BÁZIS, Cluj: An organic cyberpunk – Gaál József

An organic cyberpunk – Gaál József

BÁZIS – contemporary art space Cluj-Napoca

opening: 26 october , 2012, h: 19.00

address: Fabrica de Pensule, 59-61 Henri Barbusse st., 1st floor, Cluj-Napoca

An organic cyberpunk – Gaál József’s phantasm

To keep within the bounds of human condition or to give up everything related to it, passing through a dehumanization process, and facing the transformational processes of abandoning the self proposed by the globalization era, in which the nature of human identity and uniqueness becomes questionable? The dialectic of the art of Gaál József, especially as it can be intuited in his sculptures, is dealing with a permanent dilemma, that of the being forced to move back and forth in between those two completely opposite states of mind. Beginning with 1995, the dawn of his art work series, his art went through various and relevant transformations.

These transformations were of a formal nature, but the message has been kept identical, at least from a technical point of view, as seen in the sensitive art works of the Macula series (1995), evoking some mummified heads, and yet again seen in the brutal monumentality of the torsos from the Phantasma series (2011) – the conception frame, the sculptures’ origin: the interior parts are  made of wood, the surface of leather and nails, and recently – to emphasize the plastic art message – metal wire and bits.

The artist chose to never use synthetic materials; his option for certain types of materials is concerned with the inner message these materials bear in themselves, of their historical and narrative infinite possibilities; the implants on the sculptures’ surface originate in the props from a past era and in common household objects, belonging to another social class (see trappings, etc.).

Replacing the past archetypes, Gaál’s new sculptures are envisaging a futurist dual being – a cyborg, half robot, half human being. The human being, who lives under the spell of prosthesis, who almost religiously mystifies the standard beauty ideals, who is at the same time trapped into the very active nature of a hedonist consumerism attitude, fighting with the interferences concerned with his identity, this conflicted human being is confronted with an auto-reflexive process by these sculptures integrated into a transhumanistic apprehension.

Through his sculptures, Gaál József is addressing, maybe for the first time, an ethical matter: what could be the consequences of humanity's wish to accede to a post-human condition, in which mental and physical borders would be abolished? To what extent could the transformation of the individual into a superhuman devoid of feelings could be plausible, when old age, disease, death – and actually even life itself do not matter any more?

The grinning, brutal, utterly fractured faces, imprisoned in chumps, they could be considered the failures of humanistic renascentist utopia and of 20th century’s cynicism. At this point, the question that arises naturally would be: are Gaál József’s sculptures series stating the damnation of the machineries, originating their statement into technophobia (some sort of BioLuddism) or are they  the manifestation of a 21st century cyberpunk gesture creating its own satirical transhuman world. Both attitudes could be validated, if we take into account that these human-robots chimeras are made of organic materials, claiming their right to an identity, but at the same time these art works could be seen as a manifestation of  contemporary’ intellectual eclecticism.

Noémi Szabó, curator, art historian (Budapest)                                    

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