Bear Mountain State Park, NY

Sharpe Park, Fidalgo Island, WA

The videos shown above offer a documentation of each mushroom hunting excursion. Each video was developed in collaboration with musician/artist Anna Luisa Daigneault using a form of chance operation. To begin the process, a dice was rolled five times, generating a sequence of numbers to reference. These numerical sequences were used by Anna to develop a set of rhythms, beats, and specific tones, generating a soundscape that integrates conversations and field recordings from each walk. The final work offers the viewer a way to access an unfolding and collaborative dialogue exploring the intersections of art and education.


Journal Log: 12 June 2013 (Rob)

As we continue to walk I notice a few mushrooms along the way, but avoid stopping so that our conversation continues to flow. We find some turkey tails and other shelf fungi but Rob doesn’t seem very interested. We keep ascending and Rob suggests we go ‘off-path. Perhaps this will aid our mushroom hunting pursuits. Yet as we wander off the trail I can tell right away we won’t find mushrooms in this direction: it’s too rocky and dry, and not the right kind of habitat.

I suggest we find somewhere to sit and lead us to some rock formations jutting out just past the pond. I pull out the mycowheel again and ask Rob to spin the dial. It lands on context and I ask a question about Radio Transmission Ark and its relationship to social practice. He doesn’t respond right away, but eventually begins to philosophise about culture and politics in the twenty-first century. I sit entranced. Rob is an orator. A storyteller and comedian. Loud, and pronounced. Southern as hell. He gets the paradox of postmodernism in a way that is so curious. I listen, laugh, and respond sparingly for nearly an hour.

RP: Oh what is that?

CK: It’s a polypore, um looks like a red striped polypore. Probably been here for at least a couple of years or so. And this is a decomposer.

RP: What kind of tree is this?

CK: Probably a red oak. Yeah, you’ll see a lot of mushrooms on oaks. You can see some relationships between lichens and moss.

RP: Symbiosis.

CK: You can see the pores here instead of being gills.

RP: Also a bug on it.

CK: Uh huh. Oh bug … we want to save you. It’s a habitat for this little one.

In/Continuum: making Mycological Provisions

In the aptly titled text Mycopedagogy, Craig Dworkin (2004) links Cage’s work as an experimental composer to his passion for mycology. Dworkin reminds us that Cage was indeed an educator for many decades. He highlights an excerpt from a conversation with Joan Retallack, where Cage says, Ideas are to be found in the same way that you find wild mushrooms in the forest … Instead of having them come at you clearly, they come to you as things hidden (Cage and Retallack 1996: 90, quoted in Dworkin 2004: 607).

For Cage the mushroom hunt is an allegory for living one’s life. He urges us to embrace the uncertainty of fungi, to seek out new mushrooms, to accept chance and the mystery of the hunt. Dworkin argues this is essentially Cage’s pedagogical impulse: a kind of dialogic learning that emerges through a critical awareness of the self and a phenomenological encounter with the land.

While this project merely touches upon some of these ideas, the metaphor of the mushroom is an important touchstone. It offers a starting point to relocate learning and art as something open-ended, networked, and fluid. It allows us to view the practices and identities of the contemporary artist-teacher as complex and transitory, perhaps signalling a new hybridised cultural worker who straddles the peripheries of cultural production, politics, and the public sphere, among others.

However, it is important to recognise the limits of social practice and the ethical dilemmas that emerge as artists, educators, and institutions continue to exert their authorial power and privilege (Kester 1995). Issues of access and economic and racial equity continue to linger as practitioners adopt socially engaged methods and practices in their work. If left unexamined, these attempts to restore some kind of social bond may do more harm than good (Bishop 2004). This issue is especially urgent as these practices gain wider acceptance and use by institutions around the world.

A Cagian notion of the mushroom offers a space to deterritorialise and better understand these issues, while recognising the entangled nature of learning, art, and social engagement. This foregrounds the importance of evolving a Deleuze-Guattarian (1987) idea of the rhizome alongside an epistemological framework of post-formal thinking (Kincheloe and Steinberg 2011) to create a fertile soil in which cultural and educative ecosystems can mutually thrive. Perhaps in making this mycological provision, we can, as Cage says, move from one idea to another as though we were [mushroom] hunters (Cage 1963: 21).


Bishop, Claire. 2004. ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October, 110: 51–79

Cage, John. 1963. A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings by John Cage (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press)

Cage, John, and Joan Retallack. 1996. Musicage: Cage Muses on Words, Art, Music (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press)

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press)

Dworkin, Craig. 2004. ‘Mycopedagogy’, College English, 66.6: 603–11

Kester, Grant H. 1995. ‘Aesthetic Evangelists: Conversion and Empowerment in Contemporary Community Art’, Afterimage, 22.6: 5–11

Kincheloe, Joe L., and Shirley R. Steinberg. 1993. ‘A Tentative Description of Post-Formal Thinking: The Critical Confrontation with Cognitive Theory’, Harvard Educational Review, 63.3: 296–321

Journal Log: 14 July 2013 (Cassie)

Around four p.m. we begin our descent from the peak of Bear Mountain. The conversation is waning as our knees suffer down a steep trail of boulders and rocks. As we make our way down, Cassie makes a run for the park lodge in a comic last-ditch effort to use all her human energy. We find ourselves in a space that’s been converted into a fancy hotel and decide to get iced tea and draw together. I ask her to diagram the relationship between art and education. She marks three sections – the unknowninstitutions’, and the known. We proceed to map relationships between the three. I think about it as a mycelia mat, a mushroom metaphor manifest. As the sun begins to set we begin to drive back to New York City.

I feel terrible about the return journey: we’ve been stuck in traffic for several hours. At this point I have nothing left to talk about, and Cassie begins to work on a project from her phone. As we arrive back in Williamsburg I reflect on our conversations, which were deep at times, but also veered off into unknown territories. I’m not sure how I could have pushed Cassie any further toward something this way or the other, yet I fear it may not be enough. Still I know I’ve climbed a mountain with someone I love and feel exhausted in an amazing way.

CK: This is actually a lobster mushroom … it’s dried out but it’s an edible …

CT: It looks like a trumpety kind of shape …

CK: Like a chanterelle … like it’s in that family … isn’t it gorgeous?

CT: Yeah what a colour … yeah, I wonder what colour it would turn when you dried it … we should ask Gary Lincoff, our mushroom guru …



Journal Log: 2 August 2013 (Caroline)

Around two p.m. we reach a stopping point in our conversation and break for lunch. A salad of quinoa and kale is made with currants and olive oil. After lunch we decide to brave the outside and go for a walk in Prospect Park in search of mushrooms and ice cream. We equip ourselves for the journey and begin to walk down Carlton Avenue and toward the park, past the Brooklyn Library and the arches of Grand Army Plaza.

As we enter the park we immediately spot mushrooms in a nearby pile of mulch, drooping from the heat. They look like old man of the woods or parasol mushrooms, white and speckled with black flecks and wrinkly tops. Caroline almost seems grossed out by them. I’m in love. I can’t believe they are here in such heat! We journey on through the park as I ask Caroline to talk more about her identity as an artist and her work with Solidarity NYC. An hour or so into our walk, we begin to notice our fatigue and begin to search for air conditioning. We follow along Seventh Avenue until we find a little shop that sells smoothies and coffee. From here the interview breaks down and we return once more to questions of love and what the future holds.

CW: Whoa, these are some weird ones …

CK: Maybe they’re like shaggy manes?

CW: Whoa, I had a creepy moment when I touched them.

CK: I think they may be edible.

CW: You know they love these wood chips … oh look at that mycelium. Oh that’s so amazing. I want to pull up another one. I want to see a root system. That’s amazing, its really happening. Smell it, it smells like button mushrooms …

1. Introduction   2. The hunt   3. Spores

Journal Log: 17 August 2013 (Kate)

We’ve been walking for nearly an hour now, and reach an ocean cliff overlooking the Puget Sound. Kate points out the staggering kelp forest below as a school of dolphins leaps from the ocean. All I need is a rainbow and then I can die a happy man, I think. After a moment of quiet I ask Kate to spin the mycowheel again. It falls on self and I ask Kate to reflect deeply on the Native Stars project and her teaching art practice. She talks a great deal about the role of anthropology and the idea of ethnography being central to this work. I ask her to expand on issues of class and race, and then as we continue to ascend through the forest, Clark reveals that one of her students in the final week of the project was killed.

I can tell this is something that affected her deeply as we pause and rest by the trail. As we reach the next overlook, Kate tells me to close my eyes as she leads me up the trail. When I open my eyes, the views are sweeping and transformative. I feel like I’m seeing the world for the first time. Kate and I take a break here from the interview, exchanging personal stories and thoughts. As the afternoon grows long, I ask Kate to spin the mycowheel for one last adventure …

CK: Look at this mushroom, I think its called white cheese … it’s a polypore. So crazy how it spreads almost like a skin.

KC: It does, on the underbelly. There are mosquitoes here, just to warn you.

CK: Do you think this is a birch? Look at the size of this moss.

KC: Rainforest!

CK: Yeah, epiphytes!



Ramapo Mountain State Forest, NJ

Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY