Oto Hudec – We Are All Carbon


11/10 – 1/11/2019

Anyone can be a green activist today, and quite possibly that is what we all want – especially if we want to save our children’s future. The climate catastrophe nipping at our heels has awakened our environmental activism, which many people are using to promote their own personal agenda. And for some, it doesn’t matter one way or the other – even if our planet were to be brown, not blue. 

I recently came across a green joke: A discussion between two people. One dreams of nature, and the other says how much he misses looking up at the starry sky and breathing fresh air. The final panel shows that both are artificial beings, and neither has ever had any direct experience with nature. I go online, and the first article I see says, “Czech government to pay people to plant trees.” Capitalism finds a way of sneaking into everything. 

All this is crowned by the fact that some high school students believe that Greta is a millionaire who likes spending other people’s money. And that she’s mentally impaired on top of it all, but that it’s all swept under the rug. Which rug, however? At times like this, people must find their way through various truths.

Perhaps we are facing an entirely new era. By fulfilling various demands, capitalism is eating away at itself. As a system, it is dependent on the complete disappearance of the concept of natural materials… and on how to again (or finally?) turn people into production lines. We must be critical: How will we actually manage to imagine limited capital? And what about fossil fuels? It looks like we may have to write a new manifesto, although in my view the real problem is that we need a new system. 

The exhibition by Slovak artist Oto Hudec comments on precisely these issues. Sometimes he is poetic and willing to admit that people are a part of nature, and that neither can be ignored completely. And yet, a close study of Hudec’s artistic creations reveals that, although his work may seem romantic and ephemeral, he sticks a knife into the viewer’s back. And so, we find ourselves slowly and gradually dying. His video on the subject of water is not a stroll with Caspar David Friedrich or Karel Hynek Mácha, but a sophisticated reference to the disappearance and evaporation of water from a mountain glacier. Nor does Hudec pull his punches in his other works. Like an activist, he calls attention to the time-worn issue of mining, no matter whether it is for coal or cobalt. And the fact that some people feel that they are doing more than others is perhaps a reference to artistic production, which also has its dark side. But not everybody can live in the woods like Henry David Thoreau. It wouldn’t make a difference anyway. I shall conclude with an open question by citing Karen Barad. 

“Matter and meaning are not separate elements. They are inextricably fused together, and no event, no matter how energetic, can tear them asunder. Even atoms, whose very name, atomos, means ‘indivisible’ or ‘uncuttable,’ can be broken apart. But matter and meaning cannot be dissociated, not by chemical processing, or centrifuge, or nuclear blast. Mattering is simultaneously a matter of substance and significance, most evidently perhaps when it is the nature of matter that is in question, when the smallest parts of matter are found to be capable of exploding deeply entrenched ideas and large cities. Perhaps this is why contemporary physics makes the inescapable entanglement of matters of being, knowing, and doing, of ontology, epistemology, and ethics, of fact and value, so tangible, so poignant.” 

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway:
Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, 2007.

curated by Tereza Záchová