Scrying with Agar

When I returned to check on the gel plates, I saw some interesting results, varying from obvious spread marks and  feathery swirls to beautiful fantasy landscapes.

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Above: Lycoperdon Perlatum (Common Puffball) sample

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Above: Pleurotus Ostreatus (Common Oyster Mushroom)

The Common Oyster Mushroom gave a fluffy, cloudy pattern, and with the combination of the sample in gel, looked like a bird of some sort, with a brown eye.

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Above : Sample of Mycena Galericulata (Common Bonnet)

The most beautiful were from the samples of liquified Boletus Subtomentosus. One sample had been spread over jelly, the other sample had been mixed with “broth”, a protein additive to feed the bacteria.

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Above: Boletus Subtomentosus sample with added protein “broth”

What I believe gave these samples (and the Common Oyster samples) an advantage over the others is the fact that they were spread using a glass rod spreader, as if one were making a crepe. This is the method I will use in future when I try out any more samples, as it covers the whole dish as opposed to a few spots here and there.

I’m in awe of these beautiful pieces of nature’s art, which appear as if drawn in pencil on off-white paper. To me, they are an imaginary landscape, where distant towers or tall buildings balance precariously on a steep hill within a rugged hilly landscape. What is even more remarkable is that both plates resemble a similar landscape, but the latter looks as if it is further into the distance. The moon lights the scene, casting magical moonbeams over the kingdom….or perhaps we are looking at the scene through falling snow, the white spots giving a sense of perspective with their variations in size. Perhaps this is a picture of Dunsinane Hill, and the Hill fort where Macbeth lies waiting, anticipating his future, and the spots are the foot soldiers heading towards him to seal his fate. These landscapes certainly have a magical, even supernatural quality, and makes me feel that something special has grown from a small sample found in Birnam Wood.

I almost feel as if these gel plates could be used as a sort of divination method, a bit like the ancient art of scrying, where the past, present or future could be told using such tools as crystals,glass, mirrors, water, fire, or smoke. Such images are likely products of our imagination or subconscious, although some believe that they come from spirits, gods or demons. According to http://witchesofthecraft.com the symbol of the bird in scrying means ascension, good news, or bird headed beings. Although I couldn’t find hills, I found mountains which means obstacles or a specific area (Dunsinane Hill perhaps?) This element of foreseeing the future also ties in with the prophecies in Macbeth. I feel that this experiment links to my theme in a few ways – the site-specific gathering of the fungi, the images they have produced, and the unpredictability of the images, shapes and patterns, which may be interpreted by my imagination or that of others.

Hoof Prints

Having experimented recently with painting from mud, soils and ash, I wanted to try making marks which involved walking, and I came up with the idea of attaching paper to the soles of my shoes, hoping that it would capture some traces and impressions of my walk.

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I used an old pair of sandals with thick soles, and found a pack of Khadi paper, and set about fixing it to the shoes using drawing pins.

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It seemed like perfect weather to try this, wet and rainy, so there would be plenty of mud I reckoned. I drove to Birnam, and headed up the Inchewan path, one of my favourite places to walk.

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I took a few photos of the rain on the delicate foliage on the way up…

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The wall on the way up the path is like a mossy carpet…in fact the whole walk is probably the mossiest I have every been on.

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Delicate young ferns covered in raindrops

IMG_7498Small plants growing on the mossy wall

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     A really wet, lush, green environment…with the sound of a fast flowing stream and lots of very fresh air…just beautiful

I walked up the path until I reached a decent patch of mud, and proceeded to swap my crocs for the paper-soled sandals, which I wore to squelch through very wet mud.

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My first attempt was a bit over zealous…I completely ruined the paper, tearing a big hole into it, and realised that I had walked too far for the paper to survive. My next attempt was a bit better, the paper had a slight rip in it, but was still useable. Some of the mud that I stepped in was so wet that the prints showed very little colour, although the patterns on the soles of my sandal created a nice embossing on the paper. I also tried walking over moss a few times, but it barely showed, instead I seemed to gather fragments of leaves and bark.

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A few walkers passed me on route, stopping to watch what I was doing. I felt like I was doing a performance, and realised that I should have “killed two birds with one stone”.

Further up the path, there was slate from the nearby hill which had slid down and was lying in piles in reddish looking puddles. The soil here seemed different, in colour certainly, and this might have something to do with the minerals I am guessing.  The soil here printed a very different colour, a light red/brown, and I felt excited about the contrast that this would give against the previous prints.

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A strong result…and a much lighter, redder soil

I also walked down toward the stream, where the terrain was gravel and sand, and this also gave a similar red/brown colour.

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As I changed the papers on my shoes, the removed papers were left at the side of the path, to be collected on my way down. I met a few walkers on the way, and told them that the papers weren’t litter, just incase they felt it their duty to remove them.

I made my way down the hill, and luckily all of the prints were still where I left them. On my walk back to the car, I came across some fallen tree trunks, and noticed the same black, wiry fibres I had seen growing inside a piece of bark a few months ago. I stopped to peel a few from the trunk, sure that I might be able to use them for something interesting.

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Interesting string-like fibres attached to the fallen bark of a tree…what I now know to be rhizomorphs of Armillaria, a type of fungus.

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I’m already seeing mapping possibilities in this amazing natural fibre…

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I headed home to dry them (and myself) off, apprehensive to see the results of my walking/prints.

Once back in the studio, I used the hairdryer to dry the papers, and also removed some of the larger chunks of soil which has been stuck next to the drawing pins.

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Some of the marks are really quite beautiful, although they are a bit paler since they have dried. I am still considering how best to use these, although I have a feeling that they will end up as a book.

I’m also keen to try a few experiments with the Armillaria, and am especially excited by the fact that it might have bioluminescent qualities!

Playing with shadows (Lichen)

Following on from my last experiment with shadows and fictitious wire maps, I decided to make a map from lichen – this time in the shape of the Braan path and the Hermitage at Dunkeld, where I gathered all the windfall lichen a few months back.

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When the map was complete, I hung it from the ceiling in my studio and tried a few different types of lighting on it.

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Above and below : Soft lighting using an anglepoise lamp 

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Using the torch on the iPhone

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Beautifully dark lacy shadows, but jagged and a bit sinister too

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Huge shadows which swamp the wall…would make a very dramatic installation if I had the right space for it

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These shadows are very powerful, although they don’t have the 3-Dimensional effect that the wire shadows have.  I will also have a go at videoing the map rotating, as it would be interesting to see how the shadows work with movement.

Inchewan Path

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Broken bark revealing

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Parasitic maps of life

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Sarked limbs avoiding the chill

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Behold the blanketed boughs

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Wooden veins descend their roots

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Shattered shards cascading

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Hooves that tread by nightfall

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Resting on the beech by day

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 Floating ephemeral hemisphere

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Rapid reflections descending

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Foaming spectres spirited away

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Trapped by the tip of the iceberg

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 Man’s endeavours softened by time

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Shrouding symbiosis

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Severed fingers pointing toward

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Pachydermal protrusion

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Striped antennae break the ice

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Arches to unknown dimensions

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Impressions on the beaten path

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Escaping frozen sunbeams