Urtica, art and media research group (c) 1999 and Beyond
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Urtica Medicamentum Est

Installation, Print, TV & Radio ad, CD-ROM, Website, Brochure

  • Photo doc
  • Ratioremedium
    TV ad
  • CD-ROM
    The Departments of Urtica
  • + more
  • Essay by Darko Drašković (eng)
  • Esej Darka Draškovića (srb)
  • Tekst Miška Šuvakovića (srb)
  • go to -> Andersen’s
    Fairy Tale:
    “The Wild Swans”
  • Art and Mass Media

    Social therapy of voluntary weaving or treading on stinging nettles

  • Keywords / Tags

    • Social therapy,
    • Yugoslav society,
    • War,
    • Disorder,
    • Mind-body interaction,
    • Arte Povera,
    • Advertising,
    • Logo,
    • TV and Radio,
    • Victim,
    • Behaviour,
    • Storytelling,
    • Ontological insecurity,
    • Unconscious,
    • Mass media
  • Art-Bio:

    Award of IV Yugoslav Biennial of the Youth, Vršac, Yugoslavia
    Award of The Contemporary Gallery - Pančevo at IV Yugoslav Biennial of the Youth Artists, Vršac, Yugoslavia
    Award of 28. Novosadskog salona, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    Solo Exhibitions
    “Urtica Medicamentum Est” / installation, Cultural Center Pančevo, Yugoslavia
    “Place for Two” / installation, “Dom omladine”, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
    Festivals and Group Exhibitions
    Belgrade, Yugoslavia, “Grifon”, Gallery “Grafički kolektiv”
    Budapest, Hungary, The MAMU Gallery
    Ljubljana, Slovenia, “Break 21” 5.International festival of young independent artist
    Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, “Video Medeja”, Video summit
    Portorož, Slovenia, “Golden Drum”, Advertising festival
    Vršac, Yugoslavia, “IV Yugoslav Biennial of the Young Artists”
    Belgrade, Yugoslavia, “IV Belgrade’s biennial of drawing and small plastic”, Yugoslavia
    Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, “28th October Salon” Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    CD-ROM “Urtica Medicamentum Est” / presentation, Video summit “Video Medeja”, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    Presentation of Urtica’s WEB site, Club “Izba”, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    CD-ROM “Urtica medicamentum est” / presentation, “Media Center” Belgrade, organized by independent artistic association “Remont”

The round-tour of the virtual institution Urtica is a storytelling piece that combines fiction and real life context, nettle-artworks and botanical, ethnological and healing facts about the nettles. The Departments of Urtica are listed below.

“With a little trouble, the nettle would be useful; if it is neglected, and becomes harmful.” Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

The Botanical Department

The nettle family consists of about 700 species in 45 genera. The stems and leaves of many species, especially nettles (Urtica) and Australian trees (Laportea), are covered by stinging hairs. The thin membrane under the tip of the stinging hair breaks on slight contact, allowing the formic acid, acetylcholine, and histamine to penetrate the aggressor’s flesh. The absorbed substance causes irritation to the skin, which is manifested by painful inflammation and numbness. Among the strongest organic acids is formic acid, which produces blisters on the surface of the skin. In mammals, histamine affects smooth musculature of blood vessels in the bronchi, intestines and womb, causing contractions and intensifying the secretion of some glands. The compounds that create the stinging sensation are: histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, and an unknown substance that causes pain.

The most common species among the Urtica genera is Urtica dioica, which produces irritation that may last for hours. Fatalities have been reported from contact with stinging hairs of Urtica ferox and some species of Dendrocnide and Laportea.

The Archeological Department

In the area of Zrenjanin, in the foundations of a family house, there have been found two earthen sarcophaguses very primitively made. The sarcophaguses are relatively well preserved, although cracks started to appear in the sunlight after excavation. The analysis of the clay in which the sarcophaguses were covered has shown that it was taken from depth of approximately 3 m, which was the depth of the trenches existing in the area in May 1999; consequently, the year 1999 AD can be taken as the year of their origin. Inside the sarcophaguses two perfectly preserved nettle weaves of unknown purpose were found. No remains of human bodies were found. On the basis of previously determined facts and the inscription MEMENTO MORI, remember death, it is presumed that the object had an artistic function.

After the examination and taking photographs of the area, the sarcophaguses were dismantled and together with the weaves taken to the National Museum in Zrenjanin.

The Geodetic Department

During the precise determination of the position of the two nettle beds, two openings were spotted in the wall. This sudden phenomenon known as a hole has made it possible for the line to cross through the other line (coordinates being on the dimensional plane), so the angle distance of the bed was 20º 28’ to the north from the equator, and its east angle distance was 44º 48’ from the starting meridian.

The expert team took photographs of this unusual phenomenon and set the board with the name of the spot “Place for two” and with the coordinates of the location (Belgrade, at the absolute altitude of 132 m, latitude 20º 28’, longitude 44º 48’)

The Ethnological Department

The weaving of nettle shirts has not been known in ethnological practice so far. A shirt and a blouse, found in a family house of Braca Fikov in Zrenjanin in September 1999 AD are the only samples of this kind. By scientific expertise it was determined that the stems of the full-blown plant, more than 50 cm long, with 6-10 % of the fibers resembling flax in their structure, were woven into the cotton weft. Because of the belief in its great magical power, people use nettle as Lebensrute, stem of life, as a protection from illness, witchcraft, spells and thunder. The shirt is also a strong talisman protecting from spells, demons, ghosts and death. A good illustration of this was the outbreak of plague in Kragujevac (the capital of that time) in 1873 AD; in the dead of night, nine naked old women wove a shirt, through which passed the Serbian ruler, prince Miloš, his family and all the soldiers, in order to protect themselves from the plague. On the basis of the rich ethnological material concerning the purpose of nettle and the shirt, it can be concluded that the shirts woven out of nettles were used in witchcraft as a protection from ill fate.

The Gastrosophical Department

According to the gastrosophical department Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a plant of high nutritional value. It contains chlorophyll (2-5 %), salt (15-20 %), vitamins C and K, carotene, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. It can be used raw, boiled or dried for winter. Even the gourmets of ancient Egypt enjoyed the controversy of its taste. The most appreciated are the tips of the plant and green juicy leaves picked during fine, sunny weather after dew. A real délicatesse is Salade de ortie, the perfection of good taste combined with maximum nutritional value. Fresh picked leaves are left over night in order to reduce the potency of the sting, then they are chopped, spiced and served with Serviette de ortie. The antagonism of the achieved balance and the latent threat makes this spécialité an almost erotic contemplative experience, so bon appétit!

The Rehabilitative Department

On June 25th 2000, between 2 and 2:30 pm, a team from the revitalization department were in the park of the high school of mechanical engineering (38 Blvd Kralj Petar) in Novi Sad where they were making a documentary photographic entry on the nettle-treading therapy. After finishing the task, the team went towards an apartment block (36 Blvd Kralj Petar), where they spotted a motionless human body. On the spot there were two male persons, but there were no witnesses to the accident. The ambulance, as well as the team from the rehabilitative department, arrived too late. As the investigation showed later, the body fell down from the eighth floor bouncing off nearby garage, causing a fracture to the spine, and then further contact with the ground made the chest rupture and the internal organs spill all around. A wallet with an ID and a library membership card was found in the pocket of the deceased. The deceased was 20 years old. According to statistics, in Serbia during the period from 1945 to 1999, the largest number of deaths, the smallest number of births and the largest number of suicides were recorded in 1999. Data processing for the year 2000 is still in progress.