review of Mycophilia by Louise Short at Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth

Please share this with others, it’s such a wonderful show.

Mycophilia is the first of two shows being presented in the Ceredigion Museum temporary gallery space by Short&Forward and runs from April 17 to May 31st 2014. Alice Forward’s exhibition Swarm Society will run from June 12th till 2nd August and her works resonate well with those of Louise. Both make work that explores our relationship with the natural world and expresses their passion for protecting and conserving it for future generations. They share a love of film, mushrooms, bees and life.

Louise Short’s exhibition, Mycophilia, exhibits exquisite casts of fungi and spore prints as filmic objects. In a temporary space next to the Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth, she has presented a constellation of 3D snapshots of moments in time and place, captured and recorded in plaster, bronze, paper, paint and spore-dust on paper. The title of the installation, Mycophilia, means the love of mushrooms, likewise filmophilia means a love of films. Spore-dust is an evocative phrase that whispers the story of their process in your ear. On entering the gallery to experience Mycophilia viewers are transported into another world. The prints on paper are trapped underneath glasses, lest they should escape like spiders or wasps, and the science-fiction presence of a constellation of plaster casts suspended in a deep blue universe spans the whole back wall. Ian Banks meets Richard Mabey meets Thoreaux. This installation is both 2D and 3D – filmic and sculptural. It hints at mass fields of growth and microscopic detail. Each trace of fungi reveals its own intricacy and uniqueness – together they are a cosmos.

A love of the process of film and a deep understanding of nature is present in all of Louise’s artworks, but not always in an obvious, cinematic way. Mothshadowmovie (1999, 2000) turned an everyday office overhead projector into a screening device in a woodland – attracting and amplifying the ghostly visits of fluttering moths and slimy snails. For Something Else, her one person show at Arnolfini, Bristol in 1997, Louise cast the tender insides of daffodil trumpets, fixing the voids in plaster. In 2001, in the basement of what is now the Exchange Gallery in Penzance, she filmed the walls of the redundant telephone exchange then re-projected the 8mm footage back onto their surface. The projectors shuddered and rattled, returning life to the abandoned architecture. Feeling Faint created a gentle echo on the walls, the images quivered softly like Narcissus’s reflection on water. In Louise’s work solid things are made ephemeral and transient moments solid. Casting is like a 3D camera, the imprint of the brief moment that the fungus manifests itself above ground as solid matter is caught and made tangible.

The spore-dust deposits fine footprints of the mushrooms reproductive potential, they multiply generously but few will survive the process. Their lives are brief, like stars they appear unexpectedly and disappear suddenly, as if by magic. They are indeed other-worldly without consumption – you don’t need to eat them to be enchanted and drawn in by their hallucinatory nature. In the scale of things humans are similarly short-lived. We make art, we write, we create, we procreate, and every moment is to be noted, considered and experienced in our short lifetime. This exhibition of fungi prompts us to be mindful of this and the artwork is the outcome of a very thoughtful and considered process of walking, meandering and being in the moment.

During Louise’s regular forays through the beautiful Welsh landscape, where she lives and works, she was able to immerse herself in her thoughts of the ephemeral, returning with a record of her journey, on that day, of that place. I must let my senses wander as my thought, my eyes see without looking…Be not preoccupied with looking. Go not to the object; let it come to you…What I need is not to look at all, but a true sauntering of the eye. (Thoreau Journal 4:351) Solitude, silence, no signage, wandering aimlessly, like the rhizome of mycelia that appear as fairy-circles below the surface of meadow grass, Louise reflected upon her roots and relationships, walking random routes through the landscape, meandering, thinking and casting her gaze as she foraged, capturing her fragile trophies to keep.

Fungi is corporeal in nature, soft like flesh, but cold to the touch. Love, tenderness, fragility, vulnerability, the human condition are all here in this exhibition.

 

20140427-195422.jpg 20140427-195403.jpg 20140427-195345.jpg 20140427-195332.jpg © Carolyn Black 2014

how things happen: I’ve got an installation to installate

By accident, I have just read a 2009 article: “Demolish a wall? No problem”, by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian. I have no idea why when I opened the Guardian online on my computer today it opened on that page. I’ve certainly not read it before because I would remember it. I think it is the only article I’ve ever read about how a show is installed and the complexity that involves.

For over 15 years I have been installing work, checking out equipment and sourcing strange things from Screwfix, the Internet and elsewhere. It includes finding a whole set of cinema seats on Ebay; a specialist joiner who knows how to get around the restrictions that a listed building presents; visiting industrial manufacturers; negotiating with sheet steel suppliers; seeking a solution to preventing deer from nibbling through hundreds of metres of audio cable in a forest (we failed, it needed checking every day and taping where required); how to stop keen visitors from touching a wire deer by Sophie Ryder on a sculpture trail, which was damaging it (simple, keep moving it, don’t map it and make it fun to find). The list goes on.

I love the Simpson’s quote Jones refers to: “I’ve got an installation to installate”. It reminds me of a song rewritten by artist Louise Short and other ex-students of John Gingell to the tune of Johnny Be Good – to celebrate John’s 60th. It included and “my how he can installate.” (John was the much loved course leader of my, and many others, MA course in Cardiff.) Hum it to yourself and you’ll get it.

The other thing that caught my eye in Jones’s article was near the end:

Art is a world, and I don’t mean in the nebulous, ugly sense of the “art world”. I mean a real social process, in which people come together in complex ways to make things. It is relational, as Bourriaud and his theoretical followers would say. No one is an island, to put it another way: we’re all part of the archipelago.

Yes, yes and yes – a real social process it is. The visitors that see the shows have no idea about what goes on behind the scenes. Just like the theatre, they don’t want or need to know, it’s part of the magic. Talk about the art economy and most people think about rich artists like Hirst, or wealthy dealers and gallerists, auction houses etc.  But there is another economy behind the front stage – there’s all the people that make things happen, the jobs created by this, the industries that are involved, the cogs that turn the system. Publishers, graphic designers, foundries, researchers, industrial makers, hand stitchers, paper makers, picture framers, electricians, plasterers, builders and yet again, the list is endless.

As I imply in my article in Arts Professional – the artworld is a system and it is part of the whole-world system. And that system comprises of people and things. And together they are able to create new things that have never been seen before and experiences unknown and unexpected.

Economy is important to the survival of the system, but is not the only reason for its existence. Emotions matter too. The art sector is a holistic system − organisations, artists and audiences are all part of it. You can’t have a holistic body without organs, there would be no pulse.