Laudation Merlin Sheldrake Groeneveld award 2022 Dirk Sijmons (on behalf of the Groeneveld Foundation) is the giant underground mycelium network. We tend to see this network as a neutral natural infrastructure, you show that it is an active entity abiding to its own laws not just transporting minerals for plants. This network can communicate through info-chemicals and electrical signals and moreover influences its environment and the organisms that are connected to the network. DNA-material of plants, viruses. and bacteria also travels through the mycelium. You show why the metaphor Wood-Wide-Web is inapt and confusing because it suggests that the plants are the sites and the mycelium are the hyperlinks. But in the end, the behavior of the wood wide web is not unambiguous and the comparison with the internet - just like brains or politics - is only partially valid. No matter how much such networks regulate themselves and how many hints - or are they signals? - there are flowing back and forth via fungi and plants, wood wide webs overlap. The frays of their extreme boundaries, which also include other organisms, run through each other. That is beyond the reach of metaphors. This entanglement and multiple symbiosis come closer to the real complexity of our living world. In our times of climate change you highlight that the mycelium networks of our subsurface form the second largest carbon sink – after the oceans – Fascinating too: how fungi in a direct sense can also influence animal (and human) behaviour. How fungi via fermentation and yeasts were also formative for human civilization. You quote Gilles Deleuze that ‘drunkenness is a triumphant eruption of the plant in us’ only to add that it is no less than the triumphant eruption of the fungus in us. You are not only referring to the role yeasts play in changing water into wine but also to the intoxication caused by the psychedelic mushrooms. That the psychedelics from mushrooms play an important role in the culture of indigenous people was not surprising at all for me. My Hippy generation devoured ‘Carlos Castaneda’s books on tripping Yaqui Indian shamans. Lately also in our culture ‘paddo’s’ are beginning to be recognized as an important therapeutic instrument for all kinds of mental illnesses. They seem most effective in the battle against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Again, you play with the question: who is domesticating who. Are we using the fungi to change our way of seeing or did the fungi produce these chemicals to gain an evolutionary advantage? I started out by characterizing your work as a twinning between science and love. And that is because you use all means at your disposal – both personal and cultural - to come closer to the subject of your study and thereby transcend the cerebral domain. You didn’t shy away from experimenting with the hallucinogenic effect of magic mushrooms to make people look at their own lives and at the world differently. Not only are the illustrations from his book drawn with black ink from the ink fungus, but you have inoculated your book with the spores of the Oyster Mushroom. You recorded the sound of galvanic currents produced by digesting your book, amplified it and accompanied that rhythm on the piano to finally devour your own book with taste - like a true myco-phage. Seeking contact with the non-human life through the agency of scientific, technical, and cultural means is part of a broader post-humanist trend. But that is mostly limited to non-human life that is relatively close to us. Like Charles Foster who - as part of his research for his book ‘Being a Beast’ - tried to live like a badger, otter, fox and swift respectively. That’s hard enough like the book shows in detail. Or your other fellow countryman the artist Thomas Twaithes who, in his goat suit, tried to contact mountain goats for a week or so. This ontological pluralism, that all ways of being are equal, has inspired the late great Bruno Latour to introduce ‘The Parliament of Things’ to give all creatures that don’t have a voice a representation in democratic deliberations. In Holland the most successful example is the Ambassy of the North Sea trying to make our coastal sea a fully fledged political player. Sheldrake shows how, through his evocative mix of science, technique and culture, that one can even construct a relationship with the not so easily (re) knowable and cuddly sides of nature of which we are a part.

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