by Anmol AhujaMay 31, 2021
Recently, my frustrations with the static gallery system of the world have become more apparent to myself. In a world where engagement is everything, our art spaces are shockingly detached. Sure, commercial reasons may dictate a certain systematic approach to the way galleries showcase but the pervasive nature of passive curation poses a risk to art itself - one which creates a steep learning curve for the viewer. In a more organic approach, Daniel “Attaboy” Seifert (co-founder of art publication Hi-Fructose), has been developing an underground art festival since 2019.
Titled Game of Shrooms, Attaboy frames the art experience with spatial interactivity, social engagement and giftivist philosophy. Activated globally, the festival invites hundreds of artists to create mushroom-inspired artworks. Their mission thereafter is to hide their creations in their surrounding area, left with the sole purpose of being found and freely taken home by the lucky hunter. And there you have it – a worldwide scavenger hunt. Game of Shrooms encourages local art lovers and adventure enthusiasts to leave their homes, team up with their friends and search for hidden treasures made by artists around them.
Attaboy talks to STIR about the trajectory of this novel event. “In 2016 I was suffering from depression and was existentially confused about my place in the world. I hadn't shown my work publicly for seven years prior, but started painting on cardboard and hiding them around our town as a form of therapy; people could find a surprise when they were literally looking down. I was obsessed with painting them, and painted over 150 and hid them as I went on my way, before and after meetings in Hollywood as I travelled, and I sent them to cohorts in Oregon, New York, Ohio and elsewhere to hide. People were so happy to find them, with clues left on Instagram. In 2019, I asked a few great artists to hide their own on the same day, then soon opened the invite to everyone. Although most artists and hunters were from the US, people from Hong Kong to Syria were hiding them too!,” he says.
I was curious though - why the special emphasis on mushrooms? “Mushrooms are mysterious, magical and feed and regenerate on dead matter. They are hallucinogenic, but sometimes tasty and poisonous, too! There are so many varieties that art-wise it is free to interpretation. My grandmother had a ceramicist and would paint mushrooms with me for her mushroom garden. Her house was covered with them!”, says Attaboy.
Above everything else, Game of Shrooms is a suggestion to transform the way we celebrate, share and love. By creating no commercial intervention in the exchange of art, the experience turns into a process of radical generosity – a concept embodied by the idea of giftivism. Attaboy says, “It's sad to me that nearly every holiday is filled with guilt, consumerism and obligation or excludes those who are of other religions. Either that, or days off end up to be additional days to shop. I believe it is human nature to create, to make art and our mark, and that when we aren’t, we ‘fill that void’ by buying things for that temporary feeling of newness, novelty and perhaps chemical dopamine. Furthermore, I love when people are exposed to art and artists that they don't need ‘permission’ to like and/or collect, seek out and enjoy”.
Attaboy tells STIR, “I am amazed at what it has already become; a fun-filled holiday without religious overtones, guilt, or nationalism, that's absolutely free. I am amazed when groups create work together to hide and that children are involved. And the good spirit of those involved, as well as the time spent and generosity of really amazing artists!”. He continues to say, “It's already surpassed my goals, but moving forward I want to emphasise the spirit of the holiday. It's a day when nature invades the human space. It's filled with creation, giving, game playing and a good amount of mischief. To me, it combines the best parts of Easter, Valentine's Day and more into a flexible way where you can give and receive and discover art around you, and hopefully see your environment and your effect on it like never before. Not all areas are hubs of creativity like The Bay Area, Los Angeles and Cleveland and Portland. I give extra credit to those who are ‘pioneers’ of sorts in suburban or country towns, bringing the Game of Shrooms to life the hard way, for the first time in their area”. Game Of Shrooms presents a new approach to fostering engagement between the art and the viewer, creating intimate and exciting modes of interaction.
Game of Shrooms will take place for the third time since 2019, on June 12, 2021. You can follow the hashtag #gameofshrooms or #shroomdrop to find out how participation and contribution works and be part of this global art phenomenon.