Invisible Fungi

In 2023, “Invisible Fungi” won two awards: Best Immersive Application and the Most Impactful project during the Immersive Tech Week in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

“Invisible Fungi” by Ringailė Demšytė is a VR experience that helps to showcase fungi’s integral, yet invisible, role in our lives in times of ecological degradation. The research builds on the artist's previous “Visual Fungi Language” project, which examines a possible, speculative visual language of fungi based on an interpretation of their electrical spiking activity as a means of “facilitating” communication between humans and nonhumans. The project aims to explore the use of different media, such as sound, raw organic materials, and VR, to enable people to experience the unseen world of fungi and foster a greater sense of empathy towards their natural environment. This immersive experience focuses on creating knowledge through feeling by visualising how fungi break down complex organic compounds in a poetic, nearly abstract way. Virtual reality becomes a tool of choice to create a sensitivity around the invisible role of fungi for the city residents who lost touch with nature.

Most fungi operate discreetly, largely unseen by the human eye, as does their transformative work. It typically takes approximately a century for fungi to break down deceased organic matter, such as a tree log. The intricate process of decomposition, executed by fungi, remains invisible to the naked eye. In light of this, the artist has crafted a virtual reality (VR) experience to speed up and encapsulate this prolonged process into a concise two-and-a-half-minute narrative. Through this artistic attempt, the intention is to draw attention to the often-overlooked and imperceptible role that fungi play in nature, emphasising their invisible yet vital contribution to the ecosystem.

Visual Fungi Language: 
Exploring the Possibility of Communication Between Humans and Nonhumans

Deriving inspiration from newly conducted scientific research by Adam Adamatzky on fungi’s electrical language, Ringailė explored the potential visual language between humans and fungi by creating barcode-like symbols as a visual representation of the alphabet. This system, known as Visual Fungi Language, draws its foundations from the binary code that underlies nearly all computing technology today.

The barcode-like symbols in Visual Fungi Language bear a resemblance to binary strings, which opens up the possibility of translating them back into electrical signals and sending them to mushrooms. However, at present, this concept remains more of an imaginative speculation focused on the aesthetic experience rather than functionality. While it is intriguing to consider the potential for translating these visual symbols into electrical signals that fungi can understand, it is important to note that this aspect is still largely theoretical.

Sonifying the Speculative Fungal Language:
A Journey into Hearing the Unseen

Ringailė assigned each letter of the sentence “We are not alone” to a specific combination of piano keys in her chosen octave, based on the binary representation of the letters. By pressing the corresponding piano keys, she created a sequence of notes that represents the sentence when played on a synthesizer. 

She drew a connection between the number of bits in a byte (8 bits) and the number of notes in a solfège scale (including the repeated note at the end). This connection allowed her to map each letter to a unique combination of keys and convert the sentence into a musical composition.

Sonifying the Visual Fungi Language by finding parallels between one bit and an octave set the tone for the final VR work.

Branch Arrangment in the VR experience

By incorporating tree logs and branches as key components of a virtual reality (VR) experience, the artist creates a unique immersive environment. Placing the viewer in the middle of several arranged circles of branches allows them to observe their surroundings and feel connected to the ecosystem.

The circular tree arrangement, inspired by the Visual Fungi Language, adds a symbolic layer to the experience. By decoding the message from the arrangement, which reads “we are not alone,” the artist creates a sense of interconnectedness and highlights the presence of other living organisms within the ecosystem. This concept encourages viewers to contemplate the relationship between humans and nature, emphasising the idea that we are part of a larger web of life.

Fragrance by Merle Bergers

To enhance the multisensory experience, the “Invisible Fungi” installation incorporates a captivating scent called “Understory.” Created by Merle Bergers, this fragrance is a natural, plant-based room spray that beautifully captures the essence of the undergrowth. It combines elements such as mosses, pine, and earthy notes of Patchouli and Vetiver, resulting in an immersive olfactory experience.


Belle Phromchanya
Sonia de Jager
Carmen José 

Technical support

Vincent Boon

Special thanks

Ziemniaki i Foundation 
Josh Plough
Natalia Budnik
Adam Markuszewski
Noud Sleumer

Shirin Mirachor
Salim Bayri
Reda Senhaji
Isabeau Vienerius