mushroom / landscape (1989) by emergency chorus

by Ang Kia Yee

Today while slicing mushrooms I thought again of Landscape (1989) by Emergency Chorus. The physical contact of hand to mushroom as I cut them recalled the image of the mushrooms on the floor, singly sprouted and unplucked. And really, despite the murmured and mellow moments that struck me, this image is the only thing I want to write about.

The floor of the performing space is rarely highlighted like this – as a literally productive surface, here overlapped with the organic environment of mushrooms, trees, decay. What does it mean for the inorganic floor to be transformed into a producer of life and food? I mean this not as in, what is the show doing/ what is the show saying about life/food/nature/etc., but: what has the show done to the theatre, the performance space?

Preliminarily, I’d say that Emergency Chorus has allowed the space itself to perform next to their bodies. As they pluck the mushrooms off an unseen (unimaginable) space of environmental desolation, the inorganic floor comes to promise organic sustenance. I think theatre is captured in this simple energy conversion, an equation processing the dead and decayed into body, into movement, text, song. At the same time, the audience is alerted to the state of the floor – is it clean? What is the state of the ground our food has been produced on? What are Ben and Clara (we) inevitably consuming along with the mushrooms?

And, really, where have the mushrooms come from? The magic (sur)realism of Landscape (1989) wipes away the need to know. The mushrooms, previously microwaved on stage, suddenly become a bed of unplucked, untouched objects. They are rebirthed from the ground to be taken again.