Lichens: An Epiphytic Interactome



Lichens: an Epiphytic Interactome, my site-specific installation for Accreted Terrane at MoNA, is based on my research into epiphytes, defined as “any plant that grows upon or is in some manner attached to another plant or object merely for physical support.”* This installation is specifically devoted to lichens, epiphytes of the temperate Pacific Northwest.

Small and ubiquitous, lichens attach themselves to rocks, trees, and other lichens. They are composite organisms consisting of a fungus and its photosynthetic partner (cyanobacteria, green algae, or both), and together they grow in habitats where neither could do so alone. Lichens are important for numerous reasons: they contribute to biological diversity; in forests they moderate humidity and temperature fluctuations, capture nutrients like nitrogen from the atmosphere, and act as food sources for other organisms; the antibacterial and antiviral properties of compounds extracted from lichens are useful in medicine; and lichens are indicators of pollution, reacting negatively to toxins in the air.

Through my installations I develop metaphorical narratives of biological interconnectivity to remind viewers of our deep roots in the natural world. I employ bits and pieces of ordinary, non-hierarchical, materials that cling to the walls, like epiphytes, encouraging viewers to experience them kinesthetically as well as visually. Like living beings my installations are transient but, being made of scrap industrial materials, unlike living beings they neither grow nor decay.

— Ingrid Lahti

*Encyclopaedia Britannica

Other Sources:

Bruce McClure and Linda Geiser, Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest, Second Edition, Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, OR, 2009.

D.H. Vitt, J.E. Marsh, and R.B. Bovey, Mosses Lichens & Ferns of Northwest North America, Lone Pine Publishing, Canada, 1988.

M. Hutten, K. Hutten, and A. Woodward, 101 Common Mosses, Liverworts & Lichens of the Olympic Peninsula, National Park Service, 2001.