"That is life.."
Curated by Zeren Oruc
9 - 20. 12. 2019.
Gallery Association of Fine Artists Of Vojvodina,
(Novi Sad, Serbia)
The works of Adrienn Újházi are made from the nature, for the nature, as an example of coexistence of humans with all living systems. In her bio-artistic practice, she uses organic materials, but instead of destroying life (as it usually happens with organic materials) her art creates new life forms and rises the smallest beings to the level of museological displays, preserving them for centuries. She treats fibres and seeds of annual plants in museological manner, preserving them in formaldehyde; she protects molds and unicellular organisms behind the sterilised glass. By interdisciplinary linking the activities of art and museums of natural history, Újházi highlights the importance of a smallest being for the ecosystem, of which we are a part.
In her most recent work, Újházi creates scoby from kombucha, a synthetic culture made of yeast and bacteria, a bio-degradable material that is widely promoted as a substitute for plastic packaging. In addition to scoby, Újházi also uses tissues of annual plants, such as jute fibres and wheat seeds. She places a single specimen under the glass, as an artefact in a natural history museum, while leaving the straw, grain and fibres at the open disposal to visitors, allowing them to touch their texture and sense their smell. While in a gallery, these plants cannot be approached in a utilitarian manner, as they have been for centuries, on the contrary, the visitors encounter their very being.
The jute fibres, irreplaceable in human history due to their widespread use for production of ropes, have a special symbolism in the work of Adrienn Újházi. On the one hand, jute is durable and powerful, a material that, being used at ships, enabled colonization of Asian and African land, trade by sea, discovery and exploitation of the New World, spread of the Inquisition and the plague, transport of slaves from Africa to the new continent – in short, it enabled civilization as we know it. On the other hand, the jute fibres are gentle and vulnerable, they are a natural material that cannot be exploited indefinitely and can be cut sharply with an axe or any blade.
It is these sharply cut jute fibres that Újházi uses in her work, those that are otherwise considered useless waste because they are too short to be used as ropes. At the edges of these sharp cuts, Újházi puts gauze, a sterile (plant-derived) medical material that protects against infection and helps a wound to heal. The new meaning is clear – the exploited nature is dangerously wounded and in need of medical attention, but so is our human existence, because we are extremely dependent on nature and we owe it everything. Újházi’s practice thus gains a transdisciplinary character, combining medical and museological procedures in artistic creation, procedures that each bring a new set of meanings and messages to the viewers.
By recycling organic materials and creating new life forms, Újházi emphasizes that we cannot have any different attitude towards nature. Being extremely wounded, nature cannot be exploited any longer, it cannot only give and we cannot take everything it has to offer just for ourselves. It can no longer recover unless we help her in a healthy way; we can only survive if we acknowledge that we live in symbiosis with nature, that we are part of one system, one organism. Adrienn Újházi’s transdisciplinary work draws attention to this and, at the same time, it is creation of art and life, making her a rare bio-art representative in Serbia and the region.