Critics’ Picks

Johanne Hestvold, Demonstration (Zaryandye Park), 2021, mycelium composite, concrete, 29 1/2 x 55 x 39 31/2".

Johanne Hestvold, Demonstration (Zaryandye Park), 2021, mycelium composite, concrete, 29 1/2 x 55 x 39 31/2".


Johanne Hestvold

Galleri Golsa
Waldemar Thranes gate 84C2 floor 2 floor
January 20–February 21, 2021

The five sculptures here are large, almost brutalist-looking vessels that stand on imposing concrete plinths. Together, they exude both ceremony and mystery, as if constructed by some long-gone civilization. Each shape is based on a discarded takeaway container, collected by Hestvold from public parks, which she redraws digitally and mills into oversized moulds. The artist fills the forms with Ganoderma, a type of fungi, and hemp shavings; the latter activates the fungi, causing it to grow. The resulting material, mycelium composite, is alive but in a state of hibernation. It has a rough and uneven texture, colored milk-white with blotches of grey. Hestvold has altered the forms’ internal recesses so that their lines render the cartographic layouts of famous parks and gardens. Most of her selections are from the modern era, like Oslo Botanical Garden, founded in 1814, but Divination (all works 2021) references Pasargadae Gardens, an archaeological site in southern Iran that dates all the way back to the 6th century BC.

Preserving our commons—not just our parks, but our biomes—necessitates thinking on temporal and quantitative scales beyond the human. Mycelium composite is non-toxic and can start decomposing within ten years. Polystyrene, used for most disposable food containers, can take many human lifetimes to decompose. A takeaway meal is often an impulsive decision, but one that will reverberate materially into the far future. Along the lines of new materialist thinkers such as Jane Bennett, Hestvold’s sculptures explore the “small agencies” that occur on the blurry boundary between organisms and things, history and culture shaped not only by human action but by conjunctions between human, biological, bacterial, and chemical actants.