20 May 2007
"Coprinus Comatus" is a mushroom species whose DNA sequencing reveals a total lack of relation to the rest of the Comatus genus. J. Kay Schlemmer explores this surprising discovery in her artist book of the same name, where she pairs increasingly dense DNA sequences with wistful, creamy photographs of fungi and their documentation. For anyone unfamiliar with basic genetic science and mycology, the book can only function poetically, the DNA codes breaking down into concrete poetry, the wrinkly mushrooms acting as peculiar ancient objects. An unexpected narrative history arises as well when one peers closely into the photographs: there the letters read not as illegible code but as familiar English signs, telling the date of the specimen and the name of its discoverer. One begins to wonder, then, about these particular people who in 1940 or 1914, in some small town in Illinois or Michigan, found this here mushroom. We don’t expect to find humans in mushrooms, but there they are. We leave our imprints everywhere.