Mushrooms video still
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Mushrooms


04 Feb 2020

Embark on a psychedelic awakening in a new film commissioned in partnership with NOWNESS to mark the opening of Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi

Directed by Elisha Smith-Leverock, Mushrooms borrows from video collage culture and uses neon lighting and polychromatic silhouettes to creatively narrate the experience of two psychedelic sojourners’ trip to the woods. “I was thinking of psychedelia and the era in which a lot of art and films would have been based on experiences with psilocybin,” says Smith-Leverock, speaking of the psychoactive chemical that makes some mushrooms ‘magic’.

“I wanted to play with the kitsch elements of that aesthetic,” she continues. “But I was also interested in the science of mushrooms and fungi and looking at them as alien entities.” The director’s unbridled imagination has produced a film that shares the same qualities as mycelium (the building blocks of all mushrooms) in the way that it grows into a dense network of microscopic visual fibers. 

Mushrooms is a psilocybin-fuelled mirage that also incorporates cosmic time-lapse footage from Dutch micro-photographer Dr Wim van Egmond of multiple fungal colonies. It is also layered with disembodied voice-overs from the exhibition’s contributors, including Somerset House curator Francesca Gavin, multimedia artists Adham Faramawy and Hamish Pearch, embroidery creative Amanda Cobbett and researcher Darren Springer.

Their spectral soundbites discuss the origins of our fungi friends and allude to their therapeutic potential, where new research insinuates that a single dose can support the healing processes for depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

“My mind has been well and truly blown by all the things I learned about mushrooms. Making the film gave me the opportunity to explore the subject and to speak with artists and mycologists,” says Smith-Leverock. “For example, mushrooms have over 20000 sexes and the Cordyceps fungus turns ants into zombies with the sole purpose of spreading its spores.”

Just like a psychedelic trip, the potential of mycelium is limitless. Bioengineers and scientists have only just begun to unlock the power of mushrooms. If vegan bacon, fabrics and the structure of Bitcoin (all inspired by or grown from mycelium) is anything to go by, it proves that mushroom cultures have transformed from a laboratory curiosity into a viable ecological solution to many of our global problems.


Commissioned by Somerset House for the exhibition Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, running from 30 January – 26 April 2020