The latest art installation at Redux Contemporary Art Center is meant to illustrate the connections of a community. And what better metaphor than the underappreciated fungus?
From fantastical fairy circles to intertwined mushroom roots that grow underground and cling to other organisms, the "Fungus Among Us" exhibition reveals the many aspects of the spored sprout that appears on plates and in folklore.
The 10-day mushroom-themed show, mounted in coordination with the local nonprofit Enough Pie and led by Japanese-Korean artist Naoko Wowsugi, illustrates the healing powers of 'shrooms and their many hidden qualities. A special collaboration with James Simons Elementary School, which resulted in one part of the installation, demonstrates some of those qualities, particularly the communal network that a fungus represents.
To showcase that trait, gallery goers can take a selfie Polaroid and paste it to a wall full of photos of community members. Then, they can connect their image, with string, to the photos of those they know. The hope is to reveal the connections between people and how close we are to one another, and even to those we consider strangers.
The other half of the installation features mushrooms in a variety of artistic renderings made by more than 100 local artists, in addition to Wowsugi. The main gallery is split between light and dark, a metaphor for the spring solstice on March 20.
On the dark side is "Mycrocosmos," a meditational mushroom "plantarium," inviting visitors to lay on the ground and look up at a textured ceiling of fiber mycelium. Looped and netted cords and wrapped coils have been knitted together by local textile artists to create a theater screen on which will be projected a video featuring "mushroom fairies." Also in store are video interviews with mushroom experts describing their take on the future of the fungus and what it might mean for humanity.
"Fungus Among Us" lead artist Wowsugi arrived in America in 2001 with $500 and the ability to speak only one English word: "Yes." She used that word to say yes to her own evolving education and to dive into visual art and social research. In 2014, she moved to Washington, D.C., and has since collaborated with punk musicians, social activists, organic farmers, public librarians and others on projects that explore the idea of community and address pertinent issues. For the last few years, she's been working on hyper-local, sustainable superfood projects in particular.
Now she's focused on the fungi.
"As I learned more about them, I began to see the universe in mushrooms," Wowsugi says.
She also noticed the interdependence between 'shrooms and everything else in the surrounding environment — including plants, insects and organic materials. And she saw their diversity: mushrooms have thousands of different gender types, depending on a nonbinary reproductive system, and are inherently complex and ever-evolving.
"It is all metaphorical, but for our society there are so many amazing things we can learn (from mushrooms)," Wowsugi says. When it comes to fungi, what we see above ground is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more beneath the surface.
"We are all connected as super organisms," she says.
Free artist talks are planned for 6-7:30 p.m. March 18 and March 19 at the gallery. The exhibit will be on display through March 23. Visit enoughpie.org/fungusamongus for more information.