Back in 2019, I was part of the Cerne-to-CERN pilgrimage, travelling from the Cerne Abbas giant to the centre of CERN’s large hadron collider. On the way we stopped off at the Damanhur community in the Italian alps. It was one of the strangest and most exciting things I’ve ever done.
The event was organised by theatremaker Daisy Campbell, who was recently part of an interesting discussion with Leslie Claire and Kate Alderton. In it, Daisy spoke about the metaphor of the mycelium network:
I found mycelium a useful metaphor for underground culture, because here are all these artists beavering away, like we’re kind of carving something in the subsoil. But we are crossing our threads with all the others who are genuinely following their deepest impulses. And a mushroom may well appear in the above ground. This mushroom might take the form of an actual art piece, or it might take the form of a new movement, or a new consciousness even, and the world above can see this mushroom and probably will begin to commodify it. But what they cannot see is this incredible network of underground threads.
I love this image of a counter-cultural underground, where artists are reaching out to collaborate or meet up, with great things emerging from that. There are several things that have emerged from the pilgrimage or that are linked to it, such as the 2021 collaborative zine Bodge, published by Liverpool Arts Lab. Another example is the F23 podcast, whose choice of guests maps out more of these threads.
Later in the interview, Daisy explores how this culture can be nurtured, to produce even more mushrooms: not just by nurturing the mushrooms but by supporting “each individual thread’s trust in its own process”:
[I’m working on] finding and learning more and more mycelium-like ways of structuring any endeavours. That probably means moving away from authorship and the idea of the individual visionary.
Another image Daisy use is the imaginal cells in a caterpillar chrysalis, seeing the creatives around her as part of a larger transformation (“everyone I meet is an extraordinary genius these days”). The body of the caterpillar resists the imaginal cells during the early stages of metamorphosis, but eventually enough appear to take the process forward.
For me it’s a really hopeful perspective because it also allows for some compassion for the reactionary forces. Might we be able to bless the dinosaurs? Could they simply be holding the old body steady in the best way they know how whilst we imaginal cells find each other?
Speaking to Daisy in person, she is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead for the world. Visions like this mycelium network are the sort of thing we need to help us through the future.
I’ve focussed on Daisy’s part in this interview because I’ve been thinking about similar things recently. Kate Alderton’s discussion of dreaming is also inspiring, and her The Dream-Fishing society is an important part of the mycelic network, providing new ways to encounter and interpret the world.If you want to follow what I'm up to, sign up to my mailing list