Krištof Kintera

Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy

What can we learn from fungi? Mycelium, the spongy tissue that distributes nutrients to the caps and stems of humble mushrooms, resembles both the neural synapses of animal brains and the complex wiring of computers. It also links the anatomy of one discrete fungus to another, conjoining them like human twins with a shared nervous system – a kind of network collectivity, courtesy of evolutionary biology.

For the past year, mycelium has been on Krištof Kintera’s mind. I know this because I saw diagrams of the stuff taped to the walls of the Czech artist’s makeshift studio at the Collezione Maramotti, the site of ‘Postnaturalia’, his latest exhibition. These drawings – torn or scanned from botanical field books – appear beside grainy, photocopied aerial photographs of cityscapes, as though London might be an ancient moss, its blocks and buildings like spores bearing chaotic yet complex spatial logic. These studio materials were inspiration for Systemus Postnaturalis (all works 2016–17), the sprawling installation that occupies a wide concrete gallery in Maramotti’s adjacent exhibition space. Mounds of amassed electronic waste weave across the polished whitewashed floor, linked by salvaged cables, the bright colours of their rubber tubing dulled by streaks of oil and glue. Hundreds of tiny box-shaped transistors dot dozens of dismantled circuit boards, jutting up like Lilliputian houses from hillocks of melted fibreglass, epoxy and metallic foil. The most beautiful of Kintera’s forms are shorn copper wires, their ends dipped in semi-translucent green and yellow resin, sprouting from the gallery’s corners like stalks of wild cauliflower. Above all this, the gallery lights slowly pulse, casting the artist’s unnatural growths in a faintly radioactive pall.


Krištof Kintera, Postnaturalia, 2016, exhibition view at Collezione Maramotti. Courtesy: Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; photograph: Dario Lasagni

Krištof Kintera, Postnaturalia, 2016, exhibition view at Collezione Maramotti. Courtesy: Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; photograph: Dario Lasagni

Kintera began the project after a visit to the Musei Civici, a fascinating and creepy 19th-century anthropology museum in the historic centre of Reggio Emilia. The museum’s dimly lit, labyrinthine Wunderkammer displays are packed with everything from ancient fossils to human genitalia pickled in formaldehyde; the spoils of safari are mounted in a grand entry hall. Inspired by a room of rare, colourfully preserved fungi, Kintera produced his own specimens using materials fished from a local electronic rubbish dump. Some of these are temporarily on display in the museum’s locked cabinets, with names like Gratia Informatica or Radaria Pulsa that ape Linnaean classification.

Mounted in vitrines or on wooden boards, like flowers pressed in a book, the sculptures’ direct resemblance to familiar plants feels obvious and heavy-handed. The exhibition’s main installation, though, is a stunning work of craftsmanship; placed in a larger ecosystem, Kintera’s flora reflect macroscopic issues. The most intelligent human technologies exhibit a certain organic order for which fungi are an apt analogy. Our cities are sublime engines of chance, greater than any supercomputer: they transmit information and facilitate movement at a scale and complexity comparable only, perhaps, to the mycelium that links together the kingdom Fungi. 


Krištof Kintera, Electrons Seeking Spirit, 2016, exhibition view at Collezione Maramotti. Courtesy: Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; photograph: Dario Lasagni

Krištof Kintera, Electrons Seeking Spirit, 2016, exhibition view at Collezione Maramotti. Courtesy: Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; photograph: Dario Lasagni

Kintera insists that we live in a Copper Age. The term echoes early human history – Iron and Bronze – but, in fact, refers to the indispensable conductor of currents in our electronic devices. Without copper, his reasoning goes, we might slide into a literal dark age. While not entirely accurate – silicone’s ability to conduct electricity is already enabling advances in bionic implants – the notion aptly reflects this exhibition’s greatest success. None of Kintera’s materials will ever decompose: like all ‘e-waste’, they sat leaching toxic petrochemicals into dumpsite soil before he found them. By repurposing this junk and returning it implausibly to nature, Kintera reminds us that it all once came from the earth. The internet – the manmade mycelium that powers modern life – relies on an infrastructure built of minerals mined from conflict zones: tungsten from Rwanda, coltan from the Congo. Human labour extracts these materials and transforms them so they may never be the same again.

Main image: Krištof Kintera, ‘Postnaturalia’ (detail), 2017, installation view, Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia. Photograph: Sofia Picariello

Evan Moffitt is assistant editor of frieze, based in New York, USA. 

Issue 188

First published in Issue 188

June - August 2017

Most Read

In further news: white supremacist vandals attack Rothko Chapel; Israeli minister bans art produced in solidarity with...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
The US writer, who died last week, brought a quality of inestimable importance to the modern novel: a mind that was...
The $21M painting was the highest price ever paid for a work by a living African American artist at auction
Royal bodies, the ‘incel’ mindset and those Childish Gambino hot-takes: what to read this weekend
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
The rapper and artist have thoughts about originality in art; Melania Trump tries graphic design – all the latest...
The dilapidated Nissen hut from which Rachel Whiteread will take a cast
Yorkshire residents complain that the concrete sculpture of a ‘Nissen hut’ will attract excrement, vandalism and litter
Poul Erik Tøjner pays tribute to Denmark’s most important artist since Asger Jorn
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...
Photographer Dragana Jurisic says her account was deactivated after she uploaded an artwork depicting a partially naked...
In further news: open letter protests all-male shortlist for BelgianArtPrize; Arts Council of Ireland issues...
From Sol Calero’s playful clichés of Latin America to an homage to British modernist architect Alison Smithson
Everybody’s favourite underpaid, over-educated, raven-haired art critic, Rhonda Lieberman, is as relevant as ever
‘Prize & Prejudice’ at London's UCL Art Museum is a bittersweet celebration of female talent
The curators want to rectify the biennale’s ‘failure to question the hetero-normative production of space’; ‘poppers...
A fragment of the brutalist Robin Hood Gardens will go on show at the Venice Architecture Biennale
‘Women's role in shaping the history of contemporary art is being reappraised’
Three shows in Ireland celebrate the legendary polymath, artist and author of Inside the White Cube
The legendary performance artists will partner up again to detail their tumultuous relationship in a new book
An open letter signed by over 100 leading artists including 15 Turner prize-winners says that new UK education policy...
Naturists triumph at art gallery; soothing students with colouring books; Kanye’s architectural firm: your dose of art...
Avengers: Infinity War confirms the domination of mass culture by the franchise: what ever happened to narrative...
The agency’s founder talks about warfare in the age of post truth, deconstructing images and holding states and...
From hobnobbing with Oprah to championing new art centres, millennial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is following a...
A juror for the award last year, Dan Fox on why the Turner Prize is and always will be political (whatever that means)
The argument that ancestral connection offers a natural grasp of the complex histories and aesthetics of African art is...
One of most iconic and controversial writers of the past 40 years, Tom Wolfe discusses writing, art and intellectual...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

March 2018

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018