Artist: Inside Job (Ula Lucińska, Michał Kynchaus)
Title:There Are Flowers That Are Born of Mud
Curator: Joanna Kobyłt (BWA Wrocław Gallery)
Venue: 66P Subjective Institution of Culture, Księcia Witolda 66, Wrocław, Poland
Photography: Małgorzata Kujda
The industrial ovens that baked bread for the army have long since cooled down1. Besides, no fire could burn in an environment almost devoid of oxygen. The viscid dust floating in the air invades the body. Between the three cast-iron columns, new life has blossomed. Vines swirl upwards and fall to the ground. They rose from inanimate matter, yet they are alive, soaking up the muddy, slimy liquid. Subject to continuous morphogenesis, they freeze in their current form but for a moment. Their presence is intoxicating, so it is hard to tell whether this is just the old world after the collapse or the beginning of a new one, no longer dominated by the species we know.
This question will not be answered in the reality created by Inside Job. For mysterious reasons, there are no soldiers, baker’s apprentices or guards here. There are no humans at all – no beings that we used to call that. Instead, there is a new state of matter of strange images, energies and a kind of expanded consciousness, of feeling and understanding more, being differently connected to the world.
Perhaps, along with the bread consumed on a large scale, the red bread grenadier fungus entered the human bloodstream, having previously infected the rye grains used for baking. The parasite found a conducive environment in human bodies, causing ergotism, a disease formerly known as St. Anthony’s fire – its symptoms include sensory disturbances, hallucinations, manias, severe burning pain, fever and convulsions. Mutating rapidly, the fungus spread to densely populated areas, infecting more and more people. The aftermath of this pathogenesis can be seen underfoot, covering walls, filling the space around us. But is what we see really happening? Perhaps these are just hallucinations, delusions created in ergot-poisoned minds?
Some clues are provided by the plant-engineered hybrids, bizarre incarnations of the illustrations filling the pages of the Voynich Manuscript. The mysterious medieval or modern codex, written in a script that has never been deciphered, is most likely a kind of alchemical treatise. While this is far from certain, it is easy to imagine that the text predates its era as a meditative reflection on the coexistence of technology and nature. The depicted floral systems of interconnected vessels and organic architecture foreshadow future forms of symbiosis – a prophecy that is coming true before our very eyes.
There Are Flowers That Are Born of Mud is the latest brainchild of Ula Lucińska and Michał Kynchaus, a vision emerging between speculation and hope, end and beginning. The starting point for their reflections on the aftermath of an environmental disaster are metaphorical objects from a future that has become past and come too soon. Suspended between the living and the inanimate, the works seem to represent a post-natural – and post-human – order that has emerged in the cracks of our relationship with nature, on the ruins of civilisation and amongst environmental relics.
Ula and Michał’s method of work combines organic materials with machine-produced parts that are later subjected to manual processes such as painting, sanding, bending, stitching and waxing. The final result is a collage-like installation in which natural and artificial elements, made by machines, humans and non-humans, are woven together to create a sense of suspension between different systems. This practice regularly appears in Inside Job’s work, as do their distinctive motifs and ornaments, creating an indecipherable code, an aesthetic language unique to their work.
The title of Inside Job’s latest exhibition refers to the symbolism of the lotus – an aquatic perennial whose impressive inflorescences can grow thanks to a root system that draws organic compounds from the muddy bottom of a body of water. In this context, a popular motif from the religious traditions of the Far East can be equated with the dark ecology preached by Timothy Morton, among others. Instead of anthropocentrically rejecting that which is considered disgusting and repugnant – i.e. trying to pull the world out of the eponymous mud – we should look at this substratum more closely, for it will bear the fruits of the new world.
1 The space of 66P is housed in an old garrison bakery erected in 1900-1901. At that time, most of the buildings on Kępa Mieszczańska island were military facilities. The bakery contained ovens for baking bread and rusks, as well as special machines for kneading and moulding dough. After the Second World War, the building changed its function several times.
Ula Lucińska and Michał Knychaus work together as the Inside Job duo. They graduated in Intermedia from the University of the Arts in Poznań. In their practice, they use a variety of media and materials. Their sculptural objects create elaborate and immersive environments. Many of their projects refer to catastrophic or hauntological narratives in which past echoes intertwine with futuristic speculations. Using fiction as a working methodology, they explore its self-fulfilling potential – predicting dystopias and utopias and reflecting on their possibilities and limitations.
They were finalists of the international Artagon IV competition in Paris (2018) and shortlisted for the International Allegro Prize (2020). They have received prizes and distinctions, including the City of Poznań Prize for Young Artists (2022, 2020); the Prize of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage (2018) and the Santander Bank Prize (2016). Their joint graduation project received awards from SZUM and Czas Kultury magazines (2018). They have presented their work during artist residencies (The Brno House of Arts; RUPERT Residency, Vilnius; A-I-R FUTURA, Prague; Aldea Residency, Bergen); at individual exhibitions (eastcontemporary, Milan; FUTURA, Prague; Šopa Gallery, Kosice; Hot Wheels Projects, Athens; SKALA, Poznań) and group shows (34th Biennale of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana; Kunsthalle Baden-Baden; BWA Wrocław; Gdansk City Gallery; BWA Zielona Gora; TRAFO – Trafostacja Sztuki, Szczecin).
Joanna Kobyłt is an art historian, critic and curator. She studied art history and cultural studies. The starting point for her curatorial work is often provided by the historical context. She is interested in the phenomenon of hauntology, the medium of the exhibition as an ideological tool for the production of knowledge, and what lies at the intersection of the history of visuality and the history of natural sciences. She works at BWA Wrocław, where she is curatorially responsible for the BWA Wrocław Główny Gallery.