No 3 (95) 2013
July - September

The PE Fungi

An astonishing sculpture project looks unearthly, surreal and... disturbing. The presentation borders on ecology and art; ethics and aesthetic. It deals with recycling issues by means of sculpture. The "PE Fungi" project by Julia Bistuła.

Lena Wicherkiewicz

Historian and art critic, curator. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Lena Wicherkiewicz

JULIA BISTUŁA IS A YOUNG ARTIST, last year graduate of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts but first of all she is a sculptress and an author of objects, installations, the Internet photo web log, a performer. She has pursued various media of art. She is spontaneous, creative, full of exceptional energy. Julia has painted gold stairs on the Vistula river bank in Warsaw (the "Golden Stairs" performance, 2010). She has installed her sculptures on trees in the Eastern Beskids mountains forest near Otryt ("The Spirit of the Forest", 2007). She has made of felt a model presenting a miniature of Pollock's house ("Jackson Pollock House, 2010), and casts of Warsaw girls faces to turn these into Baroque portrait objects (the "Portrait Tailor' Shop" project, 2013), being prepared under the grant by the Capital City of Warsaw), to mention her most significant works. It seems, however, that recycling related actions are today most important for the artist.

At the Promotion Gallery Julia has showed her latest sculptures/ objects made of thousands of plastic bags. The material - seemingly dull from an artistic point of view, ever present in our everyday life, shortly used and fast discarded, ecologically dubious - has been turned into a flexible matter. The objects made refer to the characteristic shapes of familiar fungi. The "PE" prefix relates to polyethylene, a raw material for plastic bags production. The phallic shape of the white "PE Mutinus", put on the gallery floor, resembles a fungus carrying the same name that grows in clusters in forests. The dark and disturbing "PE Fomes", hung on the gallery walls, are nothing else but plastic bags originating bracket fungi, commonly growing on beech and birch trees; aggressive parasites that make wood rot. Further, there is the white, ragged "PE Penicillum", one of the best known fungi. Why fungi? Why has Julia referred to these in her sculptures? It seems that she has offered an ecological metaphor. The realm of fungi is one of the largest among living organisms; its representatives are present in all types of environment, taking from other living organisms. Their destructive, "egoistic" characteristics has been turned into a metaphor of the destructive and shortsighted human approach towards nature. A separate room of the gallery hosts the "DE" object of a considerable size, illuminated, bringing to one's mind an association with a mushroom cloud. The piece has been made of nearly two thousand plastic bags. The "DE" prefix refers to deformation, destruction, degradation, i.e., processes that have been constantly influencing natural environment and man made creations.

The exhibition by Julia Bistuła is a sculpture environment providing food for thoughts on destruction, disease, fall and decay. Sculpture forms, made of hostile material, bring the vision of deformation, growths, cancer, tumors. An impression of an overwhelming threat has been intensified by the objects size. One seems to be thrown into an apocalyptic space of ultimate disaster brought about by ourselves. The project by Julia can be regarded as an artistic representation of a certain hypothetic, nevertheless already present, ecological situation, a specific eco- fiction: the man made material escapes human control and enters the world of nature. It is the cause of destruction and havoc that penetrate living organisms. Further, it can lead to the occurrence of new, saprotrophic organisms capable of transforming this synthetic matter. This interpretation of the vision by Julia Bistuła can instigate further questions. Is it possible that the non-organic gets included into nature? Or rather one will be faced with a new type of an environment being a synthesis of natural and artificial matter? Will the future bring about a completely different ecosystem?

Julia Bistuła, "PE Fungi", the Promotion Gallery, Warsaw, April - May 2013.