Our fascination with mushrooms started almost a year ago on a visit to Kew Gardens Science festival when the toddler became fascinated by a large scale interactive installation named Fiona the fungi. Children were invited to broadcast through the installation and demonstrate the communication networks of the wood wide web. It was that magical experience which had us excited for the Somerset House exhibition.
The toddler seemed excited (possibly because he thought he would meet Fiona again) and I was excited because everyone loves a mushroom right? They seem to be everywhere in the news lately. Imperial College are doing research on magic mushrooms and their effects on depression, Kew Gardens has a Fungarium with all the different species from around the globe and there’s even sustainable fungi clothing brands popping up everywhere.
Beatrix Potter was into painting mushrooms before she moved on to small mammals and cabbages, and her fascination was founded as not only are they nutritious and important for biodiversity but there’s been some great art, music and design all based around the humble mushroom.
I was expecting something colourful, immersive and expansive. Something to illustrate the wonderful mushroom in an exhibition that would enlighten and provoke. Anything to satiate my mycophilia (that’s a love of mushrooms don’t you know!). But as is always the case when we are too hyped about an exhibition is the inevitable disappointment.
Sure there were some bits that kept us interested, like the spinning mushrooms in a suitcase where we spent ten minutes trying to guess which mushroom was moving the fastest. Amanda Cobbett’s sculptures are incredibly detailed and delicate pieces, really beautiful but anxiety inducing to any parent with a touching toddler. And the screen writing where we could see our name printed out was a bit meeeh – mushroom for improvement me thinks.
The exhibition was mildly entertaining but otherwise it felt like a sprinkling of information, not quite satisfying enough and certainly not with children, or young people in mind.
For adults there is an interesting array of events and talks supporting the main exhibition which is free and running until 26 April 2020. More info here.