The Rise and Fall of Cordycepts

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Photo credit: Agata Piskunowicz 

The photos on this page show the second incarnation of the Rise and Fall of Cordycepts exhibit, which was a part of the Gladstone Hotel’s Come Up To My Room show in January 2016. The first version of the project, completed as my final Graphic Design thesis project at OCAD, won the overall medal for Graphic Design at the 2015 Graduate Exhibition.

For a comprehensive overview of the Cordycepts story, click here.

More pieces from the project can be seen at the following links:

Exhibit Catalogue
Cordycepts Annual Report
Cordycepts Promotional Film
Process Book I
Process Book II

More images from the exhibit (click to see full-size photo):

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 Photo credit: Agata Piskunowicz 

The Rise and Fall of Cordycepts: Artist Statement

This collection of work covers the rise and fall of Cordycepts (2040-2065), a biotech company whose manipulations of the foundations of life irrevocably alter our future world. Presented from the perspective of those dealing with the aftermath of the company’s collapse, the projects that make up the exhibit speak in two voices, one coming from the Cordycepts era, the other from those organizing the exhibit in 2074.

No one artifact tells the whole story, and even as a whole the exhibit is meant to leave room for questions. By leaving gaps in the narrative, viewers can become participants and fall for a moment into this parallel universe with similar societal, scientific, and environmental concerns to ours and a matching reliance on capitalist ideals. By drawing on our existing world for inspiration, the Cordycepts and post-Cordycepts universes act as a mirror that reflects our own issues back at those interacting with it and asks them to suspend their disbelief for long enough to begin questioning the structures that many assume to be unquestionable.

Every product created by Cordycepts is based on an existing parasite, its utopian mission defined by its repurposing of things deemed horrific by most. As they are sold to consumers, however, the products once again become parasitic, encouraging personal dependency and the maintaining of the rigid class structures already set up by earlier forms of consumerism. By infiltrating not only homes and bodies but also the environment as a whole with its proprietary organic code, Cordycepts begins to shape the entire world into its own personal vision of environmental perfection, believing that human beings will not be able to truly love and protect the Earth until it is defanged and smoothed out, until nature becomes a harmless theme park laid out, green and welcoming, for human enjoyment.

The two layers of narrative present both the cunning corporate cheer of Cordycepts and the critical gloom of those organizing the exhibit. As quickly as the Cordycepts materials work to lull viewers into peaceful agreement with the company’s mission, the post-Cordycepts work lashes out, exposing Cordycepts’ horrifying underbelly. As a whole, the project is a cautionary tale, but one whose conclusion remains open for interpretation, choosing to ask the viewer to decide how much hope remains in the near-future world laid out before them.

 

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