations
Serving as both a guide and companion publication to the conceptual art project of the same name, The Lichen Museum explores how the physiological characteristics of lichens provide a valuable template for reimagining human relations in an age of ecological and social precarity. Channeling between the personal, the scientific, the philosophical, and the poetic, A. Laurie Palmer employs a cross-disciplinary framework that artfully mirrors the collective relations of lichens, imploring us to envision alternative ways of living based on interdependence rather than individualism and competition.
Lichens are composite organisms made up of a fungus and an alga or cyanobacteria thriving in a mutually beneficial relationship. The Lichen Museum looks to these complex organisms, remarkable for their symbiosis, diversity, longevity, and adaptability, as models for relations rooted in collaboration and nonhierarchical structures. In their resistance to fast-paced growth and commodification, lichens also offer possibilities for humans to reconfigure their relationship to time and attention outside of the accelerated pace of capitalist accumulation.
Drawing together a diverse set of voices, including personal encounters with lichenologists and lichens themselves, Palmer both imagines and embodies a radical new approach to human interconnection. Using this tiny organism as an emblem through which to navigate environmental and social concerns, this work narrows the gap between the human and natural worlds, emphasizing the notion of mutual dependence as a necessary means of survival and prosperity.