Exhibition text by Marcello Farabegoli
The Mexican artists Guadalupe Aldrete, Sofia Cruz Rocha, and Paula Flores, who live and work in Vienna, approach the general concept of transformation from the perspectives of individual experience, hermetic philosophy, and knowledge through nature, respectively. The concept of duality, which will be explained in more detail below, plays an essential role. The three artists are in search of fundamental changes that would allow them to dialectically overcome duality and experience new unity with themselves, the natural world, or even the cosmos on a changed or higher level of consciousness. This extraordinary striving probably has to do with their cultural background, whereby less Latin American rather more pre-Columbian cultural elements should be decisive. These “archetypal” elements merge with western as well as Asian world views to sensual, contentwise dense, and altogether very exciting works of art. Last but not least, the research-scientific attitude of the artists lends their work an essential conceptual foundation.
Duality also plays an important role for Paula Flores, in the context of nature. In general, she is concerned with the complexity of nature, with our knowledge or ignorance of it and our relationship to it. How is it possible, the artist wonders, that Western capitalist imperialist thought, conceived predominantly by men, has enabled a part of humanity to legitimize the exploitation of enslaved and oppressed populations and groups of people, and nature no less? Thus, Flores seeks ways to change, dismantle, and overcome these hierarchical conceptual constructs. To do so, she is studying extraordinary ways of communication between humans and other species, such as fungi, bacteria, and plants. She hopes that this could lead to a shift in the balance of power and possibly pave the way for a more balanced relationship between humans and nature that would benefit the entire planet. Specifically, Flores is interested in the duality between life and death and questions where the sharp boundary between these concepts might be found. Regarding this fundamental contrast, it should be mentioned that the famous Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, with his legendary essay “What is Life” published about seventy years ago, had pointed out the great riddles of the phenomenon of life as well as the associated principal explanatory hurdles, and at the same time had given an essential impulse to genetics. Remarkably, the current state of knowledge is still not sufficient to understand how life arose. Likewise, it is still technically impossible at present to create artificial life. Last but not least, a virus, i.e. a being which exists as such by definition between life and death, plays a generally known frightening role in the last time. Furthermore, in so-called animistic religions, for example, a personal soul is attributed to any natural object. Especially in their youth, some people today may still have the ability to feel this all-soul; some artists in particular often cultivate this ability throughout their lives. In her childhood, Flores herself was able to cherish a magical feeling concerning nature and recognized this particular effect even more intensely in the stories of her grandparents who grew up in the countryside. Flores’ will to find a way of transformation by means of explorative-artistic work, which is to break through the dual concept of life and death, seems to be particularly radical. Last but not least, she believes that through this she can attain a connection to beings that animate the universe. The core of the installation “Mediation” (2021) by Paula Flores are the three sculptures made from the mycelia of mushrooms. According to Wikipedia, in common parlance, only the visible fruiting bodies are referred to as mushrooms. The actual fungus, however, is predominantly the fine, thread-like structure (hyphae) existing mycelium in the soil or in the wood, which is mostly not perceived because of its occurrence in these opaque substrates. Fungal mycelia can grow to a size of over a square kilometer, a huge biological mass, and an old age. Mycelia are vital in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for their role in the decomposition of plant material and are the primary factor in a plant’s health, nutrient intake, and growth and fitness. Flores has been experimenting with mycelia for a long time in order to specifically grow them into compact shapes and then let them dry out, whereby in most cases this process also means the death of these living beings. The three sculptures in this installation seem somehow like prehistoric eggs, which could have come from dinosaurs or are even of extraterrestrial origin. When you take them in hand, you notice how light and fragile these filaments that have grown together are. The gold foil on which the artist places the sculptures indicates the high value of this species for our ecosystem and thus also for our human survival on earth. The black and white fur simply symbolizes the principle of duality itself, in which we humans are mostly caught. It is noteworthy that Flores also opts for an artificial material that mimics a natural one… By bringing or forcing a hidden, essential living being so radically to light, so to speak, the artist seems to want to suggest to us what a fine, immense network of hidden things, many-valued logic, quantum physical superpositions between dual principles, between thesis and antithesis, between particles and waves, matter and immaterial things can still exist.