Convulsions, hallucinations, burning sensations. Diana Policarpo’s most recent body of works takes the ergot mushroom as its point of departure. This parasite infects rye plants and is believed to be the cause of St. Anthony’s Fire, an illness that induces burning and tingling sensations, muscle spasms, and hallucinations in humans. Women have traditionally used small doses of ergot for abortions and to treat bleeding after giving birth. The mushroom is also the organic base from which LSD is synthesized. Historians today believe that ergot could have played a role in the witch trials and persecutions of shamans, for instance in Finnmark, Sápmi. Today, the healers’ expertise—rooted in experience of the land and plants—has largely been eroded due to the progress of patriarchal capitalism and the development of obstetrics.
Policarpo’s 3D animation with sound, CPMK2, emerges from her recent exhibition Nets of Hyphae, co-produced by Kunsthall Trondheim and the Galeria Municipal do Porto and curated by Stefanie Hessler. The digitally generated forms are inspired by the ergot mushroom hyphae as well as bodily transformations enabled by transfeminist biohacking, further explored in the conversation between Policarpo, Hessler, and Paula Pin. The soundscape accompanying the animation is sourced from microscope recordings of fungus spores, making their structure audible. With CPMK2, Policarpo invites viewers to consider the relationships between the fungus cycle and global supply chains, the politics of sexual health, and the expertise of midwives, healers, and peasants currently in conditions of precarity and struggling for resistance.
Text by Stefanie Hessler