EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED WITH EVERYTHING ELSE: MYCO LOGIC

Cumberland Hospital / Heritage Courtyard Pavilion, Justice Precinct, Parramatta / The Big Anxiety! festival of arts + science + people, an initiative of the National Institute of Experimental Arts and The Blackdog Institute, UNSW, 2017

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An exhibition and community arts / cultural development project facilitated by Elizabeth Day.

14 October - 3 December 2017

Curated by Claire Taylor

This exhibition at the Heritage Courtyard Pavilion in Parramatta's Justice Precinct presented an installation by Elizabeth Day bringing together artwork made in a community arts and cultural development program facilitated by Day in the pavilion and at Cumberland Hospital, Parramatta North.

The MYCO LOGIC program drew inspiration from fungi and their mycelial root structures as a metaphor for community connections. The program was based around creative exchange and fostered connections between contributors through the process of making hand-crafted fungi-inspired artwork together.

The installation in the Heritage Courtyard Pavilion was an aggregated artwork made across the different stages of the program, evolving as a participatory project over the exhibition period.

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MYCO LOGIC's inception was in Kandos, regional NSW, as part of Cementa 15. For more than a year, Elizabeth Day worked with local community groups in Kandos as well as with other festival artists to make a “crop” of hand-crafted fungi, knitting together these divergent communities. This “crop” was brought together on a raft of raffia and string “mycelia” in an installation created by Day for the festival. Day has extended this project through an arts program she has facilitated at Cumberland Hospital, since July this year, with the workshops open to the hospital’s broader community, including carers and family members.

At the heart of MYCO LOGIC is a creative exchange based on the image of fungi and their underground mycelial root structures. The mycelia are vast networks that communicate between species and transmit nutrients beneath forest floors. Day likens this system to a logic of communities. The project mobilises this non-centred image of mutually supportive networks and aims to foster connections between contributors through the process of making hand-crafted fungi together.

The exhibition in the main section of the Heritage Courtyard Pavilion presents artwork from the Kandos iteration of MYCO LOGIC as well as works from the program at Cumberland Hospital and community workshops in the pavilion. By involving the psychiatric hospital and broader community in practical, creative workshops, MYCO LOGIC assists in building support networks within and outside of the hospital, addressing the isolation experienced by many in mental health contexts. The program was originally developed to be implemented through the hospital’s Life Skills unit and its timing was intended to help strengthen the support for consumers, carers and families as part of the preparations for the major transition they face when the hospital’s East Campus in Parramatta North is decommissioned.

The mycelia in the Parramatta MYCO LOGIC installation are not only made up of string and raffia but also shredded receipts, bills, reports, records—the administrative interface between our lives and institutions. Once vital documentation, now disposed of. The temporary fencing under the mycelia is a strong but precarious support for the installation. It references the hoardings that have already gone up around many buildings in Parramatta North for archaeological and conservation purposes, partitioning off areas as construction sites. For Day these echo the long history of institutional containment and control exercised across the site. Cumberland Hospital's East Campus is set on the eastern side of the Parramatta River and includes the historic Female Factory and former Asylum site. The multiple layers of grids that emerge from the fencing and mesh set against and in contrast to the rhizomatic, promiscuous mass of raffia mycelia in the Myco Logic installation speak to how different institutional structures, rules and regulations get overlaid and superimposed but fundamentally run counter to the thinking of those they are intended to protect. Christine Dean describes this approach in Day’s practice as an “assault on the history and ideology of rectilinear thinking”.* In facilitating this most recent iteration of Myco Logic as a community-based project in a psychiatric hospital, Day draws upon not only how similar the image of mycelial networks are to communities, but also to the image of neural networks and the fact that mycelia transmit information across their networks using the same neurotransmitters that our brains do: the chemicals that affect how we think.

* Christine Dean, “Unravelling Production” in the offcuts of reason: works by Elizabeth Day, 1997.

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This project was assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. MYCO LOGIC has been developed with consumer and carer advocates, and the Recovery Services team at Cumberland Hospital (WSLHD, NSW Health). The exhibition venue has been supported by Property NSW. The first exhibition and pavilion workshops were presented as part of The Big Anxiety: festival of art + science + people, NSW Mental Health Month, and National Carers Week.

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