Artificial by nature
Exhibition text "Mangiare Il Bene" by Nikla Cingolani: Showroom Elica - Out of Expo, Milan; Mole Vanvitelliana, Ancona; Palazzo Bisaccioni Museum Headquarters, Jesi - by Nikla Cingolani
“Biotechnology promises to be the greatest revolution in human history. By the end of this decade, we will have far surpassed nuclear power and computers in terms of the impact on our daily lives.”
The original painting by Giulia Corradetti, while maintaining solid figurative roots, invites us to enter into the mystery of an imaginary and subjective nature charged with atmosphere. In this work each element is assembled in an exclusive and surprising way, in connection with an imaginary extraneous to every cliché. The language, harmonious and ironic, is the result of a very personal synthesis between painting, graphics and installation. In front of the impeccably constructed image, despite the touch of lightness given by the small, round fruits floating in space, you feel attraction and discomfort. If on the one hand it seduces the controlled and precise execution of every detail, where the intervention of the hand is practically invisible enough to seem like a product made entirely by a machine, on the other hand it embarrasses the subjects portrayed by their being recognisable but somehow extraneous. The representation of this over-illuminated and hyper-aseptic “enchanted garden”, refers to a possible future evolution of what we today call hydroponic crops, i.e. above ground crops, where plants grow without soil. It is not a new concept if we think that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the first known example of this culture. However, the laboratory agriculture that the artist proposes to us seems more like the result of biotechnological experiments. With genetic engineering it is possible to modify the identity of an organism through DNA manipulation or by inserting so-called “recombinant” molecules into the cells of other organisms. Genetic alterations, applied to agriculture and food production, make it possible to reproduce in the laboratory new living forms known as transgenic foods, or better called GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms. Giulia Corradetti’s work depicts vegetables, a primary food, supported and combined with very white geometric structures that have nothing to do with the living world. The inclusion of genes belonging to another realm, the synthetic one, has modified their original identity creating new crossbreeds. The pumpkin in the foreground with a white peduncle, a savoy cabbage with a ball instead of leaves and the goblet of a pepper in the shape of an electric socket, are examples of this.
At this point, reflections that go beyond the food issue alone and open up new questions come into play. One wonders if the “natural vs. artificial” controversy still makes sense. And again, what does artificial mean? Is it “something made by man” or is it “something not natural”? The conception of the artificial, as a category that describes tout court everything built by man, is not sufficient to establish the boundary between the natural world, whose diversity is recognized with respect to human constructs and the set of things put in place by man with his activity of manipulation of structures or processes that he finds available around him and of which, perhaps with great effort in terms of research, he manages to capture the “regularity” on which, then, base his action. (1)
As can be deduced from the images, to define something artificial as opposed to natural is not exactly accurate. It seems instead that the artificial is united to nature with a sort of vital funiculus and cannot exist without something natural to which it refers or which it tries to reproduce.
If one day the gardens will be like this, the image of the bucolic peasant in a checked shirt and straw hat will be just a memory. The advanced level of technology within this greenhouse/laboratory environment leads to imagine farmers in white coats with latex gloves and mask, with a scalpel in hand instead of a hoe, using treadmills instead of tractors.
To see a watermelon with a flexible rubbery fibre tail, or a cabbage inside a screen, is curious but alarming. It consoles us, despite its pale appearance, the snail with its slow and cautious going. Symbol of attention, of a-growth (2), endowed with a natural wisdom (3), it is a sustainable model of life and with its antennae ready to pick up any signal, it represents a watchful sentinel that reassures us about our future..
1) Massimo Negrotti (“Artificiale. La riproduzione della natura e le sue leggi”. Laterza 2000)
2) “Degrowth is not negative growth. It would be better to speak of “growth”, just as we speak of atheism. On the other hand, it is precisely the abandonment of a faith or religion (that of the economy, progress and development). While it is now recognized that the indefinite pursuit of growth is incompatible with a finite planet, the consequences (producing less and consuming less) are far from being accepted. But if there is no reversal, an ecological and human catastrophe awaits us. We are still in time to calmly imagine a system based on another logic: that of a “degrowth society”. Serge Latouche, Breve trattato sulla decrescita serena, Ed. Bollati Boringhieri, 2008.
3) Ibidem, The Wisdom of the Snail, “The snail,” explains Ivan Illich, “builds the delicate architecture of its shell by adding spirals one after the other, then stops abruptly and begins to create diminishing circumvolutions this time. A single wider spiral would give the shell sixteen times its size. Instead of contributing to the animal’s welfare, it would overweight it. At that point, any increase in its productivity would only serve to remedy the difficulties created by a shell size in excess of the limits set by its purpose. Once the limit point of spiral enlargement is exceeded, the problems of overgrowth multiply in geometric progression, while the snail’s biological capacity can only follow an arithmetic progression at best”.