Instagram Facebook


Á D Á M  U L B E R T

S P I R I T U S  B E S T I A E  F A B E R

0 9 . 0 9. 2 0 1 4.  -  1 0 . 1 7 . 2 0 1 4 .

Ádám Ulbert is an artist living in Amsterdam. The most striking about his second solo exhibition in Trapéz is that however he is known for his video sequences and installations with an alchemist background, paintings appear amongst his mediums, that are mainly mediators, connecting elements between two phenomenons – in this case between sculpture and video. He uses the paintings to get to the industrial objects and videos as all three of these are basically about the same thing: the human presence and its transformations.

He doesn't approach painting from a formalist point of view, nor researching the opportunities in representation. While formalism asks “How?”, Ulbert starts off with a theory and finds the most suitable medium to go with it. Art for him is an abstract machine, the goal is to construct not to represent. The paintings are usually inspired by some sort of folklore patterns, but the abstract elements can't be identified with anything specific. The concepts of the pictures are mysterious and associative, they can't be clearly defined, they are ephemeral and constant at the same time, they have just started to aim at something, they have just stopped being nothing. The paintings capture a moment when specific elements contribute to a bigger happening as an effect of something. That is why Ulbert rather calls them algorithms. The paintings are instructions for a process, series of building components that step out from the space of the image and speak out into the moulded sculptures.

In his artistic practices he is researching fields that can't be separated, where the narratives believed to be coherent can be divided and complemented with partially fictive stories. He tries to find and examine the cracks where the so-called “modernist border regimes” (Bruno Latour) don't function anymore. According to Bruno Latour, separation is one of the main characteristics of modernism. In Latour's opinion, one of the important separating attempts of modernism in a broad sense (from the Enlightenment to the changes in 1968) was trying to isolate nature from culture. And not only detach them from each other, but also fabricate an objectified image with sense, and banish the domain of the hard to define to the land of the non-normal. It did it in a way – partially unsuccessfully – that delivered constructions with self-contradiction.

While Ulbert used the practice of alchemy along the logic of the middle ages in his last exhibition, where there was an analogy between everything, with the artworks exhibited now he is searching for the symptoms of the non-separable and drawing a map from the threads of hybridity. However his works are understood mainly in the terrain of human, he tries to make inside out empathic relationships with other entities, to create a navigable dialogue between systems that believed to be different from each other. With this exhibition, which is the debut of a new series, he examines the animal-human-machine triple. He tries to do this in a way that the specific elements will hopefully imbue each other over and over again by a circularity that is always returning to itself. In this interplay the domains of the human-animal-machine is not only arise from each other but also redefine one another.

He is trying to point out the intricate human activities with the algorithms and the sculptures made out of plastic bowls. As Philip Guston – who is really important to him – phrased it: “Painting and sculpture are very archaic forms. It's the only thing left in our industrial society where an individual alone can make something with not just his own hands, but brains, imagination, heart maybe.”

There is one thing that the technologically created plastic object, that believed to be alienated from our world, has in common with the man-made painting: the common spirit. In this case, it is the spirit of the tool using animal, that was hunted by the Paleolithic human and after modernism it reborn with a transubstantiation, instead of the spirit of the tool using human. This is the spirit that fuels processes and obsesses the painter and the machine at the same time, but also acts as an inspiration to create the machine. The spirit is invisible, it travels through the cables and can be evoked with hollow objects

Ádám Ulbert was born in 1984 in Budapest. He is currently living and working in Amsterdam. He was a film and cultural anthropology major at the Eötvös Loránd University, and he also finished a BA course at the Moholy- Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest. He graduated from the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam in 2014. He showcased his works at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv (2012), in the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin (2012) and in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb (2014) among others.


Special thanks to André Havas, Sarah Jones, Géza Tóth, Gyula Balázs Ay and Diego Tonus for their contribution.