Thanks to mushrooms, that turn waste into value through decomposition, life can be infused into something that has never been alive. Like synthetic polycarbonates

* Maurizio Montalti, designer and entrepeneur, is the founder of Mogu, a company dealing with industrial bio-fabrication that uses biological processes to create alternative materials to synthetic ones

It is not easy to think about how to get out of the Anthropocene. It is not something that is done on tiptoe, without asking uncomfortable questions and reflecting on the life cycles of things and human beings. But the first step in taking a timid look at the future is to think about the end of things and ourselves, considering it as a collective possibility rather than an individual drama. Because the thought of death introduces the possibility of rebirth.

When I was studying in Eindhoven and, like everyone else, I was carrying out research as a young designer / maker, I came across the idea that getting rid of useless things produced so far is the real goal of design today. Eliminating seems like a brutal, destructive and very simple act. From my point of view, however, it contains a very powerful idea: that of rebirth and regeneration. In nature, and that's where you have to look if you want to learn something new, nothing disappears. It simply changes shape. Something causes matter to pass from one state to another. By studying the natural world, I quickly realized the key role of mushrooms as agents of this regeneration in the ecosystem.

I knocked on the doors of the biology and mycology labs to understand how this process works. I discovered that thanks to mushrooms, capable of transforming waste into value through decomposition, life can be infused into something that has never been in life. Synthetic polycarbonates, for example, can become part of a natural process and be recycled.

To demonstrate concretely that the relationship between human and non-human is organized around a symbiotic collaboration of transformation is a step towards a different material culture. I don't think I will see the effects of this awareness during my life: they are long, infinite cultural processes. Everyone would like to find quick solutions, but it is impossible.

Real work, which has an impact on mass production, happens slowly and very pragmatically. As a designer I learned that we proceed by incremental steps and transdisciplinary experiments. For this reason, I founded, together with my partners, an industrial biofabrication company that uses biological processes to create alternative materials to those of synthetic origin. It's called Mogu. We didn't do it because it's a good story, but because these materials work, they have technical and emotional-experiential qualities that push big companies to open a dialogue with different worlds.

A cognitive gap remains to overcome: accepting that the notion of transience is integrated into the materials. Ideally, a wooden piece of furniture can be eternal, but time changes it, transforms it into something different. Insects, light, changes in temperature and humidity contribute to its inevitable degradation. In organic materials this process is faster, more visible. And giving up eternity requires an evolution of thought which, in a certain sense, is very scary.

Yet it is what the human being really needs.

Accepting the mutation implicitly means making rebirth possible, a much more advanced concept than simple recycling. An idea that repairs the fracture between us and the natural environment, opening up new hypotheses for collaboration and cohabitation with the non-human.

Photo Cover by Filippo Piantanida for the collection of acoustic panels for interior design by Mogu, entirely based on the transformation of low-value residues through mycelium technology.

Text collected by Elisa Massoni