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‘Stinkhorn’ is a short absurdist musical film by artists Siôn Parkinson (Dundee) and Richard Whitby (London). The film combines puppetry, stop-motion animation and time-lapse footage beneath a fragmented, fart-infused synth-vocal soundtrack to create a style reminiscent of madcap 1970’s children’s television and early nature documentaries.
The film is inspired by the stinkhorn, a phallic and foul-smelling mushroom common to Scotland’s forests. The mushroom grows from a smooth, egg-shaped fruiting body called a “witch’s egg”. The egg breaks and from its top emerges a long white stalk ending in a bell-shaped cap covered in green slime. This slime smells strongly of rotting meat, which flies find irresistible, swarming to the mushroom to feed off its cap and thus helping to disperse its sticky spores.
But in Parkinson & Whitby’s film, the mushroom’s desperate attempts to seduce the flies are frustrated and the mushroom ends up flailing around impotently, wafting its scented tip in the air before falling flaccidly to the forest floor and festering into the earth. The overall effect is that of a mircoworld caught in a never-ending, ludicrous loop of growth, sex, rot, and stink.
Siôn Parkinson is an artist, performer and composer based in his hometown of Dundee, Scotland. His work centres on improvisation and experimentation with voice, acoustic and electronic instruments for performance and video. Recent projects are inspired by his research into sound and smell, particularly ‘bad’ smells, real and hallucinated. He has a PhD in Sound Studies from the University of Leeds where he was an Amanda Burton scholar. His forthcoming book Stinkhorn will be published by Sternberg in 2023, and he is currently recording his first solo album, Stink Music (released 2024), supported by Creative Scotland and Help Musicians UK.
Richard Whitby is an artist living in London. Richard employs improvisation, collaboration and DIY techniques to make video and performance about scary things. Previous projects have been about the UK immigration system, the effects of Covid 19 on work and the growing culture of apocalypse prepping amongst the super wealthy. In 2019 Richard won the Jerwood/FVU award with his film The Lost Ones. He was a LUX Associate Artist in 2012/13. Current project Dreams of Safety is on Youtube, his band is called Bulkwash and he has a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of London.
Image description: A close up of a white mushroom covered in dripping black and yellow slime.