“Lenin is a mushroom” boomeranged back into clarity in the onset of the 2020 Corona-virus pandemic and became a catalyst for this project. Throughout the Corona-virus lockdown, mushrooms consumed my imagination. I submerged into research and image production: drawing/embroidery/animation exploration, luxuriating a mushroom tribe full of fertile potency, seductive sovereignty, electro-magnetic rhythms and erotic authority. My project visually indulges into mediated vernacular production of animation and embroidery, channeling Slavic views of mushrooms as mythological entities. Chthonic and sacred, meaty and delicate, forbidden and desirable, seductive and liberating, ambiguous and omnipresent, mushrooms are powerful signifiers that embody the mythological convergence of nature and culture.
GribTrip project commenced in April of 2020 with Kurekhin’s statement as a ground zero, a point of explosion and origin. Mushrooms resonated throughout the sentiment of eschatological uncertainty of Corona-virus pandemic. Just like during my youth in Russia’s nineties, I felt the thrill of improbability. Idea of a mushroom as an agent of sacred inevitability, a vehicle of transgression, resonated as a nostalgic call to my Russian cultural affinity, proposing a comforting refuge. Bearing a peculiar symbiosis of Russian and late Soviet culture, I associate mushrooms with delicious and grotesque, freedom in the forest. Throughout the Corona-virus lockdown, mushrooms consumed my imagination. I submerged into drawing/embroidery/animation exploration, luxuriating a mushroom tribe, exponentially reproducing, performative and performing. Electro-magnetic, fertile and infintely seductive, mushroom world became my happy, safe, creative and resonant space, continuously emerging, reflective and rereflecting. “Lenin is a Mushroom” paradigm perfectly complemented the Russian folklore tradition of mycolatry, embodying grotesque absurdity, impossibility and potency.
Mushroom project is still ongoing and consists of several iterations: resesrch, drawing, embroidery and animated video. All of them are interwoven and mediated across each other.
This treatise introduces the thesis of Russians as “mycolatrous folk” and delineates cultural role of mushrooms within Indo-European linguistics and ethnography
V.N Toporov identifies mushrooms as a universal mythological classifier, manifesting oppositional interdependencies: nature-culture, sacred/profane, celestial/subterranean, masculine/feminine, here and-now and not here/ otherworldly. In Russian folk tradition, the mushroom myth is associated with mystery and taboo, manifesting superstitions connected to sexuality, fertility, initiation. Mushrooms link the spheres of sacred, chthonic and fertile/reproductive. Their hallucinogenic qualities make them dynamic means of interchangeable transformation. Etymologically, many Slavic mushroom names are associated with masculine and feminine reproductive functions
published in "Секс и эротика в русской традиционной культуре". (Мoscow: Ladomir),1996. pp. 317-322.
In Slavic folklore, according to O.B. Belova, mushrooms are magical creatures connected to the intimate sphere of human life, functioning as human doubles in the word of nature and simultaneously signifying sexual interrelation in the system of culture. Mushroom gathering is associated with search of the groom, mushroom eating is a manifestation of coitus, wedding ritual, fertility but also reveals infidelity, out-of-wedlock child-bearing
“Lenin is a mushroom and a radio wave”, announced Sergei Kurekhin, an avant-garde musician, on Russian TV in May of 1991, presenting pseudo-scientific scheme of Lenin’s irreversible transformation into “mukhomor”, fly-agaric psychedelic mushroom. According to Kurekhin, mushroom psychedelic powers inspired Russian Revolution and ultimately consumed its leader, turning him into a mushroom himself. Kurekhin’s claim outwardly absurd, signified an end of an era. Seven months later, USSR disintegrated. Lenin is a mushroom became one of most persistent memes in Post-Perestroika Russian pop culture. It also sparked discussion on de-sacralization of Lenin’s image.
The meme also possibly sparked creative interpretation of interdependence of Russian Revolution, Russian Avant-Garde and mushrooms, in the work of Moscow conceptualist artists Igor Makarevich and Elena Elagina, as demonstrated in their 2003 project Mushrooms. The artists propose the that excessive psychedelic mushrooms consumption influenced Russian national identity and contributed to the magic uniqueness of Russian subliminal potential, making it prone to revolutions and avant-garde creative breakthroughs.