The artist Iza Tarasewicz lives and works in Kolonia Koplany in northeastern Poland, close to the belarussian border. Her installations and performance take their starting points in complex systems and models and visalisations of natural sciences. THE MEANS, THE MILIEU and FUNGAL FOLLIES refers to Iza Tarasewicz longstanding artistic research and artistic work on principles of information transfer and survival in biological science and a performance which was first performed in Antwerp in 2014.
“Fungal Follies” was originally presented as a finissage to my site-specific installation “The Means, The Milieu” at Objectif Exhibitions in Antwerp, Belgium in 2014 , demonstrating some thoughts resulting from the material experiments and critical research developed during the exhibition. Part lecture, performance, educational workshop, and puppet show, the presentation used both materials from the exhibition and new elements to stage a humorous and informative conversation between microorganisms.
The performance animates a parasitical porcini puppet—a prosthetic performing object ventriloquized by a professional puppeteer within the mycological machine I grew in the basement. Produced in collaboration with the Bialystok puppet theater communities and written with the assistance of curator and writer Post Brothers, the performance served as a visual mushroom cap that grew from the site of Objectif Exhibitions and subsequently spreads its spores to appear elsewhere.
For “Fungal Follies”, I produced a large multi-headed puppet made of textile, silicone, and yellow ochre, supported by an armature of metal poles that keep the object’s odd shape. In the performance, an actor ventriloquizes the perspectives of five mushrooms. He’s a professional puppeteer, but I give him a difficult task—to animate the multiple mouths of a mushroom muppet, in sync with an audio script performed by actress Urszula Marciniak, whose voice is distorted into five unique characters, a certain singular plurality, activating a schizophrenic disorder. There are many types of mushrooms, and their respective behaviors offer cues and clues with which to imagine their varied “personalities”. Five voices, five perspectives, yet each mouthed by a single five-headed mushroom muppet conglomerate. The performance is in a continuous state of rehearsal, at once casual and awkward, and well practiced and organized. Viewers are not barred from the actor and his presence and difficult activation of the puppets also emphasizes a struggle with matter.
The conversation between the mushroom puppets regards many different aspects of mushrooms from discrete fungal perspectives. The mushrooms are constantly speaking about eating and decomposition, reprocessing dead material into new life. Their dialogue is carried out by five characters, but they all form one mycelial body. Each have different characteristics and forms of expression (including a constantly quoting saprophyte that reprocesses dead texts and facts, a decomposer who is always hungry and intervenes in the flow of dialogue, a mycorrhiza who is more cooperative and mediates between the other organisms, an endophytic-symbiant that is always joking and making puns, and a revolutionary mushroom, who is always looking for a fight, a change, and more acknowledgement of the importance of mushrooms in the ecosystem). Both educational on the properties and behaviours of mushrooms and filled with humorous puns and wordplay, the performance functions similar to an artist statement describing significant aspects of my general practice, and explores certain relationships mushrooms have to each other, to humans, and to the world at large.
While the performance is rooted in mushroom discourse, it emphasizes my belief in ontological unity and interconnection. We are all part of one system (such as mushrooms are a huge structure, grid connected with each other), similar to a mycelial network. Emphasizing decomposition as a form of building and creation, the script slowly breaks down to complete indecipherability, but before it does, it offers a clearer understanding of her main research interests, and the mycology underlying various forms and matter. The puppet’s conversation culminates when they all agree that they want to make a revolution to change the world, but it all comes down again to eating, they are hungry and forget about the revolution, the dialogue becomes hazy, awkward and muted, and the revolution fades.
Important part of installation THE MEANS THE MILIEU is Lingzhi (Ganoderma Lucidum or Reishi) mushrooms known as the “flower of longevity” or “herb of immortality”.
Lucid Ganoderma is a poly-porus and a pharmaceutical fungus. More than two thousand years ago, Lucid Ganoderma had already been recorded in “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing”. It was known that a person who had taken Lucid Ganoderma for a long term would have a healthy body and a long life. However, since it was really rare to have the chance to see and obtain Lucid Ganoderma, people always found it very mysterious. With more and more scientific researches, the ‘mysterious veil’ of Lucid Ganoderma is gradually removed nowadays.
The developmental characteristics of Lucid Ganoderma are very special. It usually grows and attaches to rotten tree trunk in a valley. There are three different growing processes, namely spore, mycelium and body. A spore is the seed of Lucid Ganoderma. When two spores merge together, they will start growing, initially as a mycelium and then as a body.
There are thousands and thousands of spores inside a body. When the spores are ripe, they will bounce out externally. This is the continuous circulation process of the entire life of Lucid Ganoderma.
The scope of application for Lucid Ganoderma is extremely wide. According to Chinese medical science, since Lucid Ganoderma penetrates into and works on the five key human organs, it can be served for the improvement in heart, lung, liver, pancreas and kidney. Lucid Ganoderma is suitable to various human systems including respiratory, circulatory, digestive, neural and locomotive. It covers illnesses of various aspects relating to internal medicine, surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics and EENT. The reason why Lucid Ganoderma is good for various diseases is due to its fundamental and tremendous effect on the enhancement of internal balance and the immune system to prevent from getting sick. Lucid Ganoderma is different from other common medications that cure specific diseases or supplementary nutrients that only address particular body needs.
Lucid Ganoderma helps to bi-directionally adjust the balance of human body functioning, regulate the internal mechanism and metabolism as well as enhancing the immune functions of the body in order to ensure that all internal organs and systems function properly.
a) Calming of nerves in the functions of nerves
b) Treatment of male/female menopause syndrome c) Noticeable effects for the recovery of cancer patients after radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Effects of Lucid Ganoderma as evidenced by modern pharmacology:
a) Enhancement of the immune ability of human body, reduction of oxidized free radicals and prevention of aging
b) Facilitation and regulation of metabolism as well as maintenance of physiological balance
c) Improvement of diseases caused by the respiratory system
d) Enhancement of cardiovascular functions
e) Calming and analgesic effects
f) Remedy of functional damages caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy
g) Protection of kidney, liver and pancreas
Lucid Ganoderma has been considered as the top of the highest rank medication. As pointed out by researches, Lucid Ganoderma has better pharmaceutical effects than Ginseng while three important characteristics are demonstrated by Lucid Ganoderma:
1)Lucid Ganoderma is non-toxic and it does not have any side-effect
2) It improves not only just one particular organ, but enhances the normalization of all organs
3) It assists to adjust physiological functions.