top of page
MC_GSCB residency2023_Landscape_.jpg

In October and November 2023, I was artist in residence with George Street Community Bookshop, engaging people with the bookshop through the lens of mushrooms and mycorrhizal networks.

 

Through the residency, I was curious to explore the parallels between community networks and natural ecosystems, asking:

 

🍄 What might we discover – or create – by applying non-human thinking to human networks?

🍄 How can we take inspiration from natural processes like mushroom growth cycles to shape cyclical approaches to community engagement – where nothing ends or decays, but is instead fed back into the system.

🍄 And how might the nutrients of a bookshop network – stories, ideas, knowledge – be harnessed to create new “fruiting bodies”?

 

Over the course of several weeks, I ran a series of activities to explore these themes with the local community, including: mushroom growing, collective mapping and hands-on creative workshops. Below is a snapshot of those activities.

 

Or, you can read more about the thinking behind the residency in this blog post.

map background version.jpg

The mushroom spotter's map

To kick off the residency, I invited the bookshop network to join me in mapping the mycelial pathways of Glossop. Visitors to the bookshop added pins to a giant map, shared stories and photographs, and helped me build a picture of the town’s fungal landscape. I also reached out via social media, extending the network even further. 

 

The result is a fascinating, co-created map that seems to suggest its own mycelial structure, emanating from the bookshop at its centre.

I'm still adding spots, but you can explore the map here.

We're going on a mush-roam

The mushroom map was our first major "fruiting body" – a piece that could only have been created by working collaboratively and sharing knowledge, experiences and insight across the bookshop network.

 

I then fed this back into the network in the shape of a guided walk – inviting other people to join me on a Mush-Roam around Glossop. 

 

The idea was to spread the network out into the local landscape in search of nutrients that might inspire new fruiting bodies. Along the way we took photos, sketched and wrote about what we found.

 

Rather than me taking the lead (though we did have an overall route), my intention was to invite the group to move like a network of hyphae. At any point on the walk, if someone shouted “MUSHROOM!”, the rest of us would shift our direction towards them, mimicking the movement of mycelium spawn as it seeks and finds food sources.

 

We had a lot of fun being curious, discovering 20+ different types of fungi, all within walking distance of the bookshop. Our finds included: fly agaric, candlesnuff, shaggy ink caps and miniature mycena growing in the mossy bark of various trees.

I curated and led the walk as part of my residency, with support from the bookshop and Glossop Creates. The photos are a mix of images taken by people who joined the walk.

Growing bookshrooms

Running alongside all of these activities has been one longer experiment, perhaps more intimately and directly exploring connections between stories and ‘shrooms.

 

Since fungi have been feeding our stories for centuries, I was curious about how we might instead feed our stories to the fungi. What sort of mushrooms might feed on a diet of Dan Brown or Fifty Shades of Grey? And could fungi become the distributors of our stories into the broader natural environment?

 

And so, I began to grow oyster mushrooms on books – documenting the process as they grew from spawn, to primordia, to pins, to fully-fledged fungi. And then, eventually, to spore prints – once I harvested them. (Side note: oyster mushrooms are detoxifiers, so I didn't fancy dining on mushrooms made from unknown printing inks and book glue!)

The whole process was a fascinating metamorphosis from human story to fungal form. A new, non-human entity nourished entirely on our human stories. The spore prints are especially fascinating to me. Somewhere in those microscopic spores are fragments of our humanity – language, stories, ideas, all metamorphosed into a new form ready to nurture a landscape that perhaps inspired those tales.

 

I also invited the bookshop network to join me in growing their own unique bookshroom sculptures. Now, somewhere in the shadowy corners of kitchens and cellars around Glossop grow strange sculptures – part mushroom, part book.

Printmaking with nature

Following the Mush-Roam and Bookshroom experiments, photographs became the next set of nutrients to feed back into the bookshop network. This time in the form of cyanotype printmaking.

 

Cyanotype printing felt apt as it needs the power of the sun to “fruit” successful prints – much like many fungal species which, after growing their networks under ground or in dark spots behind tree bark, need air and sunlight to fruit their mushrooms.

 

I also wanted to reach back in time through the human network of books, literature and curiosity to reflect on Anna Atkins and her wonderful book of cyanotype prints – the first book of its kind to capture botanical specimens in this way.

PXL_20231014_142900819.jpg

Mycopoetics

Along the Mush-Roam, I also foraged a single shaggy ink cap – which I’ve deliquesced into ink. I’m using this ink to draw a collective visual poem – infused with the very earth of the local landscape.

 

Each line of the ‘poem’ is a fragment of a reflection from someone in the bookshop network, who shared what the bookshop means to them. It’s currently a WIP, so watch this space!

Speaking of collective poetry, I also ran a mushroom-inspired creative writing workshop at the bookshop.

 

I was curious about how we could approach writing in a collective and/or non-human way. To temporarily reject traditional modes or forms in search of something unexpected. And to play with existing books and writing, disassembling and reassembling their nutrient-rich parts to grow something new.

We explored stream of consciousness, paradoxical forms, collective writing and collage poetry to create experiments in new writing. The poem below was created through a method similar to Dada college poetry, taking found fragments of books in the shop, jumbling them all together then drawing pieces at random.

Television Tarmac

Dark dopplegangers stuff pillows

with piles of printed matter

searching in dreams for medicine and such

much disparaged.

Folden habits of secrecy

paid for with gold

Flame-coloured activists in my lap

The goose duty secret police ringed them.

Foppish elders and dissident intelligence

from draperies nothing comes.

Portent, a trace machine stitchen

and relatively few official secrets.

I turn the page.

PXL_20231122_190749812.jpg

Curiosity Club

It’s here my residency ends, with the start of the Curiosity Club – a new event series at the bookshop. It felt apt to end my residency with the start of something new. 

 

At the event I invited three guests, all working with nature as part of their practice in some way, to chat to the bookshop network about what they do. I was joined by; author Matt Hill, moorland leader Suzanne Hill and artist Niki Colclough.

 

It was a lovely night of curiosity and sharing, one I hope inspires new connections, ideas and growth in the bookshop network.

Thanks.

This residency took place at George Street Community Bookshop. Special thanks to Jonathan and Steve for all their support.

And thank you to the human network who came on a strange adventure with me!

The experimentations are still ongoing as part of my practice, spawning new ideas and possibilities... so watch this space!

bottom of page