Dom mladih Split

Vice Tomasović: Spiritual Practice

Vice Tomasović graduated in Visual Art from the Split Art Academy in 2009. He is the founder and director of the Almissa Open Art Festival of contemporary art in Omiš. He is also director and head of exhibition programming of the Croatian Association of Fine Artists Split. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions, art festivals and events as a visual artist, organizer and curator. His artistic expression is linked to the medium of painting, installation and performance. He has received several awards as an artist.

There is a long-known practice of intertwining visual art with ancient knowledge and mystical rites. The origins of art are related to ritual; the phenomenon of the visual artist as shaman is an inevitable experience of contemporary art… However, in recent years artists have shown a noticeable interest in spiritual spheres. Jeremy Shaw and Ernesto Neto are just some of the successful artists who work with exceptional sensory experiences or altered states of consciousness. There are also well-established artists, such as Marina Abramović, who have always believed in the link of art and spirituality, and in Abramović’s newer performances, she, without hesitation, introduces the public to various forms of meditation. Interest in higher states of consciousness and in different kinds of knowledge is considered by many to be a universal human need. Today this interest is especially current, and not only in art. Vice Tomasović, however, is seriously approaching some of the fundamental doctrines and methods of alternative teaching, such as the homeopathic dilution principle and the memory of water, the movement and transformation of orgon energy, the theory of the vibration of morphogenetic fields, a method of spiritual healing, the principle of sacred geometry…

Through the set-up of his installations, the artist, in a cold tone, studiously researches the mechanisms with which various spiritual teaching and wellbeing practices address the public. He recognizes their tendency to use scientific terms, analytical explanations, extensive factual constructions, confidence in the character of the teacher/guru … Sometimes it is enough just to change the name of a method, or subsume it under a similar, wider term, in order to treat it with more confidence (lithotherapy sounds more serious than thinking about treatment by crystal, epigenetics is better than the energy of thoughts…). Alternative teaching is often based on principles originated by scientists or scientific heretics (the biologist Rupert Sheldrake is the creator of morphic field theory; we owe the name of orgon energy to Wilhelm Reich); some of it was even taught by artists (→ Leonardo da Vinci, sacred geometry)… However, all of this is on the order of scientifically unfounded theories and knowledge. Today, some methods of alternative healing have fought for a position on the side of legitimate, so-called complementary medical practices. The paradox is that at first they were accepted as an alternative to expensive medical treatment and pharmaceutical domination, while today they have become part of an expanding industry. In descriptions of their effectiveness, a lack of adverse side-effects seems to be a key element (!). It is precisely the contemporary phenomenon of the social acceptance of various alternative teachings and knowledge, as well as a spreading interest in them, that is the main theme of the artist’s work.

In the construction of the artwork the artist applies a vocabulary identical to the world of the so-called spiritual industries. He adopts the rules of the game and delves into specific knowledge and information, demonstrating his own research through graphs and exhibits; he creates collections and new products such as the morphogenic enhancement of Split as an energy entity. The world that is presented in the artist’s practice strives not to be a distant, fantasy world of strange alternatives. The artist’s discourse goes a step further and wants to convince the observer of the authenticity of the presented techniques as part of his own spiritual practice, which is in keeping with the concept of the mockumentary as an artform and the structure of transmedial narration. Spreading stories across other media platforms targets the credibility of the fictional line, adapting to different communication channels as well as the game of pretending that the story is reality. In the construction of his world of alternatives, the artist simultaneously uses gallery design, advertising, social networks… In addition to creating the character of a guru on Instagram, and advertising the products and services of an institute, Tomasović plays with the role of the gallery space in the veracity of his theme, encouraging us to think about on what we base our trust in knowledge offered to us, and which sources we believe. Is this because we are offered information from media service platforms and social networks, or is it about artwork as part of a museum collection or a gallery setup? Additional credibility of the exhibition concept is also created by the previous opus of the artist, in which philosophical and ethical themes have an important place. In a consistently developed thread in his own work, Tomasović not only points out problems that lie in ourselves, but also those in different power structures (whether it is market mechanisms and social networks or the value systems of institutions and the media) that have succeeded in producing a wide offering of products by aiming at our tendencies and different interests. So, before many have become aware of their own needs, the number of consumers has grown. We hope without any damaging side-effects.

Jasna Gluić

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