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Personal exhibition of Sergey Katran «1:30»

Open From January 23, 2018 to April 20, 2018.

Opening on January 23 at 19-00

Gallery 21 at Winzavod, the Center for Contemporary Art, Moscow, 4 th Syromyatnichesky per., 1, page 6

Text by Yana Malinovskaya (read more)

Social Mycology

The Benoit Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry and parasitic tree fungi inspired Sergey Katran to dive into studying self-similarity and creating a series of sculptures “Mandelbrot’s Fungi”. Katran’s “1:30” project represents a full scale fungal network with its underground and above-ground components (fruiting body and mycelium).

The above-ground part is represented by natural objects whose forms appear familiar to every viewer. Mutant polypores stand motionless awaiting for a suitable host to carry their spores. The digital component in turn reveals a part of the system that otherwise remains obscure to a naked eye.

Two different mediums – a sculpture and a digital video – have become a single object, throwing bridges across conventional borders. The moment of fusion triggers dynamic tension, revealing the whole object and its inner workings to the viewer. The artist gives the object parasitic and fractal properties, underlining its inner strive for self-replication, invasion and domination over new territories. Relationships therefore sparkle between the system componentry as well as between the system and the environment.

Bruno Latour views social practices as a network of interconnections between different actors, which, although not necessarily being people, act and are affected by acts of the other. Latour suggests that the human/unhuman opposition can be safely ignored in favor of considering the fungus as a social body.

Examining human and natural system from a social point of view one can’t help but notice the striking similarity between parasitic behavior of the fungi and social corruption. The latter too has an above-water part that most people know from mass media scandals and social ads that encourage civic responsibility. The hidden part consists of what is concealed and silenced down: corruption schemes underpin most social interactions because nothing else works. Just like a fractal, this phenomenon spreads in between all the layers of society, self-replicating, invading and leaving no other person, community or institution behind.

The artist chose the form of a mushroom and mycelium not just to draw a line between “hidden and visible”. He presents negative social phenomena as a form of symbiotic relationship between a host and a parasite. An agent of the corrupted system becomes a host to its fungal spores. Social contamination therefore can be studied by closely inspecting relationships between some parasitic fungi systems.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects carpenter ants altering their behavior. An infected ant leaves its colony, climbs 30 cm up a tree (this height is optimal for the fungus) and affixes itself to a leaf. Then the fungus grows through the ant’s body and its fruiting body, in turn, grows out of the ant’s head. This is how ants spread fungal spores.

Septobasidium fungus has a symbiotic relationship with scale insects. The insects feed on fungal secretion and the fungus, in turn, feeds on the insects by growing through their bodies. The fungus protects scale insects against harsh environment and potential predators. Infected insects live longer than infection-free individuals, but become less agile and often infertile, their growth is dampened and they degenerate into dwarves.

For a human “social” means “safe”. Society labels all its phenomena, including negative ones, as social and associates them with human practices. A corrupted system may seem safe to its subjects. Inhuman social forms of life such as parasitic fungal systems, give us another point of view. As Latour mentions in his Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, “…To be social is no longer a safe and unproblematic property.”

Text by Vitaly Patsyukov (read more)

Mushroom-like Structure of Benoît Mandelbrot Sets and their Likeness to the Surplus Element of Kazimir Malevich

“I have come to the conclusion that much can be learned about music by devoting oneself to the mushroom.” – John Cage

“We should look at it as an unceasing transformation of a material-poetic substrate striving to preserve its wholeness and at the same time to penetrate its inner self.” – Osip Mandelstam

According to Sergei Katran’s creative coordinates the living cell, which exists in the endless processes of fractal geometry forming the very crystal of any structure, underlies his sign system and the imagery of his art objects. Consequently, his art territory, its verticals, horizontals, and its depths, are circumscribed by open borders and cross-sections in infinite progressions of the primary elements of his creative universe. Within that space everything is of equal value as in a natural organism where each cell is essential and unique. The phenomenon of hierarchy, the importance of the primary and the secondary are irrelevant in these dimensions, plastic elements are endowed with sovereignty while at the same time maintaining the same texture of the artistic matter. Compositions are born from the mutually opposing “power lines of super-personal factors” which unite the dynamics of inter-transformations of one form into another in the bordering and overlapping areas. Spatial events brought together create an effect of multi-layered and endless matter spread before the viewer, inviting tactile contact and luring one into its depths by revealing ever new horizons of spatial experience.

What then is the plot of this installation apart from the one of change, transformation, growth, evolution, and other inner qualitative states – what is the plot in the traditional, historical-philosophical aspect? The plot appears as a multi-phase happening, as a composition of a virus, as an insistent presence of the banal in the dramatic sacramentalism of our civilization. This rather aggressive image exists according to its procedural nature: from its point of departure, from its conception to final completion in tragic exudations pulsing cyclically between re-births and inevitably transformed agreements.

Sergei Katran’s artifacts invariably convey some unique and integral phenomenon existing as a vibrant duration while in its structure you always see some headwaters, a starting point, which flows towards its final phase and probably even further, if you accept the idea of a new situation “after humankind”. At the same time the artist’s personal presence within the plastic dimensions of his works and his reflections on time transition as a critical phase in the passing of the event shed light on the mechanism of the qualitative leap, the transformation of the individual and sovereign into an organic infinite wholeness which follows the laws of Benoît Mandelbrot’s fractal geometry. The self-sufficiency of the artistic space thus created and its openly fragmentary nature and decentralism are not at all contradictory, because according to the artist’s position this creative dialogue goes on within the dialectic unity of the whole and the parts, it continues, flows, and concludes with a proper name which indicates some hidden aim. All the forms of this process overlap as it were, penetrate one another, registering the states of this interpenetration and borderline shifts so that any concretization of the borders always turns out to be ambivalent, that is, as simultaneous diffusion and compression, intense concentration and fluidity. It is precisely thanks to the changeful poles between apparent restraint and actual emotionality that the artist structures his dramatic plots following the principles of fractal geometry. Within the same space of his “happenings” we are able to observe not only matter with its composition and substance but also their de-materialization whereby the materiality of the artifact cleanses its original forms revealing itself as a nano-molecule and immersing into its own subconscious. The artist’s visual philosophy is constantly variegating in his artistic constructions relying on his individual apparatus of art concepts and his own artistic logic as well as a new system of imagery which avoids the principle of “either one or the other” but adheres to the principle “both one and the other simultaneously” as if following the counterpoint of music culture.

The oppositions born in the topography of this new in principle art territory shy away from the drama of conflict and appears as harmonious couples complementing each other: organic and nonorganic, living and dead, figurative and abstract, creative and annihilative, concentrated and decentralized, ambivalent and explicit, fragmentary and whole, material and ideal. They vividly demonstrate a visualization of the thinking process and signify a transition from the poetic into objective and then back to the original design.

Mushroom community with its infinitely varied structures discovered by Sergei Katran proclaims a new model of virology underlying our civilization and connecting the geometry of Benoît Mandelbrot sets to the “surplus element” theory of Kazimir Malevich as well as being colored by the acoustic ecology of John Cage.