The Creeping Garden (2015)
Dir: Jasper Sharp and Tim Grabham | Nature Doc | 84min | UK
“Being Slime Mould” a workshop where participants are actively encouraged to engage with this baffling organism and transform themselves into a ‘human’ slime mold”
THE CREEPING GARDEN is a feature length documentary exploring the work of fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who explore the extraordinary world of plasmodial slime mold, a single cell organism that has the ability to form into armies in search of nourishment. The slime mould is being used to explore biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot controllers and a chap called F. Percy Smith who pioneered the use of time lapse (or time magnification) photography to make a series of instructional films such as his 1931 masterpiece Magic Myxies (that followed The Bedtime Stories of Archie the Ant (1925).
Entirely learned while also being ironically ominous in tone, in a way that scratches at the realms of Sci-Fi, THE CREEPING GARDEN is geekdom at its best in completely avoiding a user friendly approach to its subject matter. Earnestly scientific in its approach, with a bizarrely tonic score (by Grizzly Man’s Jim O’Rourke), it endows the slime with human qualities, claiming that the impressively versatile organisms are capable of “emotional responses” and have been able to reanimate even after long periods of inactively due to unfavourable growth conditions.
International scientists are fascinated by the mould and its capabilities, but are singularly unable to convey this fascination to the viewer, who is unable to appreciate the weird beauty of the species, deriving only humour from the extreme intensity of the scientists’ fervour. Mark Pragnell spends many hours searching a forest for slime mold, occasionally taking photos to prevent people from thinking he is doing something strange – in his own words – when actually he is. Meanwhile, the experiment encouraging participants to engage with the organism: ‘Being Slime Mould’ was unable to gain critical mass for its experiment to be seriously considered groundbreaking. But the handful of participants did bond together in a way that was similar to that of slime mold behaviour, so it was not a complete waste of time. And the organism’s behaviour was also likened to a motorway network according to a Russian study.
Arcane and at times uneven, THE CREEPING GARDEN may not be everyone’s cup of tea but as far as slime mold documentaries go, this is unique and compelling, possibly providing hours of entertainment for afficionados and scf-fi enthusiasts or those of a nerdy persuasion. MT
AVAILABLE AT ARROWVIDEO@FETCH.FM | 13 MARCH 2017|
A SELECTION OF F. PERCY SMITH’S FILMS ARE AVAILABLE ON DVD THROUGH THE BFI