Review: NATURalia: Collections Without Borders

The French project collective FRAC gets back to nature, at Futura

One of the Czech Republic's largest non-profit galleries, Futura, is currently hosting an exhibition organized together with the French project collective FRAC (Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain). The intention of this collective is to promote contemporary French art through "entirely new, original, unconventional" thematic explorations.

The current exhibit, although not unconventional in any sense, does present some notable pieces. The intent of the show is to guide the viewer through our contemporary relationship with nature and remind us that nature is often just a convenient human construction and no longer an independent entity. The theme of the show fits very well in the spacious Futura gallery, the pungent odor of decomposition and mold fills the winding passages, graced by vines and multiple nooks that give the gallery its unique atmosphere.

Some of the more notable pieces in the show are Thomas Grünfeld's hybrid taxidermy creation, from his Misfits series; Anne Ferrer's large-scale suggestive fabrication, Fleur Accordion; Hubert Duprat's surprisingly sophisticated biological and philosophical collaboration with the Caddis worms in his precious encasing, Seven Stages of Trichoptera Larvus; Pascale Bernier's ironic record of the "savage murder" of several plants and flowers in his video Flower Serial Killer; and two poignantly minimalistic photographs by Elina Brotherus, entitled Low Horizon 2 and Very Low Horizon 3.

Taking in the show as a whole, you can't fail to recognize a (unintended?) strain that pays homage to the historical cabinet of curiosities. Some of the artists in the show, Duprat and Grünfeld for example, reflect the ideologies of the cabinet in their oeuvre, questioning the tenuous link between kitsch and functionality, and reality and disbelief. In keeping with the theme of the show, these artists display a fascination with working in conjunction with nature to either admonish or delight the viewer and present contemporary society's indifference to the natural world and the consequences of this attitude.

Futura's mandate is making contemporary art more accessible and aims at reaching a larger audience, both locally and internationally. Curators and artists are invited to submit proposals for shows and their bilingual website (in Czech and English) welcomes all to their space to experience contemporary art in a comfortable environment. Even if perusing galleries isn't your idea of a weekend well spent, I recommend taking a break from the ordinary and checking out Futura's distinctive space to draw some conclusions of your own and, perhaps, engage in a discussion with the staff about your view of contemporary art.

• NATURalia runs at Futura until February 13th, 2006

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