INITIATIVES:
Cao Shuyi & Long Pan
The Language of Mushrooms

CHINA
2022 – ONGOING

These works were produced with the support of M Art Foundation and presented at The Language of Mushrooms: The Interspecies Internet at the Contemporary Gallery of Kunming, Kunming, China.

Cao Shuyi’s work is inspired by a strain of fungus, discovered in the laboratory of Peter Mortimer at the Kunming Institute of Botany, with the ability to digest plastic and latex. Using this as a basis to explore the co-evolution of organic species and inorganic matter, she focused on plastic’s transformation into geologic formations like plastiglomerate to develop an installation of 3D-printed sculptures and a two- channel video depicting mycelium’s ceaseless wandering beyond predetermined limits. By drawing the connections between the fungal speculation in bodily forms and machine training and learning, the work posits forms of life and intelligence that span boundaries and transgress categories.

Long Pan’s project, Matsuke Rain, involves extensive research on the cultivation and trade of matsutake mushrooms in Yunnan, offering a nuanced understanding of this ecosystem. It includes diverse activities such as active participation in the annual Matsutake Festival in Shangri-La, comprehensive documentation and harvesting expeditions in the region’s mountains and forests, and insightful interviews with traders at key marketplaces, including Gezan Township and Shangri-La.
The exploration of the Matsutake market in Shangri-La and the Shuimuhua wild mushroom market in Kunming, Yunnan, further enriches the investigation. A significant aspect of the project involves capturing the fascinating phenomenon of matsutake spore spraying in the woodlands of Shangri-La, where the spores descend like a gentle rain shower. Through these activities, the artist narrates the intricate story of the summer, highlighting the significance of matsutake mushrooms in shaping the region’s cultural and ecological landscape.

The Language of Mushrooms: The Interspecies Internet was presented at the Contemporary Gallery Kunming in Yunnan from 28 August to 28 November 2022. Curated by Ye Ying, the exhibition was a journey of discovery in nature, art, and science. It brought us closer to the world of mushrooms in diverse, unimaginable ways, showing us the roles mushrooms play in the natural world, and how mushrooms influence our consciousness, reshape our understanding of life, and teach us the wisdom of interspecies symbiosis. Weaving together mycology, ecology, sociology, art, and literature, the exhibition showcased contributions from 34 individuals and groups spanning diverse fields and nations. It challenged anthropocentric notions, prompting a reconsideration in the face of global crises.

Shuyi Cao is a New York-based artist who received her Bachelor of Laws from Fudan University in Shanghai (2013), MA in Public Administration from Fudan University (2016), and MFA from Parsons School of Design, New York (2018).
Her practice explores alchemical approaches to object making and knowledge production through archeological speculation and ecological fiction. Her mixed medium installation synthesizes various organic and inorganic materials, natural and artificial processes. Combining hand-crafted sculptures and digital artefacts, moving images, and sounds, the assemblage suggests heterogeneous material temporality. Her work has been widely exhibited in China and the US, including

at the Today Art Museum, West Bund Art & Design Fair, Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Gallery Weekend Beijing, UrbanGlass, Fou Gallery, Shin Gallery, A.I.R. 13th Biennale, among others. She is the recipient of the Today Art Museum Wang Shikuo Nomination Award, The New School Tishman Environment and Design Center Research Grant, Community Outreach Grant at MASS MoCA’s Assets for Artists program. She teaches at Parsons School of Design and has presented at Pioneer Works, NEW INC New Museum, Power Station of Art, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the City University of Hong Kong, and Pratt Institute.

Long Pan (b. 1991, Jiangxi, China) graduated from the China Academy of Art in 2019. Interested in human traces in the natural world, she explores the microcosm to find connections between things, seeking humanity’s place in the wider network. Working with fungi and plants, she translates biotechnologies into the language of art. Long Pan’s mediums include bio-sculpture, installation, video, and photography, grounded in extensive fieldwork for a deeper basis in reality. Her ecological focus has garnered recognition, including the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation’s Women Artists Grant (2022), the Prince Claus Mentorship Awards for Cultural & Artistic Responses to Environmental Change (2022), and the 2022 SÜDKULTUR FONDS Artist Support Program in Switzerland. In 2021, Wind Bells received the Research Award from the Raiden Institute Youth Support Program, and her mycelium design was shortlisted for the Youth Innovation Award at the 2021 China Sustainable Design Award.