What Lab – Physical/Material

In 2021, Willoughby Arevalo, Isabelle Kirouac and their four year old daughter Uma Echo were selected to participate in the Physical/Material residency at WhatLab? in East Vancouver. During this research process, they focused on sensory engagement with fungi, plants, and each other. These ideas were translated through cycles of discussion, movement, writing, soundmaking, drawing, collage, and walks, each informed by the previous actions. Some of their inquiry questions included: How do we communicate across species? How do we communicate across artistic disciplines? How does the thought/word/action become fixed in time through the archival process? Throughout the archival process they embodied the decentralized structure and functionality of mycelium, to create open ended, non-linear narratives of their experiences and ideas.

Residency Blog

We began our time at WhatLab by getting to know the life on the block and traces thereof. A walk around the block brought encounters with a diversity of tenaciously weedy, and hardy ornamental plants, evanescent mushrooms, scraps of human detritus with imaginary stories attached, moulted feathers, rocks transported from who-knows-where, and colourful neighbours with lots to say. Leaves, scraps, sprigs and leavings filled our basket, then our flower press and eventually our collage book. We offered each other treatments from the land, offering sensations and adornments in relationship to each other’s bodies. Uma’s pink poodle friend, Priscilla got the royal treatment and came out looking like an album cover. 

A game of “I Notice” played out the window generated text, caught on tape and transcribed in mycelial font within outlines of ourselves. Uma’s singular, intuitive drawing style echoes natural patterns found in mycelium, plant cells, blood vessels and maps. Isabelle’s childhood fitted bedsheet became a cradle of mycelium and living soil for a movement meditation.

Exquisite Basidiocorpse/Exquisite Ascocorpse We went big and fungal with the classic drawing game, creating new hybrid mushrooms never before seen: Trichoboletus multicolor, Phallocordyceps aurantipes, Laboubeniamanita connivens

We took another walk around the block, this time with the specific intention of gathering medicines of and for the land. The Oregon Grapes and Bird Cherries offered us ink, Seagull’s feather a pen. We grouped the plants, fungi, feathers, stones and trash, formulating four medicines that the land called for and our collections offered: Connectivity and Entanglement (pictured), Detoxification and Pain Relief, Plantcestors and Good Guests, and Pollinator Allies. We submerged these in jars of sugarwater, and left them to ferment overnight with their indigenous microbes. We concluded our time at WhatLab by offering these back to the land just outside the space. 

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