2022, HD Video / Cultures of Armillaria ostoyae C1 / Installation
Hosted by Fundaziun Nairs, Scuol/CH
The gift exercise / Invitation 7: Swiss National Park deals with the history of the Swiss National Park – through the encounter with an over 1000-year-old mycelium of Armillaria ostoyae, which lives in the Ofenpass area and is known as the largest fungus in Europe. The species Armillaria ostoyae is considered a parasite and is seen as a pest from an economic perspective, because it not only feeds on dead wood, but can also kill healthy trees, causing great damage to plantation forests. At the same time, however, this fungus plays an important role in the ecological cycle because it decomposes lignin in deadwood – a substance that is difficult to degrade – and is therefore central to forest regeneration.
In their video work attempt of a portrait, Willimann/Arai explore, how this creature, which lives hidden from our eyes, can be portrayed at all: By following the traces of the mushroom in a re-narration of the 1000 years of its existence, they uncover the prehistory of the Swiss National Park. In this process, the imagination of a nature completely untouched by humans comes into question, since before the establishment of the Park, the Ofenpass area had been exploited by humans for centuries, especially as a mining and forestry area.
Thus, the engagement with Armillaria ostoyae C1 as a historical witness of these developments becomes the starting point for a reflection on human and non-human time horizons and exploitation relationships.
In autumn 2022, the project was presented in the local exhibition space Nairs lab. In this frame, Willimann/Arai invited locals, experts and artists to a series of events and interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge.