Date with an Octopus is an interdisciplinary audiovisual experience that expands the universe of the novel Fungal Dream by Gabija Grušaitė. The scientist Dustin Carter has claimed that various forms of meditation are the best way to get to know your fungus and perhaps even see the world beyond the fungal dream. The Nobel Laureate’s favourite meditation is Date with an Octopus, created by his Lithuanian friend, Ina.

The audience are invited to lie down, make themselves comfortable, relax and explore their own body and consciousness. The blurred boundary between the inner human world and the external world is explored in relation to the Pacific octopus, which is both a concrete physical object/subject and a symbol and a fantasy. People love their bones, their central axis and strong values, but is it all just an illusion? Maybe our boundaries are illusions constructed by the fungal dream?


Sound – Jonas Drėma
Voice – Gabija Grušaitė (Lithuanian), Aaron Wolf | Revenant Audio LLC. (English)
Translation – Jeremy Hill
Design – Aurelija Slapšytė
Curatorial text – Neringa Bumblienė
Editor – Ūla Ambrasaitė
Communications – Ieva Koncevičiūtė
Producers – Laura Vagonė, Justas Janauskas

The octopus holds in its embrace the entirety of Gabija Grušaitė’s ‘Fungal Dream’. True, it exists on the visual plane of the book, staying to some extent in the shadows. The lights here are directed elsewhere – to the text. We therefore initially catch the octopus just out of the corner of our eye and immediately forget it. Just as we forget people who aren’t like us. We don’t notice what isn’t on our usual horizon, what we don’t know, what we cannot or do not want to make a direct and meaningful connection with.

And yet, the octopus is definitely here – everywhere. Or rather, she, the woman octopus. Her tiny but clear black silhouette is nestled in the blue cover, which recalls the rippling of the ocean on a cloudy day. Her eight tentacles, like thick seaweed, like long strands of hair trailing in the water, envelop the novel both on the book’s first and last pages, and in a specially designed bookmark  Moreover, the silhouette that appears on the cover is repeated to mark each chapter of the book. And, even if the octopus is not to be found in the novel’s narrative – in the words arranged into sentences, paragraphs and chapters – like all non-human animals, she exists outside our verbal language.

Close your eyes.

The octopus is a mollusc with eight limbs and no shell. There are about 300 known species. Together with squid, cuttlefish and nautiloids, they fall within the class Cephalopoda. Viewed from a human perspective, it is a very strange animal, with an extremely plastic and flexible body; limbs studded with tentacles, with each limb having its own brain, and capable of functioning autonomously; and skin which can instantly change colour to mimic the sandy seabed or rocks. Although these animals have unique brains unlike any other animal we know of, they are also known to be highly intelligent creatures, capable of opening jars, finding exits to mazes and using tools. They are also thought to develop a complex inner life.

In evolutionary terms, the common ancestor of humans and octopuses was probably some strange fish-like worm with two eyes and a mouth which lived hundreds of millions of years ago. ‘If we want to study the intelligence of aliens,’ observes Peter Godfrey-Smith, an Australian philosopher and writer who studies animal minds, ‘octopuses are the closest thing we have.’

But Gabija’s installation doesn’t feature an octopus – that is, a woman octopus – herself. There are only images of her: a hypnotic video which captures a cephalopod that lived in the aquarium of the Maritime Museum in Copenhagen, and eight plastic replicas of Octopus vulgaris dishes, which the artist ordered in various restaurants around the world, so as to grieve for her deceased adopted octopus in such an unusual way.

Her encounter with the octopus happened earlier, leaving a rippling trace in time, like in dark water, that encapsulates the multifaceted nature of human beings: gentle and cruel, caring and predatory. 

Open your eyes.

In his legendary science fiction novel ‘Soliaris’, the Polish writer Stanisław Lem tells the story of a mysterious animal living on a distant planet – a vast ocean that defies human understanding. ‘We don’t need other worlds,’ he writes, ‘we need a mirror. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. This one is enough, we are already choking on it.’

Perhaps this date to which we are invited is not really with an octopus at all, but with ourselves. With all the unknown, autonomously operating parts of ourselves that live in dark waters. This installation, the date,  is like another side – the reverse side of the verbal language – of Gabija Grušaitė’s book ‘Fungal Dream’, which once experienced and comprehended, will help us finally establish a direct and meaningful connection with all the parts of that strange animal who we are.


Pasimatymas su aštuonkoju

Date with an Octopus
February 21–25, from 12:00 to 20:00, every 30 minutes. ST. ELIZABETH’S CHAPEL, BOKŠTO ST. 6, VILNIUS