Toxic cereals – fascinating insight into dangerous fungus

Exploring The Invisible

 

 

Ergot is the dried sclerotium of the fungus, Claviceps purpurea  and these  arise  on the grains of various  cereal plants. The sclerotium contains high concentrations of various highly toxic alkaloids which possess a range of  biological activities, including effects on circulation and neurotransmission. Consumption of flour contaminated with Ergot results in St. Anthony’s fire or Ergotism, the symptoms of which include hallucinations, sensations of severe burning and gangrene. Ergotism  resulted in the death of 40,000 people in AD 944 in Southern France. In this work the medium is ergot sclerotia and consequently  it is quite possibly one of the  most toxic forms of art ever produced.  Here  ergots, the compact dark and toxic masses, are held  in an impermeable safety cabinet and are only  visible only through a sealed  viewing portal,  so that their threat is ever present,  but in that moment  of viewing,  their highly  disruptive biochemical…

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