In early 2020, Chinese conceptual artist Zhao Rongjie cocooned herself in her studio in southwest China for three months as part of her Breathing 2020 project. While in quarantine, she spent her days raising 2000 silk worms, harvesting silk, stitching embroidered artwork, and plastering a crystal ball with layers of international newspaper clippings as a daily ritual. Throughout the long Spring, she documented the parallels between her evolution and the metamorphosis of silkworms in a short film, poetry, writings, and a collection of images for ArtsEverywhere.
The following Spring, Rongjie set off from her home in Dali for an ancient Buddhist temple complex perched nearly 1000 meters above a high, ear-shaped, alpine lake–– Er Hai. For six months she lived among farmers, monks, and mushroom hunters in a small mountain hamlet on Jizu Shan (Chicken-foot Mountain, the sacred mountain where it is believed the Future Buddha, Maitreya, will re-emerge) conducting research for the Breathing 2021 project.
Rongjie’s series of Field Notes offer a glimpse into daily life in the mountains of southwest China as autumn nears and mushroom hunting season comes to a close. There she scours the wooded mountain slopes for rare fungus with local experts Da Ge and Da Sao and documents the unique spore structure of each species in situ and as negative prints. And as the weeks turn into months, we see the stories of monks and mushrooms hunters blend into her own.
In the mountains of southwest China, conceptual artist and director Zhao Rongjie meets a husband and wife team of mushroom hunters who welcome her into their home and introduce her to a simpler, antiquated world of physical labour, spiritual inheritance, and symbiosis with nature.