It was really interesting to go visit this exhibit of mushrooms in a sort of throne room. Only two people were allowed to enter the exhibit at a time and tasty mushroom snacks were provided for all as we waited to enter. There were many people in the background pretending to be statues that seemed to be one with the actual piece. In the center, on a luxurious chair, was someone that seemed to be the mushroom queen. I could not take pictures of her during the duration of the actual event because the lighting was poor, and I didn't want to use flash; however, it was truly a surreal experience that made me question the purpose of this exhibit. In my point of view, it seemed to show a connection between humans, the food we eat, and the bacteria that helps decompose us when we die.
(Photo of throne room after exhibit was over taken by me.)
(Photo of entrance taken by me.)
Later I found out that the "mushroom queen" was actually a professional dominatrix which really made for a weirder exhibit that might have to do with the domination by mushrooms on humans or something more. I'm not exactly sure what to think about it, but it definitely made me think.
("Oyster Mushroom Fells" photo credit to Aaron Sherman)
Oyster mushrooms, also known as the Genus Pleurotus, were first developed and cultivated in Germany, and they are now one of the most cultivated mushrooms in the world. They were named as such, because of their physical appearance, so there are various names used for this type of mushroom such as tree mushrooms, abalone mushrooms and ear mushrooms. All in all, they are cultivated for their ease, durability, and ability to survive in various temperatures and climates.
(Photo from "How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms")
After the exhibit, I became very curious as to the properties of these mushrooms and why they were so popular. As I researched, I found that oyster mushrooms are commonly used in a variety of dishes all around the world. They also have health benefits that make them a popular addition to many meals. The amount of recipes I found for oyster mushrooms were limitless.
I also found that many people grew oyster mushrooms for self-sustainment and that it is the easiest mushroom to grow, which made it very popular in third world countries. Even in the U.S. the popularity of oyster mushrooms grows dramatically each year. It is this ease of production as well as well as the demand for them, that continues to make oyster mushroom planting a continued success.
(Table from "Cultivation of Oyster Mushrooms.")
Mushrooms are also known as detritivores which basically consume dead material and release carbon and nutrients back into the earth. They play a pivotal role in the decomposition of various organisms. So having an exhibit full of mushroom structures, where the mushrooms become part of the structure, seems to make a statement about the condition of our society as wasteful. It is as though we are seeing the process of decomposition first hand in this throne room presented by Peter Lu. It may even be a snapshot of the eventual destruction of everything man-made.
In addition, because the demand for oyster mushrooms as a food supply, especially in third world countries, has become so high, it turns out that the number of oyster mushrooms per capita greatly outnumber humans. So there is this sense of domination by mushrooms (or the detritivores that eventually consume us--a cycle of consumption) in a more tangible aspect.
Although I probably will never know exactly what Peter Lu was trying to show in his exhibit, I was able to form my own sense of what was going on, and it definitely made me question and ponder more about its references to society. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit and was pleasantly surprised by how much it made me reflect on life.
"Cultivation of Oyster Mushrooms." Penn State Extension. 2003. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
Freedman, Louise. "Oyster Mushroom." Mycological Society of San Francisco. 2000. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
"How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms." Instructables. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
"Pleurotus." Wikipedia. 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
Wang, Coco. "UCLA Graduate Student Cultivates Identity Through Mushroom Art." Daily Bruin. 7 Apr. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.