This summer sees the launch of a brand new academic journal: Fungiculture. Subtitled “A Journal for Psychedelic Culture Studies” Fungiculture was conceived over the past six months or so by a group of course-mates from Goldsmiths in order to provide, in their words, “a space for the experimental and playful cultivation of ideas and practices, for cross-pollinations amongst theoretical attitudes, for imagining with, between, through, alongside and against the thought of others”.
The first issue is entitled Collaborative Cultivations and looks to explore the idea of collaboration as both “methodology and aggregating thread”. They’re currently seeking submissions from now until 15th June. You can find out more on their Facebook page or at www.fufufo.com
We caught up with two of the founding editors, Helen Stuhr-Rommereim and Lynne Fugard, to find out more…
What prompted you to launch your own journal? What will it offer that others don’t?
The editorial collective came together while we were all studying towards MAs at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, in London. During the summer, we made a habit of meeting in a pokey little room for days on end whilst writing our theses. Engaging with very different academic disciplines, research objects, discourses and methodologies, we built a community around the sharing of ideas, experience and knowledge. Of course our discussions weren’t limited solely to those ideas at play in our specific research projects. They also included more general conversation in the breaks between periods of concentrated productivity. Politics, music, art, TV shows, films, current affairs, and literature: it all came up, and no matter how random and zany, it all fed our thought, imagination and discussion – fuelling the intensity of our degree work.
The journal came from a desire for rigorous, theoretical explorations but nonetheless free to enjoy speculation, irreverence and play.
But we were only studying for a Masters at the time. None of us had quite committed to a career in the academy, and we all had mixed feelings about it. The journal came from a desire to make a space for the kind of rigorous, theoretical explorations we were all working on that could nonetheless reside outside of institutional structures: free to enjoy speculation, irreverence and play beyond the confines of disciplinary boundaries and the traditional single-authored, text-heavy academic paper. This tension of precise philosophical and theoretical exploration at work within a more uncivilised approach to ideas and collaboration is fundamental to Fungiculture and its ethos.
It seems like there’s a focus on the importance of chance – the unpredictable or unexpected. Is this something missing from academia? Why might that be, and why is it something that is important to recognise and explore?
The academic route for young thinkers today is dictated by the breakneck speed and rhythms of MA and PhD programs: predetermined conveyor belts that leave little time and space for chance encounters, for diversifying one’s knowledge, for thinking expansively without the mould of discipline, or simply for researching without any specific, pressurised end. Once embarking on a research career, the graduate continues to be tied to institutions and the requirements of funding bodies, government and corporations. With deadlines to be met, boxes to tick and grants to be won, the serendipity, exploration and unexpectedness inherent to any research process is too often glossed over and airbrushed out of final publications. Everything is just as it should be, and it’s easy to forget that uncertainty and the unknown were ever there.
Fungiculture celebrates the transience and volatility of ideas as they emerge and combine with others.
Rather than seeking to present such a finished, polished product, Fungiculture celebrates the transience and volatility of ideas as they emerge and combine with others, as they are shared and applied in different contexts, as they morph into the most unexpected of projects. Emphasising the limitless nature of ideas and thought, we recognise such caprice and chance encounter as the very driving force of cultural research: the very spark that maintains theoretical urgency, keeping research fresh, fascinating, significant and imperative.
We wound our way around to psychedelia through mushrooms. As we latched onto the mushroom as our mascot, we started to collect psychedelic imagery. We became attached to the rich, twisted vantage point, experimental ethos, creative exuberance, and enhanced sensory perception that the term “psychedelic” implies. It’s used in this context to suggest a more nuanced and multifaceted appreciation of what a theoretical vision might entail. Rather than simply announcing the ability to see and understand, Fungiculture’s psychedelic vision instead delights in the various experiences of wonder that are possible within a practice of ideas. Encouraging a theoretical lens that intensifies, refracts and distorts, such psychedelic vision allows for encounters with illusion, hallucination, phantom, and dream; the synaesthetic caress of something enigmatic; encounters with the unknown, strange or fantastical; and digressions into events remembered, imagined, foreseen or conceived. Fungiculture‘s psychedelia is the weird, wonderful, untamed and vivid passage of ideas.
Why have you decided to focus on collaboration for your first issue? What interests you about collaboration as something either productive or problematic?
Collaborative writing has to take on a slightly different form from that written by one person, even if that form is hidden and the final product is just a traditional essay. We didn’t want to propose a subject for our first issue, because we were more interested in looking at different ways of thinking than in specific topics. Collaboration seemed like a method that could also be a subject, and one that would encourage the kind of theoretical practice we were hoping to cultivate. A conversation can’t travel along a straight line in the way that an argument laid out by a single person can. There’s also a loss of control there, which is something that we’re really interested in exploring – the emphasis on chance, as we discussed earlier.
As much as we want to see collaboration at work, we also want to hear what people think about collaboration.
The other side of it is that as much as we want to see collaboration at work, we also want to hear what people think about collaboration. In the hard sciences, most papers are accredited to many people, but this doesn’t necessarily constitute the kind of thinking-together (recalling Donna Haraway’s “becoming-with”) that we’re interested in.
What kind of submissions are you hoping to receive?
We obviously have a lot of big ideas, but basically we want to read some serious engagements with theory, philosophy and cultural objects that play with the form of the academic paper whilst celebrating the many possibilities of collaboration and media. We want to be difficult and fun at the same time. Our hope is that people will send us things that are a little bit strange, things that only Fungiculture could really offer a safe and nurturing home to.
To submit to Fungiculture, please send an abstract (not exceeding 500 words), to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15th June 2014. Please include relevant images and sound samples, if applicable, and the authors’ CVs or a description of relevant previous experience.