Over ten years ago, Anna Tsing’s essay ‘Unruly Edges: Mushrooms as Companion Species’ made its unofficial appearance in post-humanist academic circles. In 2011 it was first published in issue 18 of Antennae and then proceeded to spawn the book The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins in 2015.
Tsing’s work on mushrooms stood at the edge of non-anthropocentric reasoning, challenging categories and hierarchies to radically redesign conceptions of identity, companionship, and agency. To many, Tsing’s proposal initially seemed extreme, but today, after the emergence of critical plant studies, interest in omnipresent fungi and their invisible ability to support and orchestrate global ecosystems is steadily on the rise. From Haroon Mirza, Hannah Collins, and Adham Faramawy, to Annie Ratti, Simon Popper, and many more, contemporary artists turn to fungi in order to explore the ultimate alterity of rhizomatic organisms that, while not quite plant nor animal, push our thinking towards new and uncharted eco-cultural conceptions.
This issue of Antennae is edited by Giovanni Aloi in collaboration with Anthropologist Anna Tsing and fungal biologist Merlin Sheldrake, author of the forthcoming book Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures. Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. His vivid exploration takes us from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that range for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the “Wood Wide Web,” to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.