becoming fungi, becoming forest:
performing the mycelial city

Imagine the city as a place of invisible connections, as part of the biosphere interlinking all living beings. Can you see that the city is also a forest? Probe soil and reveal mycorrhizal networks. Probe bodies and discover that ‘we’ are ecosystems spanning boundaries and transgressing categories.

Through workshops and performances, becoming fungi, becoming forest revealed human entanglements in this shimmering ‘biome’ of interacting beings and systems (humans, fungi, trees, microbes, and other life), on scales from massive to microscopic. 

You are multiple.

About

ash tree

becoming fungi, becoming forest 

is a project devised by sirenscrossing artist-collaborators in collaboration with humans and nonhumans in Coventry, UK.

sirenscrossing is an international, collaborative umbrella for developing site-specific audience experiences. We think of humans as only one node of liveliness in the interweave of the living Earth. Through creating experiences in everyday spaces, we deepen into the lived reality of humans (even those in cities) and their sympoietic mesh with nonhumans, landscapes, and Earth systems. sirenscrossing seeks to enliven individual human’s awareness of their biological, ecological, social, and technological entanglement in multispecies and hybrid bio/geo/techno processes. All of this has become increasingly urgent, on a planet in crisis. We hope to contribute to a tidal surge of momentum for change.  

www.sirenscrossing.com

Video

A short video showing excerpts from a series of five two-hour long performances in Coventry (December 2021).

Video camera and edit by Trevor Price

Workshops

In partnership with Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art 2021, sirenscrossing offered a series of creative public workshops in Coventry during October. These invited local participants to immerse themselves in a variety of fungi/forest and wild yeast experiments.

Workshops included: Eat Your Words: Growing Mushrooms on Books with Lisa Franklin; Free the Trees: Revealing the Wood-Wide-Web with Carolyn Deby; Mycelial Singing with Jamie McCarthy; Wild Yeasts Go Wild with Carolyn Deby and Tom Simkins; Fun with Fungi with Jane Usher and Tina Bedekovic (from University of Exeter’s MRC Centre for Medical Mycology); Deliquescence Delight: Making Ink from Mushrooms with Lisa Franklin.

Performances

Co-commissioned by Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Art 2021, becoming fungi, becoming forest: performing the mycelial city culminated with a series of audience experiences (performances) in Coventry in early December 2021.

These performances were site specific: audiences walked slowly in four small groups of 25 people, passing through a series of sites and ‘scenes’ in central Coventry. Each audience group departed from a unique starting location and moved through the cycle of sites in a different sequence to the other groups. The starting locations/sites were secret, revealed to audience members the night before they embarked on their adventure.

Eventually, all four audience groups converged on a disused, multi-story car park where they walked up and up through the levels, drawn by the sound of polyphonic singing – human voices performing the shifting, branching and fusing liveliness of mycelial entanglement. Finally, near the top of the car park, the audience were surrounded by the singers and the singing, where the sound reached a peak and then gently deliquesced.

Multidisciplinary across forest/tree knowledges, mycology (in the body and in the world), polyphonic singing, poetry, performance, wild yeast foods and drink-making, with specialists and the public, this project was inspired by Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life: https://www.merlinsheldrake.com/entangled-life. See Workshops for more information about the activities that informed our research for the performances.

All photos by Adele Mary Reed

hotel and tree
wide view of park at nighttime with performer next to tree
Performer/artist-collaborator Camilla Nelson
closeup of artist drawing and painting with mushroom ink
Performer/artist-collaborator Lisa Franklin (creator of fungi installation)
closeup of mushrooms and mycellium
woman with projection of mycellium against wall
woman looking up and arm gesturing
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