2 september 2023 - 11 november 2023
At the intersection of art and science, Nicolai Howalt's work F.U.N.G.I. explores fungi and their vital, ubiquitous world. Beyond being remarkable and beautiful in their morphological diversity, fungi and their network of mycelium are as essential to life on Earth as sunlight or oxygen. Not only are they indispensable to the entire planet's ecosystem, but they may also hold the key to the treatment of several mental health disorders and potentially help solve some of our most pressing environmental problems. Despite these qualities, the fungal kingdom is still relatively unknown, with hundreds of new species being discovered every year.
F.U.N.G.I. is created in collaboration with the Botanical Museum, NovoZymes and author and associate professor of mycology Henning Knudsen.
The work will result in both photographic and installation works that make visible a world that is essential to our existence, but which usually exists in secret. Furthermore, the works work to specifically include the mushrooms as an essential part of the creative process.
In the photographic laboratory, Howalt has grown selected fungal spores directly on unexposed analog photo paper. Over weeks and months, the fungi spread across the papers by breaking down the photographic emulsion, after which Howalt develops the papers in the lab. The result is photogram images created by the fungi themselves.
Organic and abstract prints that reveal traces of the fungal networks and their degradation of the papers. In this way, the fungi become an integral part of the work and of the artistic exploration in a very direct, tangible and co-creative way. The fungal spores have also been grown in petri dishes, which Howalt has subsequently scanned in high resolution. These works make visible the normally invisible form and color diversity of the microscopic fungal growths and appear as controlled color-saturated globes that enter into direct dialogue with the unruly black and white negative photograms.
F.U.N.G.I. presents a "new collection" of mushrooms based on parameters other than the strictly scientific or botanical. The work crosses the boundaries between science and art, touching on issues of existential ecology, the phenomenology of time and images, and the importance of fungi to our lives and planet.