Idealistically I should have written this update around day 14 but time seems to have run away with me recently but also the call of working with soft pastels has been irresistible. I did check in the cupboard to see the mycelial growth on day 14 and also to weigh it but in terms of visual aesthetics between 14 and 18 little has changed except for one thing - a sudden appearance of multiple fruit flies within the humidity bag meaning that is opening cannot be inside! There is clear evidence of an increase in mycelium over and around the book pages - they are being knitted and woven together to the extent the book feels quite dense in places, but 'marshmallowy' in others. There is a softness near the sides where you can see the mycelium growth in off-white web-like formations. However, in other areas the front and back pages appear contaminated with green and yellow pigmentation but on closer inspection this is revealed to be the acrylic inks and paints of my earlier work.
I note as I sit here typing and observing the structure on my desk the books appearance is becoming one of human-fungal collaboration but I acknowledge I retain control over its growth - it needs water and it needs the flies removing through an ethical duty of care. I want to touch it and explore it texturally when I open the bag to release the unwanted occupants but I also do not want to contaminate the organism with the fungi and bacteria on my hands even if carefully washed or I use gloves - it feels at this point any physicality from my body creates a human impression that I wish to avoid for a few more days at least. I know the time is coming whereby I place it in the fridge to force (hopefully) the pinning of fruiting bodies but we are currently experiencing a late summer heatwave and hence my desire to open the bag, spray the mycelium and let it continue its growth until the heat passes particularly as I am aware my home studio can get too warm and create less than ideal conditions for mushroom growth. Quick point of note: day 14 weight = 866 grams but today the weight has dropped to 846 grams - it is loosing rather than gaining weight as the book itself decays and is consumed.
Henceforth for now I must hold tight and admire the imprints of mycelium on the humidity bag - there are ghostly impressions of its aliveness that I feel if preserved can be used as inspiration within my artistic research: the mycelium itself is demonstrating to me visually its natural growth patterns thus enabling the refinement of my visual representations. I note as I move the bag the waft of its odours - the distinct, but strong smell of mushrooms even though no fruiting bodies have yet pinned and grown: it feels, as I have described before, comforting and familiar due to its parent growth within my studio. The olfactory sensation is one of memories, of peace and strangely of observation as I find myself documenting the growth of this fungi through its smell: I want to sniff further but the fruit flies are somewhat off-putting ... ...however, taking the book outside to try and evacuate the flies did provide an opportunity to take a short video which does show clearly the mycelial growth over the top of the book. I declined to remove the book from the bag due to not wanting to physically touch it at this point in time but it did provide an opportunity to observe and really observe the above-mentioned smell - in the fresh air of the garden and with the bag open it was surprisingly potent albeit in the most pleasant way.
Frustratingly those flies it seemed were more than happy with their home but appeared not to be doing any harm and hence the structure has now been gently sprayed with water, the bag resealed and placed back in the relative cool and darkness of the cupboard. I will update this blog further within the next few days and in doing so want to also add in a little about another artist whose work this book could, at least in theory, be situated alongside even if at the margins of what she is doing.