The Hut is part of your long-term project and research Herbarium. Can you share with us the research- working- and collaborative process behind The Hut?
Jared: Thinking back to when it began seems like so long ago. The bigger project of Herbarium began in 2019 after we were invited by the Goethe Institute Colombia for a residency with Mas Arte Mas Accion in the Choco region of Colombia. There we met many inspiring human beings, rock beings, bird beings, plant beings, insect beings and animal beings…beings from the past, present and future. Everywhere we looked was knowledge and wisdom to be gleaned and embodied. And it’s there we (Angela and I) really met the fungi together for the first time. (I will often use ‚I‘ when answering these questions as I know we are all answering them and I don‘t want to speak for the others.)
I had a particularly special and intense experience one night with Jonathan Colin from Mas Arte Mas Accion. I asked Jonathan about glowing mushrooms because I had heard they might be around in the jungle. He said he’d seen them before, but it had been a while since his last encounter. After sunset one evening he invited me for a walk. We got our headlamps and put on our boots and walked towards the edge of their property, the threshold where the rainforest meets the food forest meets the beach meets the river meets the ocean meets the sky. We approached the area and turned our lights off and it was pitch black. We turned them on again to see where we were. Then back off. Suddenly a small green glow appeared on the ground below us. We turned our lights back on and ‘nothing’ was there. We turned our lights back off and slowly a green glow began to reveal itself to us. Along the forest floor, off to the side of us and in the distance. We turned our lights back on and still, we saw no mushrooms only decay. The decay was glowing. The ‘dead’ leaves, the broken branches, the fallen trees. Even the tall tree standing before us was glowing all the way up its trunk. It was the mycelium connecting everything. Suddenly the glowing green was everywhere, speaking to us, teasing us, joking with us, showing itself to us. Jonathan spoke of the spider with one glowing eye that hangs out on the ground and beholds…there it was. The fireflies lit up the air around us and we started laughing and couldn’t stop. He then invited me for a swim in the low tide of the Pacific Ocean. The Milky Way swimming above us. The lightning storms in the distance all along the horizon. We went into the ocean, already dizzy with joy, and our bodies began to glow. All around us, with every movement the microscopic animals swam with us lighting us up and mirroring our forms. Light shining and glowing around us, underneath us, above us, and seemingly out of us from our joy and wonder. Afterward, I couldn’t stop laughing for two or three hours.
The magic of the glowing mushroom deeply moved me. They are light bringers. Angela and I went to visit the glowing spot again and began dreaming with it as a source of inspiration and a kind of initiation into the fungal queendom. We met many other fungi during that time, including a glorious choir/cluster/symphony of Turkey Tail which was growing out of a fallen log over the creek in the rainforest. There we met and felt a strong sense of joy and playfulness. From there we began to articulate our desire to meet the fungi more deeply.
When we met with Kerstin Schroth in 2019, about possibly creating something with Moving in November, one of the common and inspiring points was that we all wanted to work on long-term projects that lived outside of the theater.
The Hut itself was born out of a zoom meeting with our working group. We knew we didn’t want to ‚just’ make a piece about mushrooms. Our encounters with them already pointed us in the direction of other forms and formats, other timelines, shapes, and processes that take their own time and lead us into something else.
Angela and I often work ‚alone’, however, we knew for this project we needed to reach out to others and create or strengthen new connections. We had met Alm Gnista through our friend and colleague Shelley Etkin. So with Shelley, Alm, and our long-time musical collaborator Stefan Rusconi, we knew we had a great team to dive into the understory together. In my memory, Alm was talking about log cabins in Finland as an inspiration. I think I asked if it would be possible to inoculate a hut, and the ideas and logistics just kind of unfolded from there. Again, I might remember that totally wrong. I hadn’t even met Alm in person yet, but we began our collaboration by dreaming BIG together. ALL of us.
Since that meeting, we have all been encountering, learning from, and researching fungi and their partners independently. We are not living in the same place, so we followed different streams of interest. Even before The Hut, we knew we wanted to inoculate a piano for Stefan to ‚play‘. He has been building a new machine to connect with fungi and produce sounds and rhythms. Shelley has been tracking and tracing all of us independently through language. Alm has been busy all year sorting out the spores and the ‚guest list‘, what else the hut might need, and how to best support it in its fungal decay and growth.
Prior to that meeting, we‘d had a residency with Moving in November in 2020. It was a generous time (during the pandemic) and was used mainly to look for potential locations for Yew: outside and Yew: kids. Along the way, while we scouted with our bikes and feet, we were meeting fungi and the November weather of Helsinki along with the plant life and the autumn life.
Angela and I returned to Choco, Colombia at the beginning of this year for a project with the local community and lost knowledge (called The School of Lost Knowledge). There we spent much of our time meeting and re-meeting the incredibly diverse fungi living on the coast and in the jungle. There was a giant Mango tree next to where we were staying which was home to at least 15 different species of fungi and while we were there, they were showing their fruits and sharing their processes. While we were in the rainforest, Alm was hunting the winter forests of Finland for the most optimal hut. He found one that we all agreed would be the most suitable for the project: good price, good size, good condition, not too far away, and over 100 years old. Shelley was speaking to each of us, listening to what we are learning and experiencing. And Stefan was finding out how to build a machine for the first time.
In May, Stefan, Angela and I came to Helsinki to perform our earlier outdoor works (YEW: outside and YEW: kids) and stayed for a residency in Alm‘s place for about a month. While working and learning there, we moved the hut log by log from the place where it sat for the last 100 years and placed it in Alm‘s yard. At the end of our stay, we brought the bottom of the hut to Stoa‘s courtyard to construct the base and plant a wildflower garden in it. We also inoculated the wood of the hut, the piano, and the logs that we had brought with us. These logs were buried halfway in the ground and stuck up like a kind of forest. The plants were important for the soil and mycelium, allowing place and space for connection and transference. At the end of September, the hut will be completed and built back into its original form.
The main idea was to co-create a space, a living space that we could inhabit and share with other beings and processes. We wanted The Hut to be the piece itself, a piece about growth and decay, regeneration, connectivity and encounters, the unseen, and of course the fungi queendom.
Shelley: The Hut has been evolving as a material architecture as well as an imaginative space. Both these aspects have facilitated us as a working group to envision and labor towards a place that makes encounters and learning experiences with fungi more possible and accessible.
We have wondered and mused about it, visualized it, drove it around, touched it, hauled it, placed it onto different grounds, reconfigured it and reconfigured it again, meditated inside it, inoculated it, watered it, planted into it, visited it, left it alone, entered and exited it, played music and danced in it, written in it, read in it, spoke in it, envisioned its pasts and futures over and over again.
Still, all these actions do not make us masters of The Hut. The ‘we’ here extends far beyond ‘us.’ These are some of the ways that the hut has been weathered, but much more has been part of the process within and behind this hut’s life because that is what The Hut is: a living being.
Alm: For me, The Hut was not created through a collaborative- or working process, but the process itself organically grew into The Hut. These processes have very much been focusing on giving space for The Hut to materialize, and just as the working group has been giving space to The Hut and all its entities, I see that we have been learning how to exist as full entities as well, however small those might be.
For me, part of the research lies in being and finding what I am, human in the possible multiplicity of its meaning. How to enable that, in the midst of a multitude of voices and movements, human and more than human, and witness those ring out as well. Since the idea came to be, we have all been working on our separate processes, which started as for The Hut, but now come together in The Hut. Some processes and people have become more entangled than others, and during our meetings, we have not so much constructed a project but witnessed where we are and how it grows. The Hut is a fruiting body, and we and all its entities have been part of the conception, in times as the ambiance, in times as the hyphae seeking to find that state and place, when and where fruiting is possible and vital, in times even as the potent zygote, ready to burst into multiplicity.
For me, The Hut, both as a body, an agent, and as a process constantly inspires new ways of relating. I believe that relations are intimately connected to knowledge, as a human exploring social and cultural encounters my knowledge both conscious and subconscious alters how I experience and relate to my surroundings, and vice versa, my relations alter my knowledge. To me, these are the underlying processes of The Hut, both research- work-, and collaboration-wise.
Stefan: Jared, Angela and I have been collaborating on several pieces in collaboration with nature but for me, it’s the first time we actually built a garden, we actually started (?) a garden – The Hut is a garden to me. My main focus lies in understanding more about Mushrooms. How they grow and build networks, why, when, how they fruit, what it means to me to meet them in The Hut, and since I’m the musician in the project what this means to me when it comes to music. In the pieces we developed together before, I had a device that could measure micro-fluctuations in the conductivity of a plant and translates it into (MIDI) data that I could use for musical sonification. But in this project, that didn’t go far enough for me. I wanted to figure out how to translate these plant impulses into movement and light. For me, the process of listening to music has something very introverted, something that throws me back on myself, and I dissociate in a way. But the movement of a machine, triggered by impulses of the plant has again something very present. Space and time can be experienced very directly and as a spectator, I begin to understand “life” in a different way. Nature is life, is living, is movement is fluctuating light. So I developed a machine that could implement this. The Mushroom Piano was born.
Angela: For me it all started with a glowing mushroom in the dark in the Columbian jungle night and the desire to make a dance duet, that the audience would witness in the dark, surrounded by those mushrooms. Something magical and light in those mushrooms and suddenly the mushrooms became the core being for our Finland „Herbarium“ project. For me, the mushrooms are unknown creatures and have a very different energy than plants I am more used to being with. It was definitely unknown ground. From the outside, the mushrooms always have something hard, repulsive, and terribly foreign. But when I closed my eyes there was joy and happiness. This joy surprised me over and over. It’s so cheerful. I met the true outlaws, wayfarers, trackers, globetrotters, party people, the eternal tourists, that were so happy to be on this planet, yet not interested in owning, occupying, land or property. „What is the morbid feeling I get?“ I kept on asking. „Morbid is your sentiment, not ours.“ They kept saying. „But all is slimy, rotten, revolting…“ I kept saying, „Are you kidding us? This is great!!!!“ They kept saying.
I loved how they were breaking with the idea that the weaker needs to be strong and how they were pulling me into a steady movement with no settlement and growing into my folds. Loved, how their joy couldn’t penetrate my sadness but how my joy could join their joy in a multitude, and when I was stable like a tree, rooted, they came to dance on my skin with tickle energy. They are not the same listeners as the trees. Or even like me, like us, human beings. We are listeners and we need to learn to listen they repeated over and over. That´s what we tried to do.
Can we speak about the overlap and interwovenness of your artistic work, zooming in on plant knowledge and the own dynamic plants have?
Jared: All Plants have their own unique signatures and dynamics and wisdom. Phenomena such as blossoming and decay do as well. Fungi also have their own dynamics and timings and rhythms and ‚individual’ relations. They are connected with basically everything, even the weather.
Plants have brought me into another relation to time and have opened me up to a wider/expanded reality in my life and work. In the work with Angela, the plants transformed our bodies. They guided us into a new movement making and another kind of decision-making. They taught us to relocate, to trust in the unknown, and be open to other forms. Sometimes they bring me into such clarity; partly because they themselves are so clear, with their reasons for being here, clear with their directions and needs. Sometimes they open up a realm behind them, behind the physical realm which allows for another type of imagination and inspiration and sometimes leads us to a new intuition. Some of these teachings/learnings have been integrated into our artistic practices/works, some were already there and have just become more present and articulated.
From working with the plants and fungi in different capacities, I’ve become inspired to join their time and ‚thinking‘. I’m seeking to join or develop regenerative practices and products that feed back into something somewhere somehow; benefitting the whole or at least parts of it. I’m interested in long-term commitments of mutual learning sharing and dedication. I want to join at that time. Those rhythms and dynamics while losing the tight reigns of human-centric creation in hopes of cocreating another way, more in line and in flow with natural phenomena.
Shelley: Plants are my oldest friends, my greatest teachers, and my longest-term relationship. The wisdom of plants is endlessly complex and I am endlessly curious to keep listening, becoming familiar, unfamiliar, and re-familiar with the knowledge they embody and how I might learn to embody them as well. Fungi and plants have been collaborating for a very long time. This phase of artistic research has offered small hints of insight into their intertwined existences. My work with plants is also deeply informed by medicinal perspectives steeped in an understanding of healing as an ongoing process taking place not only on individual layers but socially and structurally as well. How might the co-creation of this hut be a container to host these considerations towards rebuilding our relationships with/in fungal and plant worlds?
Alm: For me, the emphasis has always been on the fungi, and how we all draw from them, how we all learn from them, how they evolve us and teach us, nurture us, and decay us. Whether we want it or not. The Hut is both an artwork and an artist, a space for performance and a performer as well as a ground for encounters and the fungi are the inspirer, instigator, facilitator, and even the audience and subject.
I actually went into the topic of this question in the answer to the previous question already, but I could continue to say that for me when trying to work with a project where the aim is to give and share space with more than human, the way I relate, connect and let go comes into play a lot. Humans and fungi share an evolutionary line, more so than they do with plants, which separated into their own group further back in time. I’ve often experienced that I connect with plants but connect to fungi even on a physical level, plants grow outside of our bodies, while fungi grow on and in our bodies.
So how does the artistic work overlap with knowledge of plants, fungi, rock, algae, bacteria, and the dynamics they exercise or share? Naturally, there is a core of cooperation, which might also extend into mutualism. It seems clear to me that no life would exist without cooperation, and if I ever learned anything from the fungi, I’d like to believe it to be a viewpoint where I don’t view life or the evolution of life as a mere fight for life and death, but as a collaborative dance of mutualistic interdependencies.
Finally, I´d like to add that it is also a lot about consciousness. How can we perceive, communicate, and acknowledge the consciousnesses or the consciousness of all involved?
Stefan: The plants send me a flow of information that has no beginning and no end. So what I depict musically in performance is only a snapshot. I find this fact exciting. Jazz and improvisation, where I come from, I understand similarly. There you become part of a movement, an attitude. Fugues by Bach can be understood in a similar way. You should play them as if they started way before the actual notes and never stop. This gives the music a completely different dynamic. As an active listener and spectator, I experience a brief temporal glimpse of something that began long before my time and will survive me by far. There is something very beautiful and comforting about that, I think.
Angela: Plants can’t push with their will and that creates another dynamic and another time. three months for creating something is nothing. Growing, decaying, learning to listen, and teaching each other all take their sweet time. I am always so drawn to being moved and being lived by other forces than myself, because I guess I felt so bored and isolated within myself, trapped sometimes. And plants have such a beautiful way of being so abundantly specific and idiosyncratic each and every one of them but also always being connected.
So everything is just growing from there. First the desire to create a movement language, a dance. But then also to create the space for this language. Or to co-create together which then suddenly informs all: the way we create, in which space we perform, what performance is, what process is. This is just beginning to be honest.
Building The Hut was also a challenging experience in terms of how much energy it takes to materialize and build something so solid, and stable as this wooden hut. It is different from dancing and requires other skills that I am not sure I am the best partner for. It was a humbling experience. It made me admire humans, that have that ability to manifest in those ways. And I am curious to hear what plants and mushrooms have to say about all this in the future.
What will happen with The Hut after Moving in November? An artistic project that was conceived as long-term.
Jared: To be honest this is one of my favorite aspects of the project. In our field of work, there isn’t often much thought going into what happens to the sets and costumes and things we buy for production. It’s understandable, but my feeling is that this needs to change. In a sense, this work is focusing on that dilemma and we have helped to prepare it to return to the earth and transform it into knowledge for the younger generation.
The Hut has been in the courtyard of Stoa since June, growing and decaying and bringing in new life and energies. Alm works as a teacher of ‚forest’ and ‚lost knowledge ‘ in Töölö, the Swedish-speaking gymnasium. Thinking about the future, we had the idea to bring The Hut to the school as a part of their curriculum and then to rebuild The Hut as a classroom/ laboratory/garden and mushroom garden, where they can participate in and witness the forestal interactions within the city limits. Learning from the mushrooms and other beings that will be inhabiting it. So basically, this work has been preparing a classroom for learning and growing and decay.
Shelley: The intention was always a regenerative one. It’s not about making a thing that will shine and then be discarded. We adopted a structure that was standing empty of human inhabitance for some time, but already existed as a house and previously to that a forest; each log a timber of many trees. By moving it through the context of Moving in November, the wish was to transform it into a house of fungi, repurpose it as a temporary sanctuary for meetings in various forms, and ultimately gift it to the ground where it can humbly decompose. The Hut has certainly schooled us in many unexpected ways throughout this process. The wish is that it continues serving as a vividly decaying classroom for others, a fungal bouquet for the soil and land it lives on and with. Stewarded by Alm’s offering of a course on lost knowledge, it is being adopted next by a local high school. The Hut’s history is extensive, we will have been a strange and devoted moment in that broader time span, yet its futures are still unfolding in ways beyond our knowledge or control. We don’t know how those interactions will go; between root and hyphae, place and people, structure and deconstruction. Nevertheless, we strive to tend to The Hut in a way that will support its connectivity to regenerative contexts and processes.
Alm: One could say the project started a few centuries back with small pines growing, then being felled, and made into a hut, a century back or so. And now, this hut has been invited to, or directed on, a path of increased decay instead of preservation. For a short-lived organism, The Hut might still be a host for the entity of its life, maybe even for several generations of that organism. For a human, one might follow the hut for the rest of The Hut’s lifespan, even if decay were to take decades, and for some of the stones which have supported the hut during the past century, who have seen millennia, even eons before that, the acquaintance with The Hut could be seen as brief. Some of these stones still inhabit The Hut and will accompany it for the rest of its being.
The Hut will stay at Stoa for a while, then move on to Tölö high school to continue to be a garden and a classroom for encounters between fungi, plants, humans, and all that join in. When The Hut has rested in Tölö for some years, it will be moved to a final destination to de- and regenerate into the unknown.
Stefan: The Hut as a research and learning experience will not stop for me. Getting to know the different processes of the mycelium and their regeneration, decomposition, networking and interlacing work better and implementing them in a closed system is also instructive for my artistic processes. I found the collaboration with mycologists, foresters, music machine builders and programmers very fruitful. Especially the approach to this work in the dark at night with fluorescent fungi and mosses is exciting for me.
Angela: The Hut will continue to be a house for all kinds of beings and creatures and will become a classroom for teaching students. We will all stay connected with The Hut and will make sure it lives on in many forms, known and unknown, seen and unseen.