Tibor Gyenis creates disturbing, photographic images of large-scale and highly complex cultural systems, or more precisely ecosystems. His work almost always shows hybrid formations and transitional phenomena that straddle the boundaries between human and non-human (animal, plant, inorganic) life forms. The living and inanimate components of the ecosystems he photographs (small town street, forest landscape, laboratory, construction site) are arranged into strange and unusual forms. Flower boxes, gene tubes, industrial waste and consumer goods do some very surprising things in the pictures, arranging themselves in patterns that suggest the workings of an advanced, not (necessarily) human intelligence. Or, at least, they create this kind of illusion in the viewer through the use of various methods of creating objects and images of a fine-art nature.
In this prosaic and down-to-earth register, Gyenis’s artistic actions and photographs reflect on technological, political, ethical and epistemological issues such as cloning, genetic manipulation, plastic surgery, or even pollution and environmental disasters. These problems are themselves hybrid problems, and are the result of a mix of different real (physical, biological) and symbolic (scientific, political, cultural) systems. Speaking of systems, it is almost inevitable to declare the computer age. Digital code and artificial intelligence (from the Turing test onwards), hardware and software, not only play a dominant role in science and technology (from combat to entertainment), but also have a metaphorical and fundamental influence on human thinking.
Science research and the technical picture are of course separate but inseparable systems. The fundamental aim of both systems is to understand and represent reality, in a word, to represent it. Hence, the image age is almost as common a slogan in describing culture today as the information society or globalisation. Moreover, in all three areas, there are strong indications that, contrary to all rumours to the contrary, the information, representation and political systems are far from perfect. And they are not perfect not only because they cannot fully describe and represent reality, but also because if organic matter is introduced into a mechanical system, it will eventually break down. Error, mistakes and incompleteness are an organic part of systems, and arise above all from the difficulty that mechanics and logic have in coping with hybrid systems containing different components (living and non-living).
However, the error usually only occurs in borderline cases! Tibor Gyenis creates and photographically captures just such borderline cases, transitional situations, hybrid states. As a result, his works are similar to computer error messages (system error), not so much offering answers as asking questions. Why are waste and food arranged in decorative, geometric shapes? What does it mean when our genetically modified plants produce unexpected things? Or is it when we use our genetic knowledge to modify ourselves? And how do we react when our aesthetically designed, ergonomic utensils arrange themselves into unusual shapes? Or when it turns out that human intelligence and culture are merely the result of an experiment gone wrong? What is it all about then? A system failure? A mutation? Or simply evolution?