Cumulative Skies, Deep Soils

Jen Vaughn Poem

Cumulative Skies, Deep Soils

Collaboration with Erin Mallea

Armillaria ostoyae, commonly known as the Honey Fungus, resides in the mountains of Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon. It is estimated to be the largest living organism by area, covering 3.5 square miles at an estimated age of 8,650 years. After the first fall rain, Jen attempted to listen to the vibrations of these ancient rhizomatic networks. Thousands of miles away, Erin repeatedly transmitted Jen’s recorded sounds and images throughout the atmosphere via Slow Scan Television (SSTV). SSTV is a mode of image communication that utilizes shortwave radio frequencies to transmit still images. It is slow and specific, taking anywhere from 8 seconds to five minutes for each image to be built from modulating audio frequencies. Each received image is unique; the original transmission transformed in route, influenced by atmospheric noise, human-caused interference, and the recipient’s location. The possibility of these images being heard, and therefore seen, lies only with those who are actively listening, diligently open to receiving the unknown. Together, their work aims at an expanded intimacy—a move towards contact despite distance, difference, and time. Each action threads together accumulations of decay with moments of the living, the cosmic, the future.

Cumulative Skies, Deep Soils is a rhizomatic installation of sounds, crystallizing spills, meteorites and mycelium. It was created from a distance, with the goal of generating closeness against the ease of alienation and the pace of separation. 

Installation contains a custom circuit board, crystallized urea, found re-wired speakers, sculptural seats composed of mycelium, meteorites, cement, tektite, found debris, and plastic for viewers to sit and read Contact / Selective Pressures, and sound installation (listen below) incorporating honey mushroom vibrations, forest field recordings from Malheur National Forest and Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Voyager Golden Record sounds, NASA recordings, and artists’ SSTV transmissions that are received, and encoded in real time on a small screen during the exhibition.

Contact/Selective Pressures, a three-part book by Vaughn and Mallea is available for purchase here: Cumulative Skies