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Sofie Muller
Fungus Anatomicus

Opening: Saturday 02 September, from 2-5 pm
Exhibition > 14 October 2023
Geukens & De Vil, ANTWERP



In the midst of death, life persists
- Mahatma Gandhi

The beauty and the morbid, Fungi serve both. Accelerating death to create life, they are earth’s essential decomposers. But whereas most people link mushrooms to decay, their existence determines life in more than one way.

Functioning as the hidden heroes of our ecosystem, they are crucial for our planet and the life it contains. Subsequently their relationship with humans is more intertwined than what meets the eye. In her current solo show and series – Fungus Anatomics – Sofie Muller (°1974, Ghent) researches the world of fungi and their correlation with the earth and subsequently mankind. Since 2015, Muller has been collecting historical botanical fungi models, which led to the series Fungi/Genetalia (2022). In her current exhibition – Fungus Anatomicus – Muller complements her series of sculptures with meticulously painted works on canvas.

Using minimal interventions, Muller enhances the resemblance between fungi and human reproductive organs. In addition to a monumental phallic sculpture, she places a suggestive version of amorphous botanical fungi models in Old Ukrainian medical cabinets, showcasing these ‘specimen’ as if they are part of a museums fungarium collection (as opposed to a “herbarium”). However, throughout the exhibition, Muller moves beyond formal resemblances, playing with the concept of becoming and dying. Where some paintings refer to skulls, bones and subsequently remind of decay or death, others are closely linked to other aspects of the human body – ears, noses, brains – and reproductive organs, breasts, sperm seeds, small embryos – gesturing intercourse, birth, and ultimately life. Much like fungi are the interface between life and death, the exhibition portrays the continuing loop of all life on our planet. 

In an additional series, comprising of five paintings based on Old Masters, Muller moves away from formal and symbolical resemblances, merging the two-and three-dimensional, man and fungus, to become one. All paintings are painted on the verso of topographic maps, which becomes visible due to a mirror mounted on the frame. The extensive network of navigation points in these maps are a direct reference to the Wood Wide Web, an impressive underground network of fungal threads (hyphae) that branch into mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus. Lacing through the soil, they intertwine with the roots of plants, enabling them to share nutrients, water and even information or danger signals. 

In other words, without fungi, (human) life as we know it would not exist. 

 Lien Craps

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