images + videos


Materials + media: installation with living fungi, raspberry Pi, camera, screen, video, tattoo machine, drawings, photographs
Year: 2015-2016

This artistic project investigates the morphology of fungi and evolution of geometrical shapes on living and growing membranes and ultimately how images can be generated by natural processes.

"In her experimental setups, Theresa Schubert condenses simple organisms to highly complex philosophical questions. Together with the treatment of mushrooms with tattoo needles, their natural growth creates a closer proximity to that of mankind than to that of flora. Via a minimal intervention Schubert succeeds to translate natural phenomena into already underlying creative processes and to transfer them into an investigation of about growth processes of our society."

(Kerstin Godschalk, curator HB55 Kunstfabrik Berlin)

concept text

Can a square become a circle?

Growing Geometries” draws references to old mathematical questions such as the squaring of the circle and how non-trivial visually simple forms can be when expressed in mathematical formulas. Also some of the tattoos have been inspired by Giorgio Scarpa's [1] models of 'rotational geometry' [Scarpa 1978]. Ultimately the tattoos root in the traditional Bauhaus itself with their school of simplicity and the basic geometrical forms of the circle, the square, and the triangle as later defined by Johannes Itten [Itten 1963]. Further it is the biological answer to generative and algorithmic design methods where images are created digitally and possibilities of simulations are only limited by imagination of the creator [Bohnacker 2012]. How can we use abilities inherent in nature to create art that goes beyond making pictures of something pretty? How to succeed in an aesthetic quest with experimental methods, artistic intervention and the biological unknown? Disregarding the diverse and long past of tattoos in cultural history, for this project only the technique of permanently imprinting images into membranes was important [Jordan 2009]. The artist decided to use tattooing also, as this method creates images resistant to humidity as the fungi need to be kept moist and watered. Moreover, the author had the idea for this project after observing elderly people with tattoos. Due to the aging process of skin, appearance of wrinkles and alike, tattooed images often start to change, distort or morph into something else. Hence the idea was born to adopt similar principles to growing mushrooms with the aim of generating new forms based on biological computation of shape and morphogenesis of form. The shapes embedded into a growing form become transformed by living processes.


Fungi are being cultivated. So far we have tested Pleurotus ostreatus, Agaricus bisporus,  Agrocybe aegerita, Lentinula edodes, Macrolepiota procera. A tattoo machine as used for human skin is the tool. The pileus is tattooed when it is still small (about 2cm diameter). While the cap is growing, the shape of the mushroom membrane expands - hence the tattooed image changes as well. For the tattoos artist drawing ink or food colouring is used in the colours red, green, and blue. After tattooing the mycelium is left alone for growing, measurements of the mushroom heads and the tattoos are taken. The data is collected for analysis of the changing shapes. For the installation an automated, programmed water supply system was put into place. Also there is a custom-made observation system based on raspberry pi and a camera to show a time-lapse on a connected screen.


This artistic research projects wants to investigate how processes inscribed into biological organisms can be used to create art – or more general a creative output. By using fungi membrane the topology of mushrooms growths is studied and it's shown how geometries can change naturally. The fungus is, therefore, not only the artist’s canvas, but also an artist itself. This can be observed in a living installation using biotechnological methods in combination with electronic technologies and visual media. 


[1] Giorgio Scarpa (1938-2012) was an Italian designer and pioneer of bionics research.
Hartmut Bohnacker, Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing, Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.
Johannes Itten: Mein Vorkurs am Bauhaus, Gestaltungs- und Formenlehre. Otto Maier, Ravensburg 1963.
C.R. Jordan: Basic Fundamentals Of Modern Tattoo, Tattoo Books Online LLC, 2009.
Giorgio Scarpa: Modelli di geometria rotaria, in : Quaderni di Design, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1978.


read a paper draft here:

Update_6, new technology art award, exhibition catalogue, 2016


2016 Update_6, Zebrastraat Gent (BE), November-December 2016

2015 ArtLaboratory Berlin, August-September 2015

2015 HB55 Kunstfabrik Berlin, June 2015


artist: Theresa Schubert

raspberry programming: Falk Röder

exhibition set-up assistance ArtLaboratory: Ann-Kathrin Meier, Falk Röder
sponsors: Hawlik Pilzbrut, chido's mushrooms
exhibition setup assistance Gent: thanks to the tech team


Growing Geometries received the NTAA residency award 2016 (New Technological Art Award), in collaboration with the STARTS programme of the European Commission and given by the Fondation Liedts-Meesen Ghent (BE)