The tree – in the Judaeo-Christian tradition it is symbolical of divinity and paradise, but also Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Obiekt numer 52 (Object number 52) is a tree suspended in a moment of disintegration. It is shown with an exaggerated root, reminiscent of the Alruna – the German term for mandrake root. In the Middle Ages and after, the visibly swollen, gnarled root of the mandrake, humanoid in shape, was considered a magical item. It was most often sought beneath the gallows, where the falling body parts of those hanged would provide the mandrake sustenance for growth. It was believed that the Alruna was created out the soil of paradise as the template for man. It did not please the Lord, however, and thus was discarded. The Alruna is an inextricable symbol of the devil and people who dabble in black magic. It is also considered a symbol of insanity. Object number 52 is a hybrid of divergent symbols (the tree and the root) which from the standpoint of biology are inexorably bound. By distorting the proportions, deforming and using an uncharacteristic material, the artist asks the question about the fluidity of symbolism and the meanings of belief systems present in culture. By creating an artificial construct, Jastrzębska becomes the “anti-creator”. She builds a sinister version of the so-called ‘Lucky Bamboo’. Seemingly dead, yet placed in protective glass it becomes a precious, if unnatural, amulet.

How has this been made?

Bitumix is based on a bitumen and glue mixture. It is a formula devised by Jastrzębska herself. She has been working with Bitumix since 2012. Great care must be taken when working with Bitumix. The airways and skin must be protected, because exposure to the components of the mixture can cause both burns and frostbite, as well as lead to a miscarriage. Bitumix is layered upon a form composed mostly of plaster mesh and gypsum. It is then modelled, reinforced and secured. Depending on the scale of the piece, it is a process that takes at least several weeks. Bitumix can be matte, gloss, rough or smooth. It can bloat or drip. It can be used to work on pieces ranging from small to large, as in the case of Object Number 52.