[-empyre-] And one more: Welcome to Ben Kinsley

Mez Breeze netwurker at gmail.com
Wed Nov 29 08:15:13 AEDT 2017

Hi All,

Lurking away on the fringes, on the lip-edge of human disturbances, to find
this post. Thank you Ben for an amazing, and affirming post.

Yours in the Mycelium,

On Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 11:47 AM, Ben Kinsley <benjamin.kinsley at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello all,
> I've been following along with the past month's discussions, waiting for
> my chance to talk about mushrooms. If anyone knows me personally, this
> won't come as much of a surprise... I'm always finding ways to lead
> conversations towards fungi ;) I've become quite obsessed with the mushroom
> world over the past few years. This all began in upstate NY, in the
> Adirondacks, where my wife and I go each summer. In the Adirondacks,
> there's a tradition to collect an "Artist Conk" fungus (Ganoderma
> applanatum) on hikes, and make a commemorative etching onto its surface,
> writing the date, place, names of participants, sometimes drawings of
> memorable sights, and put these on a shelf in your cabin. Our neighbor has
> a whole wall full of these, and we discovered 2 in our cabin dating from
> 1935 and 1937. So we began taking up this folk tradition, and quite quickly
> began to encounter so many different kinds of mushrooms in the forests. In
> our need to know more about how to accurately identify "Artist conks"
> (look-alike species don't hold a etching permanently like Ganoderma
> applanatum), we joined the New York Mycological Society in NYC where we
> lived from 2013-2017. As it turns out, the New York Mycological Society was
> co-founded by John Cage, who was an avid mushroom hunter and renowned
> mycologist in his own right. In fact, he was perhaps as experimental in his
> approach to mycology as he was with his music, and we know of a few more
> choice edible species due to his (sometimes nearly deadly) experiments with
> mycophagy (the practice of eating fungi -especially mushrooms collected in
> the wild). Cage once explained his dual-obsessions by pointing out that
> "music" is next to "mushroom" in most dictionaries, however after spending
> most of my free time since 2013 foraging for mushrooms, I understand the
> kinship between his interest in silence and mushrooms -- both require deep
> and slow observation, and you begin to notice so many things that were once
> hidden in plain sight. In fact, the first time we went foraging with the
> NYMS, I couldn't find a thing. Then, after adjusting to the process of
> looking, mushrooms were all around me! We came home from Central Park with
> a basket full of wild edibles, and cooked a delicious brunch. From this
> point onward I was hooked.
> I bring up mushrooms for a few reasons:
> Perhaps foremost, is the relatively new knowledge we have about the
> mycoremediation possibilities with a variety of fungi. Oyster mushrooms,
> for instance, have been proven to be able to clean up oil spills (as well
> as retain their nutritional edibility!).
>  http://www.fungi.com/blog/items/the-petroleum-problem.html
> Certain mushrooms are considered to be hyper-accumulators of heavy metals.
> These mushrooms should not be eaten, but can be collected, thus picking the
> heavy metals from the soil of radioactive sites.
> https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/using-fungi-remediat
> e-radiation-fukushima
> Certain species of mushrooms are highly medicinal. Turkey Tail, Enoki,
> Maitake, Reishi, and Chaga have proven anti-caner and immune-enhancing
> effects. Shitake has antiviral and cholesterol-reducing effects. Lion's
> Mane is believed to stimulate nerve growth. Cordyceps are known to improve
> respiratory health and increase oxygen uptake, among other properties (It
> has been recommended to me to take cordyceps to help with elevation
> sickness, as I adjust to the Colorado elevation). There is also active
> research being done with Bird's Nest fungi and its possible effects to
> fight pancreatic cancer.
> https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/mushrooms-for-good-health/
> There is research being done (again) with psilocybin being administered to
> terminal-cancer patients in an effort to relieve anxiety and "existential
> distress."
> https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/trip-treatment
> Newly published research on cordycepts have shown that when they infect an
> ant, the fungus actually infiltrates and surrounds muscle fibers throughout
> the ant’s body, and takes over all functions *except for* the brain -
> essentially puppeteering the ant! (It was previously thought that the
> fungus took over the brain).
> https://gizmodo.com/the-fungus-that-turns-ants-into-
> zombies-is-more-diaboli-1820301538
> Paul Stamets is a leading mycologist, and you can learn a bit more about
> all of this here:
> https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_
> can_save_the_world
> https://soundcloud.com/publicprograms/paul-stamets
> (and if you can deal with Joe Rogan): https://www.youtube.
> com/watch?v=mPqWstVnRjQ
> I've been thinking a lot about how much of this knowledge is ancient -
> embedded in folklore, traditional medicine, and in the culinary customs of
> so many cultures. Ötzi, the 5000 year old Ice Man, was found carrying two
> mushrooms - the Birch Polypore (which has antibiotic and styptic
> properties) and a Tinder Conk (which was used as tinder and as a way to
> transport fire, through smoldering embers). It seems that in the United
> States, we have inherited a mycophobia (perhaps from the British?).
> Whereas, the traditions of foraging, and using wild mushrooms for food and
> medicine is much more alive in places like China, Japan, Russia, and
> eastern Europe. However, the world of mushrooms is complex, and mycological
> knowledge from North America does not necessarily translate to another
> continent. Some of my favorite fall edible mushrooms (on the east coast)
> are Brick Tops (Hypholoma sublateritium), but when I was living in Germany
> recently, I learned that this same species is considered to be poisonous in
> Europe.
> I had another fascinating experience recently. While foraging in the
> Adirondacks in the spring with our Finnish friend, we came across a nice
> patch of perfect False Morels (Gyromitra esculenta). From the experts in
> the mycological society, we know them to be deadly poisonous. From growing
> up in Finland, our friend knows them to be the choicest of all edible
> mushrooms (if prepared correctly by par-boiling them in an open-air kitchen
> for a long time, and discarding the water before cooking). We had a bit of
> a disagreement, and did a lot of research, and decided (perhaps against our
> better judgement) to cook them, following the Finnish FDA guidelines. We
> did so, and had one of the most delicious meals I can remember! However,
> this was a bit of a risk, as we don't fully know if this species is
> identical to the species that is eaten in Finland (it is one of the few
> countries where it is legal to sell these mushrooms on the market), or if
> the toxicity levels are different based on continent, elevation, etc. It is
> also said that the toxins build up in your system over time, and if you eat
> too many of these, too often, it can kill you. Friends from Finland and
> Latvia know, from tradition, how to cook these mushrooms, and also that you
> should not eat them very often. In fact, many times, while foraging with
> the New York Mycological Society, amateurs visiting from other countries
> were able to teach us, and our expert mycologist leaders, something new
> about the edibility, use, or medicinal value of a certain mushroom species.
> This brings me to another observation: While fungi is an entirely separate
> kingdom from plants, mycology is a relatively young, and often ignored
> science. Most universities do not have mycology departments, and many
> biology departments do not offer a single mycology class. It is estimated
> that there are around 5 million species of fungi on the planet (estimated
> to outnumber plants by at least 6 to 1), yet only 75,000 species have been
> scientifically identified. Fairly recently, it has been discovered that 30%
> of healthy soil is fungal mass, and live mycelium cultures have been found
> growing under the ocean floor. *There's so much we don't know!*
> This reminds me of a text I read in the book *A Year With Swollen
> Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary*. On page 357 Eno published a letter he
> wrote to Tom Sutcliffe (in response to a text Sutcliffe wrote in response
> to Eno's controversial "Turner Prize" speech from 1995). The portion of
> interest to me is this:
> "[...Morse Peckham's...] theory is that art exists to rehearse us in
> various forms of cognitive uncertainty. He sees ‘science’ in its most
> general sense in the same way as you described it - as an attempt to make
> the world more comprehensible, to be able to make better generalizations
> and predictions about things. He says that we are good at this, but it has
> a price: we become overcertain of our generalizations and simply ignore the
> times when they don’t apply. We lust for certainty so much that we ignore
> that which reminds us how uncertain we are. He suggests that this is what
> art is for: to confront us with mysteries, things that we don’t properly
> understand, we know we don’t understand, but we nonetheless find ourselves
> excited and stimulated by. This linkage of uncertainty with pleasure is the
> key to his theory - a way of training ourselves to enjoy exploring, to act
> without complete information, to improvise."
> I think this is very much akin to the way Cage was thinking about
> mushrooms, as well as how Anna Tsing frames her observations about
> Matsutake mushrooms in her great book "The Mushroom at the End of the World
> On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins." In it, she talks a lot
> about the Matsutake growing solely in places of human disturbance... and
> that once rural Japanese villages were abandoned for city life, the coveted
> Matsutake mushrooms disappeared. It is often talked about, in mushroom
> clubs, how most of the good mushrooms are found along the trails, near
> human disturbance (and not in the middle of the forest).
> I think this is incredibly ripe territory for creative exploration. How
> might we use mushrooms as material and also as metaphor? Perhaps all the
> information we need in order to de-contaminate ourselves and our planet is
> already embedded within our folk knowledge? I plan to explore these ideas,
> especially in collaboration with mushrooms, in future projects. I'm not
> exactly sure how that's going to take form, however I have done a couple of
> things recently:
> Here's a essay I wrote on the relationship between art and mushrooms:
> http://temporaryartreview.com/zen-of-the-woods-a-foray-into-
> art-and-mushrooming/
> and here's a project I did, in collaboration with Christopher Kennedy
> (also a member of the Environmental Performance Agency), which took the
> form of a guided walk/meditation/wander through Central Park in search of
> fungi, stories, and sound:
> http://benkinsley.com/myco-ramblings/
> --
> Ben Kinsley
> Assistant Professor of New Media/Time-Based Art
> Department of Visual and Performing Arts
> University of Colorado Colorado Springs
> www.benkinsley.com
> www.janksarchive.org
> On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 2:19 PM, Renate Terese Ferro <rferro at cornell.edu>
> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> And one more guest for Week 4
>> Ben Kinsley’s projects have ranged from choreographing a neighborhood
>> intervention into Google Street View, directing surprise theatrical
>> performances inside the homes of strangers, organizing a paranormal concert
>> series, staging a royal protest, investigating feline utopia, collecting
>> insult humor from around the world, and planting a buried treasure in the
>> streets of Mexico City (yet to be found). His work has been exhibited
>> internationally at venues such as: Queens Museum, NYC; Cleveland Museum of
>> Art; Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland; Bureau for Open Culture;
>> Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh; Flux Space, Philadelphia; Katonah
>> Museum of Art, NY; Green on Red Gallery, Dublin; Centro di Cultura
>> Contemporanea Strozzina, Florence; La Galería de Comercio, Mexico City;
>> Catalyst Arts, Belfast; and ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe. He
>> has participated in a number of artist residency programs including:
>> Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture; Bemis Center for Contemporary
>> Arts; Skaftfell Art Center, Iceland; Askeaton Contemporary Arts, Ireland;
>> and Platform, Finland.
>> Ben is an avid mushroom hunter, an amateur mycologist, and has published
>> essays on mushrooms and art on Temporary Art Review and in the New York
>> Mycological Society newsletter. He is an Assistant Professor of New
>> Media/Time-Based Art at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
>> Renate Ferro
>> Visiting Associate Professor
>> Director of Undergraduate Studies
>> Department of Art
>> Tjaden Hall 306
>> rferro at cornell.edu
>> _______________________________________________
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>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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