Department of Art

ViCCA Students Launch Walk & Talk Initiative: #1 Mushroom Picking in Nuuksio

During the autumn term, students and faculty from the MA Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art (ViCCA) programme have been discussing how to meet, talk and walk collectively, together, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A student holds an orange birch bolete mushroom - it has a bright terracotta top and a darker stem
An Orange Birch Bolete found on the Mushroom Picking in Nuuksio Trip. October 2020. All images: Selina Oakes.

The ViCCA Walk & Talk initiative launched with an outing to the Nuuksio National Park, Espoo, on 17 October 2020, providing students and staff with a chance to socialise and share stories whilst making the most of the neighbouring landscape. The first Walk & Talk focused on the activity of mushroom picking – a traditional Finnish pastime and one which provides participants with a chance to meander through the forest undergrowth in a not-so-linear pattern.

A combination of experience and rookie enthusiasm led the group to clusters of Suppilovahvero (Funnel Chanterelle) – a type of mushroom which can grow well into the autumn provided that temperatures haven't dropped to freezing. All group members left with a sizeable amount of Suppilovahvero, and a few were lucky enough to find a handful of lingering Kanttarelli and one Punikkitatti (Orange Birch Bolete). In the evening, students continued their journey with these richly tactile organisms and cooked up a variety of risotto, soup and sauces.

In the far-reaches of Nuuksio, the students were able to safely distance themselves while participating in a physical, collective activity. The smell of pine trees, moist undergrowth and earthy fungi intertwined with the sound of crisping leaves and crackling branches as the group of 15 diverted away from the main walking path. Respect for the forest and its fungi was shown by following each others trails – limiting the disruptions made to the forest floor – and leaving a few mushrooms behind from each cluster in order for them to spore and regrow.

Through activities such as this, it is interesting to think about alternative ways of organising, acting, meeting and collaborating. The act of mushroom picking – the searching, caring, picking and cooking – helps individuals and collectives to think beyond linear modalities and systems. In the coming months, ViCCA hopes to continue planning alternative ways of meeting together through a series of Walk & Talks in and around the city.

“Mushrooms pull me back into my senses, not just—like flowers—through their riotous colors and smells but also because they pop up unexpectedly, reminding me of the good fortune of just happening to be there” - Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World, 2015.

**If you are going mushroom picking, please ensure that you have someone with prior knowledge or a guide to correctly identify that your pickings are edible. Thank you to Laura Beloff and Leena Reittu for facilitating this Walk & Talk with their personal knowledge of mushrooms.

*This activity was carried out following all Covid-19 safety regulations.

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