Cultural Mycelium - Fruiting Disconnected Connections

Chanz Myron Ganzan

Respiration - A panoramic scan and personification of mycelium growth. Just like us, mycelium require oxygen to grow and releases CO2 as if it is breathing. It is a commentary on how certain growing environments affect the way in which we develop throughout our lives.

This thesis delves into the intricate relationship between the lifecycle of mycelium—a versatile and sustainable material—and the profound journey of reconnecting with personal identities amidst the challenges of displacement and the quest for heritage. Born in the Philippines and subsequently raised in New Zealand, I find myself at a crossroads of cultural identity. This personal narrative, marked by a palpable disconnect from my Filipino heritage, forms the backdrop of my central research inquiry: “How can the lifecycle of mycelium metaphorically symbolise the regeneration of heritage?”, and more specifically, “How can this metaphor serve to intertwine multigenerational cultural identities?”

The stages of mycelium's lifecycle—Decay, Inoculate, Colonise, and Fruit—are not just biological processes but serve as poignant metaphors for the stages of cultural reconnection. "Decay" mirrors the initial acknowledgement of cultural estrangement and the feelings of loss; "Inoculate" symbolizes the initial seeds or sparks of cultural rediscovery; "Colonise" reflects a deeper, more involved exploration of one's heritage; and "Fruit" epitomizes the realization, celebration, and perhaps even the challenges of intertwined identities.

To unravel these themes, I embarked on a methodological journey that combined both the tangible and the intangible. Drawing from a rich tapestry of family memories, photographs, conversations, and personification of mycelium, the research conveys its metaphorical potency in representing the regeneration of cultural identity. These methodologies were not just academic exercises but deeply personal endeavours, intertwining my own experiences of reconnection with the broader narrative of heritage rediscovery.

This journey, marked by introspection, acceptance, or rejection of cultural roots, fosters rich dialogues on identity, belonging, and the spaces in between. Through the intertwined narratives of mycelium's lifecycle and the quest for cultural identity, this research underscores the profound role of heritage in moulding our sense of self and our place in the tapestry of global narratives.


It connotes decomposition and rotting. This is the end of a cycle, yet for mushroom mycelium, it is the beginning of a cycle. It resembles the duality of death and restoration. Therefore, Decay outlines the idea of Cultural Disconnect, the first phase in which Identity Decay is a process to recognise what I am disassociated with within my heritage.

I was born in Cebu, in the Philippines but moved to New Zealand when I was 4 years old. I’ve assimilated myself to a Kiwi lifestyle, but as a result, have neglected my heritage and my family’s way of life. This has been exacerbated earlier this year when I moved out from home. This event challenged the Filipino expectations of togetherness, hence, my identity decay.

Decay 3 white mmmm
"Hyphal Movement" - Overlay of scans of mycelium growth. The directional movement of mycelium growth as if it is reaching out personifies this living organism. It resembles our own development and changes throughout our lives.
Decay 4 mmm
"Living in Suffocation" - Collage of scans of mycelium growth whilst being contained in glass and gladwrap. Necessary for mycelium to grow, the suffocation creates a strong contrast to 'Respiration'.
Decay 5 mmm
"Identity Decay" - A grotesque representation of suffocation. The duality of suffocation and growth reflects the sense of togetherness in Filipino Culture which for me can be suffocating at times, but for my family, is their way of life.


It describes the process of embedding spores in a growing environment. Additionally, inoculation is used to implant microorganisms to stimulate immunity resistance. Thus, Inoculate explores Cultural Germination. These spores are symbolic of the history of heritage where we begin to grow our understanding and attempt to reconnect. Essentially, spores are moments where we can develop growth.

Therefore, I looked into both the colonial history of Cebu and its Informal Land History in respect to my own Family‘s. I navigated how my family has embedded themselves into the land that they have occupied since World War II as a means of survival and how my family has lived within this home.

Inoculate 2
"Province-Owned Lots to Actual Bonafide Occupants" - A timeline of documents overlaid over mycelium to indicate the development of my home in Cebu from an informal settlement to a real property.
Inoculate 1
"Growth Transcript" - I narrate the changes of the development by linking together Decay (an event), Inoculate (an embedded place), and Colonise (movement). They are divided into three distinct periods which indicate their own lifecycle.


It is the process of the mycelium towards fully establishing its network in the growing environment to convey that it is ready to fruit. Alternatively, it connotes the Spanish and Americans' cultural colonisation of the Philippines.

Colonise, therefore, is representative of the development of my heritage exploration, which in this context, are the drawings of the changes of the home in an attempt to reconnect with my heritage and better understand the way my family lived. These drawings were based on observations from photos and assumptions from my mother’s narratives.

My Grandfather originally built this home as an informal settlement on land that was owned by the government. This home was to raise my mum and her four siblings.
Similarly, when my brother and I were born, my parents occupied this home to raise the family. During this time, my parents had the opportunity to purchase the lot from the government under a Resolution to reduce informal settlements.
After we migrated to New Zealand, this home was altered to essentially become a boarding house. Many rooms were built for rent, and the income is used currently for my grandmother who currently stays there.


This is the final phase of the Mycelium lifecycle in which Mushrooms have fully grown. The Mushrooms bear spores in their gills or pores, so a cycle is repeated. This is a reflection on the overall journey, thereby establishing the Cultural Mushroom as part of our identity. Whether you incorporate that into your life or completely reject it, the conversation surrounding this allows the reconnection of my heritage.

Originally, I knew very little of my home in Cebu. However, through images, videos, narratives and conversations with my family, I was able to contextualise and piece together my history. This is a culmination of my Family’s’ experiences and my own as an individual.

Fruit 1
“Provision of Land to the Landless Filipino Citizen” - A collage of 1:2 junction details of the Original Building that have undergone extensions or changes. Overlaid is the Resolution which cites the selling of land.
“South 39 Deg 29’ East”, “South 44 Deg 22’ West”, “North 42 Deg 38’ West”, “North 49 Deg 30’ East” - Titled from the technical description of the lot, these series of drawings portray the changes that have occurred at their respective facades.
“Among Kinabuhi (Our Life)" - Devoid of representation, the collages are seemingly abstract as a graphic by themselves. However, by adding the context of the previous collages, it embodies familiarity, form, and meaning. Although these drawings are collaged out of place, the legibility and meaning of each part is still powerful to me after learning more about them.