Of Malls & Mushrooms

Posted in Flotsam by Alec Soth on March 5, 2010

This little brown mushroom enterprise is meant to be my escape chute from the gas-leaking, ready-to-blow, art biz. As such, I want to refrain from using this space to talk about spreadsheets and art politics. But after a couple days at the NYC fairs and the Whitney Biennial, I need to vent. Or maybe vomit. I’ve overindulged at the buffet.

As Peter Plagens wrote in the current issue of Art in America:

“Not only are the aural and visual dins almost deafening and blinding, and not only is the speed at which they’re conveyed approaching simultaneity, but the analysis, punditry and attendant bloviating are delivered just as fast. And quicker than you can say “Jaron Lanier,” the second round of analysis, punditry and bloviating attendant to the first arrives, and so forth, practically ad infinitum. As a result, it’s extremely difficult for an artist today to take any sort of stand, except a stand against taking a stand, or a stand that mocks all stands, or a stand that blankets all stands.”

Plagens is right. What’s the point? It’s like living in Minnesota and taking a stand against the Mall of America. Speaking of which, there is a video about our beloved Mall in the Whitney Biennial. Mall of America, 2009, by Josephine Meckseper uses red and blue filters and an apocalyptic soundtrack to try and get at the menacing undercurrent of the culture of consumption.

But after a couple of days at the art trough, the Mall of America almost feels like the serene farmland it used to be. (God, I’m happy to be home). So enough about the art market, let’s get back to mushrooms and caves. Earlier today someone emailed me this video. We might be onto something here:

18 Responses

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  1. Harlan Erskine said, on March 5, 2010 at 1:07 am

    nice video. I just got back from one of the last Deitch Projects openings and was preparing to upload the images from the fairs. But then I saw this video and I couldn’t shut it off. Love mushrooms and this just adds to that love. Maybe we can plant mushrooms in the art fair then come back later and there will be birds and a whole eco system. Sad it seems you didn’t care for New York. You obviously didn’t eat enough mushrooms. Last year I ate my favorite mushroom ever at a restaurant in NY called “craft.” The served up a single perfect hen of the woods mushroom as a side dish. Amazing as was the rest of the meal. I recommend a visit. Next time you are in town.


  2. hellomynameisart said, on March 5, 2010 at 6:51 am

    I love mushrooms, my wife doesn’t. I’m concerned for our marriage.


    That lecture reminds me of this documentary all about mushrooms, check it out if you haven’t already seen it. The movie was on the Sundance Channel last month and I was instantly sucked in.

    End fungiphobia.


  3. jm said, on March 5, 2010 at 7:13 am

    Postmodernism and Consumer Society

    essay by Fredric Jameson

  4. bob black said, on March 5, 2010 at 7:16 am


    any wonder i left, long ago, the bright lights of that big city too?……

    ok, so here is an open invitation… trip to russia, come visit when we r there…take u and lester mushroom hunting….

    in the mean time. u can watch this….well, it’s from spain, but there’s a great scene about mushroom hunting

    El espíritu de la colmena (spirit of the beehive): available at any decent vid store…


  5. Alec Soth said, on March 5, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Hey Harlan, I’m crazy about New York. It’s just that my Karma was out of alignment on this trip. I’ve actually eaten at Craft before. Very good. But on this trip I needed a different kind of spiritual nourishment. I ate twice at the Ritz Diner: . I felt just like George Costanza.

  6. Alec Soth said, on March 5, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Thanks for the link Brandon. If Jarmusch recommends the film, I’m there..

    • Herbert Bodger said, on March 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Alec, don’t mention Jarmusch, I’ve just had the misfortune to watch his empty and excruciating movie, Limits of Control. I’ll take the aural and visual dins of the Whitney over this dud any day of the week….. oh well, back to The Mall in Boise!

  7. hellomynameisart said, on March 5, 2010 at 7:29 am

    If you get the collectors edition, it looks like you get a free morel!!

  8. Theron said, on March 5, 2010 at 9:46 am

    I like you, and your blog.

  9. Tom said, on March 5, 2010 at 9:53 am

    The funny thing about trade gatherings, regardless of the subject, is they all seem generally the same — a combination of pontificating industry blowhards; a group of sycophants furiously taking notes, and a gaggle of networkers trying to score their next opportunity. How’s that for looking on the sunny side of life? But sadly, I think it pretty much sums up the generic industry conference.

    The only useful people at industry events are the ones that have been force-marched into being there and would rather be anywhere else. If you are fortunate enough to bump into a few of these people the experience can be tolerable. Otherwise you just have to stand back and observe this business ritual. It’s really pretty comical.

    At least in New York if you get a block away from the event you’re back in the real world (or the New York version of reality). The more isolated venues are much, much worse. Then there is no escape.

  10. petebrook said, on March 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    On the music … Mumford and Sons look set to take over the world this year. I had a friend that was invited up on stage to play spoons with them … just 18 months ago.

    Mumford are still as friendly but not as small and familiar anymore! Best to them, hoorah!

    I am a little perplexed as to why they went and had a Darjeeling Limited moment for their video, but I guess you can when you take flight and your record company throws a budget at you?!

    And on malls … what do you think of their reuse as schools?

  11. LBM said, on March 5, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Thanks Pete, fascinating about the malls, I hope Brian Ulrich knows about this.

  12. bob black said, on March 6, 2010 at 11:25 am

    isn’t the use of ‘bloviate’ in the same article TWICE an example of bloviate to begin with?? ;))))))))))

  13. Alec Soth said, on March 8, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Here’s a picture I took at the Mall of America in 1995:

  14. Arkansascajun said, on March 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    cellulose to sugar? WOW!
    Maybe he will do a study of the hallucinigenic mycylia sometime.
    They have even more far reaching implications for the awakening of the human species.

  15. Pulpio said, on March 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Stamets has applied his mycelia theories to an amazingly practical invention, the Life Box, which turns the cardboard boxes into a dynamic seed and spore distribution system.
    Read all about it here:

  16. Michael Serra said, on March 31, 2010 at 4:21 pm


    Last spring I went to visit Leslie Krims in Buffalo during my second year of studying in the eternal winter of Rochester. I mentioned a story to him that I had read about, where Winogrand was asked the question by Chef Newhall at the Eastman House during a showing of prints or transparencies, “How long did it take you to make that picture?”

    Les said he was right there.

    Gary’s response was “a 500th of a second. And I take fuzzy pictures of kittens too.”

    Leslie Krims would be proud of this Little Brown Mushroom business. And I think my hero Hollis Frampton would be proud too, as he is hanging out in the afterlife with the engineer of the great wall of china, discussing with Joyce, the mimicry of the gods in all that remains mysterious and irascible in the face of the attempt to be made an object of knowledge.

    The words of Pound are a sound guidance in this age where the sublimation of all lithe mystery and anonymous weight of perspicacity in a photograph suffer from the deviltry of a rhetoric of seemingly nothing other than the importance of defensible apology.

    “The artist presents the luminous detail. He does not comment on it.”

    Or rather the guy who happens to make photographs that interrupt the authority of a theory of the didactic, or the child who can marvel at dust scattering in light without feeling a need to talk about its purpose or relationship to other things that scatter in light.

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