tue 23/05/2017

DVD/Blu-ray: The Creeping Garden | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: The Creeping Garden

DVD/Blu-ray: The Creeping Garden

Bewitching documentary about an overlooked life form

If you go down in the woods today: a slime mould in action

The creative, organisational and intellectual properties of slime mould are outlined in loving detail in Tim Grabham and Jason Sharp’s engaging documentary The Creeping Garden, though even this peculiar organism seems a little colourless when compared to the folks getting excited about it. Like the engaging amateur mycologist seen foraging in the Oxfordshire woods, for whom slime moulds are “a sideline”: Mark’s enthusiasm is so infectious that it’s hard not to get excited when he finds some, a mass of tiny yellow spheres buried in the soil.

Long dismissed as just another fungus, its unique properties have only just begun to be explored. Unlike fungus, gelatinous slime moulds can move around (albeit very slowly), and arguably show signs of intelligence. Place one on a small map of the USA, with oat flakes representing major cities, and its hungry tendrils will soon closely resemble the actual road map. Artist Heather Barnett shows us how slime moulds can negotiate simple mazes. Place one on the floor plan of a building and it will quickly find the safest, quickest fire exit route. Watching speeded-up film of perambulating slime moulds is, frankly, terrifying, though footage shot in 1931 by the amateur naturalist and time lapse pioneer Percy Smith is bewitching: his short, Magic Myxies, is a marvel.

There’s some seriously nutty science going on here, with several interviewees shown linking slime mould to electronics. One Bristol academic has a grotesque cyborg head in her laboratory (pictured right), grimacing and gurning as the mould dictates. An expert in computer music demonstrates software which creates Eno-esque musical sounds from the moulds, then duets with the wails and blips on a piano.

We’re brought back to earth by the straight-talking Head of Mycology at Kew Gardens, who calmly reassures us that responding to external stimuli is not actually a sign of being smart. And that, were slime moulds to disappear from the planet overnight, we probably wouldn’t notice, such is their minimal environmental impact. Which doesn’t allay one’s fears that the moulds are still out there, quietly biding their time before taking over the planet. Nicely packaged, the generous bonus features on this release include a directors’ commentary and an enticing peek at the wonderfully named Fungarium in Kew. Jim O’Rourke’s ominous ambient soundtrack is included as a bonus CD. Don’t listen to it alone.

Slime moulds can negotiate simple mazes

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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