Breathe Together ∞ Aspergillus Tubingensis

Tessa Zettel
Commemorative altar kit with cloth (silkscreen printed drawings on cotton) & various ceremonial objects (glazed stoneware ceramics, kangaroo grass, quartz crystal etc.)

Commissioned for The Things We Made Next, Watch This Space Gallery, Alice Springs 2021 / Phee Broadway Theatre, Castlemaine 2021 / & exhibited in another form as A1 street posters, various locations including the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Design Week, Naarm/Melbourne 2021.


A commemorative mushroom altar kit made for a travelling exhibition as part of Alex Kelly & David Pledger’s speculative, multi-layered curatorial epic The Things We Did Next (2020-23). In The Things We Made Next, five designers were invited to respond to specific ‘despatches from the future’ generated by a gathering of artists, thinkers and cultural operators collectively addressing the year 2029. My work responded to the F-UN-GUS dispatch from File-Set #3, celebrating the 7th anniversary of First Nations Treaties within Continent 7, formerly known as Australia, and paying tribute to a host of revered mushroom companions.

This set of ceremonial objects – screen-printed altar cloth, glazed ceramic stoneware and ancillary items – facilitates festive DIY eukaryotic rituals involving offerings of soil, salt, dried mushrooms and plastic waste, quartz crystal from Mt Isa, sharing pu-er tea, and burning tree sap or wood fungus. The altar cloth features drawings of Laccocephalum mylittae (whose underground sclerotium can be eaten raw or roasted), Cyttaria gunnii (spherical, edible fruiting bodies), Phellinus sp. (bracket fungus smoked for sore throats), Podaxis pistillaris (Stalked Puffball, a desert fungus used to darken old men’s whiskers), the toxic phosphorescent ‘ghost fungus’, and the microplastic-eating fungus Aspergillus tubingensis.

Aspergillus was named by an Italian biologist-priest in 1729 for the resemblance of its microscopic spores to the aspergillum (holy water sprinkler). In 2029 – exactly 300 years later – this fungus, which incidentally forms part of the microbial community in fermented pu-er tea – is widely revered for the crucial role it plays in helping to clear our oceans of microplastics.

Kangaroo grass features in a hybrid contemporary aspergillum or holy sprinkler that on its other end doubles as a ceramicpestle.

    Read OuMoPo blog posts about Breathe Together here