Protestpilze is an outdoor sound installation featuring audio emitting from a series of mushroom-like sculptures placed on the forest floor. Based on the observation that the area around Hollabrunn, Austria continues to be developed with more and more shopping centres, the mushrooms draw attention to neglectful land management practices that favour short-term human-centric desires over long-term ecosystem needs.
When open land is paved for the first time, this results in soil sealing, removing the potential for many living creatures to make the land their home. “Sealed soils can be defined as the destruction or covering of soils by buildings, constructions and layers of completely or partly impermeable artificial material […]. It is the most intense form of land take and is essentially an irreversible process” (Jones, et al., 2010). Research shows that Austria seals almost 2x more soil per year (adjusted for population) compared to the EU average. “Compared with the European average, Austria's land consumption is significantly greater than in the rest of the European Union (EU). On average, an EU citizen made use of 389 m2 of (sealed) land in 2006. In Austria, built-up areas amounted to 595 m2 (2006). In addition, in Austria, the increase in built-up areas was much faster (+32.2% from 1996 to 2006) than that in the EU (+8.8% from 1990 to 2006)” (Michael Getzner & Justin Kadi, 2020). The installation brings attention to these issues by bringing the sounds of the supermarket shopping experience into a recreational forest in Hollabrunn, the Hollabrunner Kirchenwald. The intention is to surprise visitors with sounds that are familiar, but not desired in the forest environment. In some highly developed and isolated buildings, such as Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, birdsong is played to improve the conditions for travellers indoors—this inverts that concept. As visitors move through the forest, their motion will trigger familiar and annoying sounds of the super-market, played by the mushrooms as a form of resistance and in response to the grief the land use policy of the area causes to the non-human living creatures of Hollabrunn.

The installation is presented in a way that suggests a new species of mushroom is behind the message being delivered. One emerging forestry theory is that mushrooms and mycelium networks act as sensors and communicators able to deliver information to other species. “A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a ‘wood wide web’ of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods. Scientific research aimed at understanding the astonishing abilities of this partnership between fungi and plant has only just begun” (Wohlleben, P. 2017). Protestpilze are made of kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) grown in the artist’s home, copper, clay, and various electronic components mounted on a metal baseplate which is then anchored in the soil.

Jones, Arwyn & Panagos, Panos & Barcelo, S & Bouraoui, Faycal & Bosco, Claudio & Dewitte, Olivier & Gardi, Ciro & Erhard, M & Hervás, J & Hiederer, R. (2012). The state of soil in Europe. JRC reference report. Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Ispra.

Michael Getzner & Justin Kadi (2020) Determinants of land consumption in Austria and the effects of spatial planning regulations, European Planning Studies, 28:6, 1095-1117, DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2019.1604634

Wohlleben, P. (2017). The hidden life of trees: The international bestseller - what they feel, how they communicate. William Collins.