Tuesday, 12 September 2017

fungus among us

Inspired by the diversity of toadstools and mushrooms we came across recently on our walk in the woods, I was drawn to a special exhibit at Wiesbaden’s museum (previously here and here and probably in more spots) on the nutritive, toxic and social history aspects of fungi.
From classification and identification to application and preservation, the displays were engrossing and enlightening as they ranged from the culinary, pharmaceutical and their oversized role as pigments for dyes and warrior cosmetics and I especially liked the artistry of the dioramas with a section dedicated to the workshop that created these diverse, liminal (neither animal nor vegetable)  mushroom mannequins.
Actual specimens, like creatures of the deep, wouldn’t survive public scrutiny and many could potential offer hazard and models were made and placed in their native environments to illustrate their role in the ecologies of various biomes. The exhibits on the usage of fungi were supplemented by local anecdotal enterprises, like a crafty woman who coloured wool in many shades with mushroom sourced pigments and another who was a successful farmer and we’re thinking of cultivating our own in our root cellar and have embarked on a course of study to those ends.
It is strange to think how these elaborate and embellished fungal fruiting bodies are just vehicles, ultimately, to spread spores and propagate the species but I suppose that the same is true for ourselves, however we might consider ourselves the refined heirs of a long line of succession.