The public space of contemporary cities jammed with garish advertisements and slogans reflects the fragmentation and, paradoxically, the inner emptiness this society suffers from. When was the last time you experienced absolute silence or saw a building in the city centre with no advertisements? Cheesy souvenir stands, soulless discos for tourists, mass hysteria aroused by seasonal sales, local shops making way for international chain stores…
This was a not-so-optimistic vision of our city, guiding the residency of Benjamin Tomasi, an Italian artist who explored Prague during his time here, from its beautiful and green corners to more unpleasant realities its residents are dealing with.
During his 40-day Magic Carpets residency program, an audiovisual artist currently living and working in Vienna, Benjamin Tomasi has focused on the virtual public space. In his artistic research, he reveals phenomena of fake news, misuse, and twists of the context and digital security.
Media artist Benjamin Tomasi articulates his artistic interests mainly through sonic and sculptural elements, often implementing cycles of sound, sensory data, but also concrete materials. As if mastering the art of alchemy, Tomasi controls matter of various aggregates and fuses these with digital and electronic processes, creating poetic mind games and plays with the senses. He graduated in Fine Arts at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and had spent part of his studies in Listahískóli Ísland.
The series of exhibitions with the subtitle COMPILATION OF REALITIES took place from May 24 to June 8 2019 at four locations. Through art exhibitions, experiential and educational programs, as well as one-off events, the project offered several perspectives of the interface between public and private, personal and shared space – place and mental state.
Benjamin’s idea for this exhibition was to turn a former indoor swimming pool used by soldiers into a data spa. The installation used architectural, audio, and interactive elements to transfer the visitor into an oasis of relaxation and undisturbed comfort while subversively commenting on current political and social issues such as digital security, media credibility, physical and digital waste issues, geopolitics, ecology, sustainability, and more. The exhibition project reflected the interface and reciprocity of the personal and public world, intimate and shared space.
Behind the curtain of fake news, sensationalist stories are being patched together according to opinion poll data to conceal actual events. With the advent of the dominance of rationality and progress-oriented economics, hand in hand with the privatisation of the public sector, modern cities have prioritised their practical, service-driven, and symptomatically aesthetic side over the quality of social life. For this reason, non-places of transport, consumption, and also communication, characterised by anonymity, the loss of links to physical locus, the instrumentalisation of cultural meanings, unification and depersonalisation, are proliferating.
Long, curtain-like textiles were hanging from the ceiling. They all had a different pattern in pastel colours and remind of a color field or abstract paintings functioning as room dividers. But in contrast to the painting tradition, where the color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself, the textile flags are inspired by the design of walls that were the prototypes commissioned by Trump, created for the border to Mexico. The “walls” in the swimming pool were ambivalent objects that created a more intimate situation, but through the knowledge of their origin, they also raise questions of demarcation and exclusion.
There were also 3 cassette players in the room. The visitors were invited to play the cassettes in the player to activate a 3 channel sound installation. The sounds of the installation originated from YouTube videos dealing with the phenomenon of “mysterious booms”. Furthermore, bath towels were distributed in the room. As typical accessories of spas, they were embroidered with headlines of “Semi Fake News”.
During the closing reception of the exhibition on June 6th, Viennese dancer and choreographer Claudia Tomasi performed an interactive piece together with Benjamin Tomasi. This interactive performance took place right in the exhibition area of the pool in Karlín Barracks. To treat the visitors, Claudia used craniosacral therapy in combination with contemporary dance to perfectly match the ambient sound landscape designed by Benjamin. In this way, the authors attempted to embody the ritual of liberation from the oppressive volumes of information.