The representation of nature has for long interested artists (just think of the landscape genre), and was always coupled with a reflection on the relation between humans and nature. Since the 18th century it is also clear who has the upper hand in this relation: nature is the object which is transformed through the conceptual or emotional reflection of the subject (the artist). Contemporary art and the Herbarium exhibition goes beyond this and questions the nature-culture divide. Nature here is not merely a model, an object, a representational symbol. The emphasis shifts to the process, contemplation, the aestetics of being with nature, an the importance on non-human agents.
To undo the nature-culture divide, as well as to criticize the questionable essentialist understanding of nature and natural, Bruno Latour gave us the term Nat/Cul. Ever since the biblic creation myth, humans never ceesed to assume responsibility towards taming nature. We tend to think of ourselves as beyond nature, distinguished by what is called Culture. Nature is the Other, the Wild, something that needs to be scientifically observed and analysed.
According to Latour, „we have never been modern“ in this sense, our world is full of hybrids, that is Nat/Cul. Such is the work of Péter Mátyási shown in the Herbarium exhibition. The artist is turning nature into culture, plants into art objects, while exploring the consequences of feralization on a piece of tamed nature as a result of the lack of human activity. With laborious effort, the artist is transponing and giving new meaning to the wild shoots of his father´s garden, left without the gardener´s care after his passing away. In the process artworks are created, whose authorship the artist shares with others: his father, the plants, folk traditions, and the moth that decorated the wine leaves. Attention naturally shifts to the relationship between nature and the artist (culture), where the comtemplation of nature and the enjoyment of the gardener´s work is also felt. The primary activity and personal work of the artist, cleaning up the rewidened garden, becomes visible in the exhibition through the organic matter carved out by the retaming activity. This matter is often like a pathography: we can see parts of dead fruit trees, collections of sick and fallen leaves, which gain new meaning and become socio-natural objects and subjects (Nat/Cul) in an installation informed by the surreal touch of the cabinet of curiosities, forming a heterotopia in the foucaulian sense.
/Virág Major, curator/