It is everywhere around us, and yet all but a few remain unaware of its existence. It is neither plant, nor fungus, nor animal — but it exhibits characteristics of each. It haunts shady corners, places of corruption and decay, crawling implacably forward in search of prey to absorb and consume. It boasts 1,000 known species, yet all but overlooked by science, there may well be countless more, each a thing of disgust and striking beauty in equal measure. A creature of primordial simplicity, it nonetheless displays a mysterious intelligence, the ability to remember and even anticipate, and as it gropes ahead in blind hunger, it leaves in its wake echoes of our most complex technologies and patterns of existence. It seems for all the world to be from beyond this world — and may well lurk as close as a rotten log in the corner of your own backyard.
Myxomycetes, or plasmodial slime mold, is an astoundingly unique and bizarre organism, worthy of the weirdest science fiction. Biologists have largely paid it little heed, but it does have its passionate devotees, and what this creature’s fascinated observers have discovered affords profound reflections on our ideas of intelligence, engineering, social dynamics, and the intersection of art and science. With the fascinating and at times hallucinatory documentary THE CREEPING GARDEN, its filmmakers, polyvalent artist Tim Grabham and MIDNIGHT EYE co-creator Jasper Sharp, investigate slime mold in its myriad forms — and the many paths of exploration it invites. The duo’s numerous interview subjects explain their perspectives on the organism, which range from applications in computing and robotics to sociological art installations and even strange new strategies in musical composition.
The true stars of the doc, though, are the slime molds themselves, their uncanny activities vividly captured through a combination of microscopic photography and time-lapse techniques. Enriching the otherworldly atmosphere conjured up through Grabham and Sharp’s imagery is an appropriately subtle yet unsettling score by post-rock icon Jim O’Rourke (Tortoise, Sonic Youth, GRIZZLY MAN, UNITED RED ARMY). Among the strangest and most thought-provoking entries at Fantasia this year, THE CREEPING GARDEN opens a window on a wondrous new realm of discovery, reminding us that the world we think we’ve mastered still holds amazing secrets to unlock.
— Rupert Bottenberg