Diana Policarpo: Nets of Hyphae

Diana Policarpo’s new work highlights feminist intersectional concerns and draws geographical connections between Norway, Portugal, and Spain, where similar subspecies of a fungus, Claviceps purpurea, are found. Also known as ergot, the parasite infects the ovaries of rye plants, creating purple protrusions. These knobs have been used traditionally by women for abortions and to initiate labor in childbirth. The mushroom is also the organic base from which LSD is synthesized. When consumed in larger doses, often unknowingly—for instance, in bread—it caused long-lasting states of hallucination referred to today as medieval dancing plagues. And, allegedly, during the witch trials in Finnmark and other places, women and Sámi shamans were said to have had visions of the devil after ingesting a purple substance—possibly Claviceps, as Policarpo speculates.
The contributors to this book discuss Policarpo’s research in the context of ancestral knowledge, the capitalization of health, women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, witchcraft, and alchemy from artistic, curatorial, and historical perspectives. Making connections across times, geographies, and scales, Nets of Hyphae humbly points to shared habitats and, in the words of the anthropologist Anna Tsing, to possibilities of earthly survival on a precarious planet.

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