Presentation of Preparation for Precipitation:
Introduction to Mushroom Identification for Art Historians
, 2015
Performance lecture and silent film, Montréal, Québec

This 20-minute performance lecture took place in the graduate art history seminar Cold War: Art, Architecture and Global Politics, 1945-1989 at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec on Monday, 20 April 2015. In lieu of the expected conference paper format, I screened a short film that juxtaposed nuclear bomb test footage with 9/11 media coverage. Following the film, I introduced basic techniques for mushroom identification, handed out mushroom field guides and divided the class into small groups. Each group was instructed to identify a different specimen, which were in fact artworks that have taken up the mushroom cloud: Chris Drury, Mushroom Cloud, 2010; Subodh Gupta, Line of Control, 2008; Samson Kambalu, Two Mushroom Clouds, 2011; and Cai Guo-Qiang, The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Playing Cards. After a brief group collaboration, the class reconvened and shared their identifications. To finish the performance, I analyzed eight images of Cai Guo-Qiang's The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Project for the 20th Century, 1996 through a mycological lens and identified each mushroom cloud as a common edible that can be found in and around Montréal. These included Boletus edulis also known as King Bolete, Porcini or Cèpe; Cantharellus cibarius or chanterelle; Hydnum repandum, Hedgehog or Pied de mouton; and others.

Cai Guo-Qiang Boletus edulis

Cai Guo-Qiang, The Century with Mushroom Clouds: Project for the 20th Century, realized at Nevada Test Site February 13, 1996 (left). Boletus edulis, also known as Porcini, King Bolete or Cépe (right).

Nuclear Mycology

The research for this project also culminated in a paper titled, "Nuclear Mycology: Mushroom Cloud Iconography and Contemporary Art," which situates the mushroom cloud icon within Cold War politics and questions the implied mycological (and thus ecological) metaphors surrounding the atomic bomb.