Hugo Baranger: WHERE 2+2=5

Exhibition opening: December 20, 2023, at 19:00 PM
Duration: December 20 – January 20, 2024

Gallery hours > Tue-Fri: 2:00 PM – 8:00 PM / Sat: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Where 2+2=5 is an evolving (and in progress) sound installation using moss as an electrical and sound generator device. The evolving sound composition is based on the games of the chess player Mikhail Tal as raw material for musical scores.

Mikhail Tal, a Latvian chess player was nicknamed the Magitian of Riga. This nickname comes from the, for that time, unusual tactics based on the attack; he dared any sacrifice, even the riskiest ones, and he favoured his intuition over the long calculations typical of chess. The popularity of his games is testimony to Tal’s imagination and intriguing way of playing. Namely, of all chess masters and grandmasters significant between the 1950s and 1980s, his games were the most represented in renowned publications.

Hugo Baranger finds the starting point of his work in Tale’s famous quote paraphrasing George Orwell’s 1984: “You must lead your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5 and the path leading to the exit is only wide enough for one.”. The symbolism of this vision brings the artist back to his childhood and the green French countryside in the Marais Poitevin area (also known as Green Venice) where vegetation defines life. The artist embodies Tal’s tactics and translates the symbolism into a green environment of an eternally adaptable nature. As one of the archetypes of vegetation resistance, he takes mosses, which become the base of the installation. In forests, mosses play a valuable role: they clean the air and help to fix, protect and create soil. They are also important in many processes of ecosystem revitalization, such as forest restoration after a fire. In the words of Mircea Eliada: «Vegetation embodies the reality that is alive, that creates without drying up, that regenerates». Moss is a perfect example of a renewal process due to its characteristic dormant state during drought which is easily reversible with sufficient hydration. To translate the insights of the Magician of Riga into sound, the artist gathered different mosses and used their photosynthesis to generate electricity and modulate audio signals through this voltage. Thanks to the collaboration with Tin Dožić, he designed biofuel cells to store and use the electricity generated during moss photosynthesis. This electric current is also used via the software Pure Data to modulate the compositions resulting from Tal’s games (harmonies, scale changes, score changes, etc.).

By connecting the seemingly at variance with: moss and chess, Baranger unravels the magical dimensions of the human competitive game and the stoic resilience of nature. Tal’s “Immortal Games” which changed the history of chess and became part of the canon, are translated into elaborate soundtracks created by using the electrical voltage of different types of mosses in the natural process of photosynthesis. In that way Baranger constructs a living experiment that, like a chess game or life, in its amplitudes, invites for play, creation and permanent movement forward.

Hugo Baranger, born in 1992 in Niort, grew up in the heart of the Green Venice (Marais Poitevin, France). His creative starting points are the colors, the winter fog, and the landscapes of this region. He was diagnosed with poor vision combined with strong astigmatism and hypermetropia at the age of 5. These visual challenges shaped his perception of the world as a place of uncertain outlines and diffused focuses. He graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Angoulême in 2016, and since October 2022, he has been living and working in Zagreb.

Many thanks to Ph.D. Antun Allegro and Ph.D. Dubravka Sandev and the Zagreb Botanical Garden for advice, help and permission to collect mosses. Thanks to Tin Dožić for his continuous cooperation in all stages of the work and his inexhaustible knowledge, will and persistence in the creation process. Thanks to Matej Pavlinić for experimenting with mosses and simultaneously translating theory into practice.

Curator: Maja Pavlinić
Producer: Tea Matanović
Collaborator: Tin Dožić
Advisors: Ph.D. Antun Allegro, Ph.D. Dubravka Sandev, Botanical Garden Zagreb, Matej Pavlinić
Jury of the Tvornica 2023 competition: Ana Bedenko, Barbara Gregov, Tea Matanović, Maja Pavlinić, Sara Salamon, Branimir Štivić
Photo: Dora Fodor

Tvornica 2023 program is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Media and the City Office for Culture and Civil Society of the City of Zagreb. The work of GMK is supported by the Kultura nova Foundation.