Day 4: The Good, the Bad, and the Moldy
There is something magical about mushrooms; the way they look, the way they grow, and ... let’s be honest here, the way they taste. Anyway, we went to the woods today to explore the many mushrooms that can be found around the premises of our residency at this time of the year. I have to admit that I don’t know a lot about these weird organisms, and to understand the whole complex universe of these seemingly simple creatures one would probably have to study some serious mycology (the study and science of mushrooms, which, as a nice side effect, might also help to prevent poisonings). Time for some fun facts: mushrooms are made up of around 90% water and are used in almost every cuisine around the world, often as replacement for meat products. Many exhibit beneficial properties and are an integral part of ethnobotanical, medicinal practices. There are also over 30 species found in the wild that actually glow in the dark! Bioluminescence is what causes an eerie glow, often referred to as “foxfire”. The coolest thing is that a specific mushroom colony of the species Amillaria solidipes, located in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, is believed to be the largest organism known to be currently living on planet Earth. This fungus is about 2500 years old (take that, whale ear wax) and covers an area larger than 2000 acres. The fruiting body, which is the part of the fungus that sends out spores for reproduction, is just as short lived as many others of its kind. However, the branch-like vegetation known as mycelium lives a hidden underground life as a rhizome. Some mushrooms contain hallucinogenic compounds and are therefore often consumed as a drug. Whatever you do, please know your shrooms or go on a foraging hike with someone who knows what they are actually collecting. There are many edible mushrooms out there that have toxic lookalikes. Here are some photos from today’s mushroom walk in Gatineau Park...
In the afternoon we visited Canadian artist Marie-Jeanne Musiol at her beautiful cottage located at a peaceful lake in Wakefield, Quebec. Marie-Jeanne presented a body of work in which she uses a special (scientific) device that allows her to capture the energy field of objects, resulting in incredibly radiant duotone images of plants, branches, and other botanical matter that she collects from her property. This kind of electromagnetic photography records the pulsating light fields, aiding her to uncover the unseen in the form of mirror images of the local flora that look nothing like your standard plant photography. Her images rather appear to be both microscopically enlarged and at the same time expanded and infinite, resembling an interesting parallelism to NASA’s deep space image capture of galaxies and the birth of stars. Marie-Jean, informed by art and science together, references and makes visible the intrinsic dynamism of interconnections of all things on a smaller or larger scale. While drafting a relationship to the wonders of creation, her images also show the interaction of light and matter, the diverse states of being and consciousness (from a philosophical point of view - think about object oriented ontology), the cycle of life and death, and the relationship between humans and our devastating impact on the fragile system of the ecosphere. In order to question and reframe our orthodox assumptions about the visible world and the disparity of art and science, Marie-Jeanne creates work that askes deeper questions of being and becoming, trying to debunk the apparent false yet commonly accepted assumption of autonomous entities within a system of rhizomatic expansion. That said, listening to her elaborate talk felt exceptionally Deleuzian. It was a great experience to meet yet another artist who recognizes the dire need to rethink our position and a new Age of Enlightenment in order to save the planet, ourselves, and everything connected, from the atrocious disaster of a nearing, human-made 6th mass extinction resulting from the anthropocentric mindset of our times. Welcome to the Anthropocene once again.