As the year begins to unwind to new life in a new season there are those keeping a close eye on the awakening from winter slumber since great change is already primed for motion. A new mayor is learning to spar with an upstate governor to go to alternate bat for the less well to do. A president may be open to making a few more new friends after a five year hiatus filled with frustration or at least a few new enemies. And so tentative partnerships form in thought and crime “By Leaves or play of sunlight” to still the #heartbleed.
That last bit being the title of a new show at the Horticultural Institute of John Cage’s Mushroom Book, tagged as “artist and naturalist” where philosopher springs to mind.
It turns out the Mushroom Book is the fruit of a group effort of three individuals. The mycologist Alexander H. Smith provided botanical descriptions and the artist Lois Long created beautiful illustrations which together with an eclectic bricolage by John Cage “created a literary and visual representation of mushroom foraging.” The creative efforts are displayed at the Horticultural Institute in such a way so as to illustrate different possible configurations in which these materials may interact. The exhibition curated by Chris Murtha of The Horticultural Society of New York, largely comprised of material courtesy of the John Cage Trust at Bard College and presented by the New York Mycological Society, also includes black and white photographs by James Klosty, a score and a drawing by John Cage.
Floored by the illustrations contributed by Lois Long they exude a magick pull with forms that evoke fine lines and plump form. They communicate the fruitiness of what “edible” mushrooms are thought to be. Why the season of Morchella for instance might turn buddhist wanderers into manic foragers, yet at the same time secretive individuals religiously discriminative about their current immediate associates.
The context for this book is obviously quite unique, extending beyond the deep collaboration among this professional trio. There is art and composition featured from outside the orbit of this trio as well as experiments in perhaps creating an “edible book” with several fungal pages. Cage also sought to layer his found bits of contextual knowledge in ink on the map of the United States.
A day of foraging in Inwood Hill Park turns up those few species that winter and grow slow. Bark like.
Two weeks later spring begins to awaken in Prospect Park. With a riot of color and a lazy sheen the debate on invasive species meets consensus – “if it can survive in Brooklyn, it’s Brooklynite.”
As we leave we see even a queen bumblebee find her way to introspection – assuming the position for temporary poverty under glass.