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.

coll.maramotti_kristof_kintera_2017_0135.jpg

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. 

coll.maramotti_kristof_kintera_2017_0096.jpg

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 associate editor of frieze, based in New York, USA. 

Issue 188

First published in Issue 188

June - August 2017

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
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
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...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018