mushroom days at the end of the world

This (european) autumn & winter I was lucky to be in Finland – where it gets really cold – in the Australia Council residency at HIAP, Suomenlinna, a 19th century fortress island in the central harbour of Helsinki.

I arrived in September, just in time for the last weeks of mushroom season, when the forests around Helsinki still held plenty of suppilovahvero, the cap of which is associated with the tonttu elf, protector of the home and to whom offerings of food were traditionally made. This was the same character behind a particular batch of dried mushrooms prepared during Making Time‘s very first outing at ANTI festival, back in 2012. ‘In the dark evenings saving worthful things if you give them food‘ was the title our group that night had agreed on, though on that trip I left before the evenings became too dark.

On this occasion I was able to hang around until late January, watching the leaves change colour and fall and the city become blanketed in snow. Weirdly, the forest mushrooms also freeze, so that the last picking trips are full of the tinkle of frozen specimens being dropped into the bucket.

During my stay at HIAP I picked, ate and drew a lot of mushrooms, in preparation for a future publication about mushroom cultures. My expert picking guides were Juha, Juuso, Tanja, Seppo, Jaana & Noomi.

I made short visits northward to the magical Mustarinda (sauna party to celebrate the shortest day of the year, 2 hrs!) and Saari residencies, tucked away in remote forests, and eventually at HIAP hosted a reading group dinner event around Anna Tsing’s book, ‘The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins’ (2015), cooking risotto with dried mushrooms picked months earlier in the Nuuksio forest.

Definitely not done with this place yet.

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Thanks to all the wonderful people at HIAP, and to the Australia Council for the Arts who supported my residency there

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