Slime Mould research and experimentation slime mould agar Perspex box 2022 photographed by Caitlin Dick RESIZED
Slime Mould, research and experimentation, 2022. Slime mould, agar, Perspex box. Photo: Caitlin Dick. Courtesy of the artist

Its boundary lines, its altitudes and depressions, are not concentric but radial: small, furry forests of snappy black lines extending outwards, the edges of fuzz [1]. From afar, the empty centres the lines circumvent—peaks and hilltops, altitudes?—squiggle, worm-like.

Some lifelines trace as they grow. This is the second map, neon yellow, a scaffolding [2]. Thin walls of mycelium in between. It could be the sturdiest of structures, bricks. It could also be brittle like tissue paper, crisp.

Make yourself a bed within it. Draw the thin sheets above your head. As you fall asleep, crawl crouch scoop yourself within. Hopscotch your way through possible futures. What does it feel, to breathe in the womb of an earth. A history of contamination.

The chatty bartender brings over olives in a yellow tin.


You are in a space where you should not be. Or you could be [A]; but you could also be somewhere else [B]. If you are going to be here [A], you would be wandering these empty units above the decaying shops, the long stretch of shutters and boarded windows. Bright, wide-windowed rooms. Could this floor have been fit for dancing, at some point? Suspended, withheld.


The first room—we can imagine them at either end of a confidential hallway; stretched out into different buildings; sharing the same space; their proximity is of your choosing—stumbles into the middle of an experiment interrupted.

Abandoned, in almost-darkness, a floor of rocks glinting. On their surface, a patina that may or may not speak of an alternative biochemistry. Iron sulphate, Manganese—common in ceramics—sulphate, Sodium—a weedkiller—acetate. Heat may be an altering factor. Not abundant in the Earth’s crust, these elements, an old recipe for shadows, varnish rocks in arid places. Their origin is not of our language; they are, yet we cannot speak them. A parallel biosphere, a plane of existence just beyond and beside the one we are used to; as impalpable as the shadow that sticks to your foot.

On their speckled surface, the rocks—Gumtree granite—are scratched, etched, with map lines. The fuzzy lines [1] drawn onto the surface bring with them their time past, what the terrain might have looked like then, as speculative as any tale. Its time sidesteps your temporality, many futures held up simultaneously, all entirely possible. All of them, slightly out of your plane of being.


The second room hosts a hub cavern cave of breath held. The structure resembles a tent, intimate as a honeycomb cell [2]. Enclosed within it, its map joins up the natural reserves of the North East in a web. A mould has drawn it—Physarum polycephalum—as it moved to trace the shortest distance between its food sources. While it does not have a brain nor a body—although it is bodily, as in concrete, thing-ly—slime mould is able to preserve the memory of where a previous food source was, and go back to it. Its movement, invisible to the eye, a vibration. Remember you run on a pulse too. You can both be summed up as frequencies.

Consider a commonality of being.


Rooms of what if. On stone, on land, writing in a possible tense. Co-existing states; analogies of being. What lies beyond and beside. What is more-than-you.

A lace of futures. On stone on land.


A responsibility: enter into reciprocity with the more-than-human. Writing as deep listening, a practice of giving something of yourself away before receiving. Regrounding and reimagining.

The care such a practice requires—attending to what is underground and at the edges of your perceived living, on a plane of being just beyond, just beside, under our feet—a root system, a shadow. To be careful in such a way may be to unearth attendant feelings of fellowship and belonging that may otherwise go unnoticed.

The balance of your being—of your and my living on—rests on your ability—mine—to attend to the unseen. The willingness to move along a what if and jump across, duck and dive, burrow through.


An expanse, an opening page, of map-writings on stone [1]. The stones, once the desert varnish has glazed them, come to resemble smoky quartz. A beautiful rock of deep amber greys, it is translucent in places, opaque in others. It is found up and down the Cairngorms, a native mineral. Resembling it so closely, the stones in the room recall the mountains to the space. A re-creation of smoky quartz, a stage double, they pull in the North East landscape as one half of an analogy.

A form of analogical walking is also in place, as we use the lines drawn by the yellow mould [2] to orient ourselves around. Our movement, in parallel, is dependent on it, and on our paying attention. Retracing the way to a place regrounding. The dry substance of the brittle walls was once living. If times can be held up in parallel, they still are.

As in writing. Time an organism growing gathering pulsing underground. A pooling expanse.

SML Phoebe Mc Bride ADV artificial desert varnish on granite rocks 2022 Courtesy of the artist
Phoebe McBride, ADV, artificial desert varnish on granite rocks, 2022. Courtesy of the artist


Enxhi Mandija is a writer. She is a graduate of the MLitt in Art Writing at the Glasgow School of Art. Her writing has appeared on SPAM Zine, The Yellow Paper, The List and The Elphinstone Review amongst others. She is Assistant Curator at Peacock & the worm, Aberdeen.


With thanks to Caitlin Dick and Phoebe McBride.


Tender a response probes and parses the reciprocities that can be found, cultivated and rendered between art and writing—what art may lend to language and what happens when language leans into art. It is led by reviews editor-in-residence Sara O’Brien.


[1] Phoebe McBride, Through Smoke and Varnish: Entrance to the Shadow Biosphere. Installation, 2022. Artificial desert varnish on granite.

[2] Caitlin Dick, Unearthed Groundings. Installation, 2022. Slime mould, dry mycelium, wood, foam sheet, acrylic.

A history of contamination. Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), p.27.

Enter into reciprocity with the more-than-human world. Robin Wall Kimmerer, ‘The Democracy of Species’ (London: Penguin, 2021). First published in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2013), p.54.