Bryson’s work is inspired by her ongoing research on radiotrophic fungi, which she has been conducting over the past year with Slovenian artist, Saša Spacal. Radiotrophic fungi (the black and purple circular spots in the image) are capable of metabolizing radiation in their bodies in a process akin to photosynthesis. These fungi have been found not only growing, but thriving, in areas containing high levels of radiation — specifically at the number four reactor in Chernobyl. Radiotrophic fungi are also capable of shielding against such harmful radiation through melanin pigment production. NASA has been researching this potential, hypothesizing that these could be used in space to shield astronauts from ionizing radiation. Bryson and Spacal have created an ongoing artwork speculatively addressing the application of radiotrophic fungi as shields against atomic radiation in their project Radiotrophic Fungarium or How to Make A Coat for Marie Curie. As the climate changes, and nuclear threat is imminent, the artists believe it is essential to work with multiple species for survival. By developing symbiotic, interspecies relationships, they imagine radiotrophic fungi growing into shields, shelters, and clothing to protect both human and non-human lives.
Kaitlin Bryson is a queer, ecological/bio artist concerned with environmental and social justice. Her practice is research-based and most often collaborative, highlighting the potency of working like lichens to achieve radical change and justice.