Half a Life | Timotheus Tomicek

Timotheus Tomicek, Cloud, 2018
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands

Opened on Sunday the 18th of March at SEA Foundation, a not-for-profit / artist-led organization in Tilburg of the Netherlands is a solo exhibition of Austrian artist Timotheus Tomicek curated by Eline Kersten, who is also an artist herself.

A few days prior to the opening, Riet van Gerven of the foundation told me about this project, and I was immediately intrigued by the artist's mission to combine science and art.  To truly understand and appreciate the works in the show, we should hear from the artist and the curator directly.  So we all sat down to talk about it.

Timotheus Tomicek, Half a Life, 2018
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands

CH: You are working with a very interesting idea, in the sense that you are combing ideas in science with art.  How do you reconcile these two disciplines in your work? Philosophically and physically?

Timotheus Tomicek: There was no need to reconcile these disciplines, in my point of view, I see them not only as connected but even aiming in the same direction toward the question of where things come from, where they go, and how they transform. 

CH: For those who are not familiar with the t1/2 (half-life) principle, if thought that it only being something to do with radioactive decay, how do you conceptually disintegrate it via your work?

TT: Everything has a middle and therefor another half. This is the claim of the exhibition. It can be seen spiritually, physically, and even metaphorically.

Stalactites grow very slowly, for example, while flies are moving extremely fast but they have a very short life span. The question of when the half of something has arrived or has happened, it is hard to determine especially when the extremes (that define the outside borders of the middle) are not predicable, like birth and death.  

CH: How is addressing the notion of time and space interesting to you? They are an inescapable part of life, yet one could also live obliviously as if they never exist.

TT: I see time and space like the left and right side of a brain (don’t know which one belongs to which side) and I believe they need each other to exist.  As soon as you experience the different seasons that show up each year, it is hard to assume that time doesn’t exist.

Timotheus Tomicek's latest installation
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands

CH: How important is the visual versus the conceptual?

TT: They are both of the same importance.  Exactly like"two-halves" that (in the best case) are equal in size and weight

CH: Are you happy about this solo-show?  What are you most happy about and what aspect you wish could have been better?

TT: When I realize an exhibition, I try to transform an idea (some call it concept) into reality. I don’t want my "happiness" to play a big role in this process.  So, if I'm not happy about the solo show as such, still I'm happy if somebody is inspired by the show. A solo show feels good when it truly arrives at the audience.

Timotheus Tomicek, Fickende Fliegen, 2018
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands

CH: How did you discover Timotheus Tomicek’s work?  What about it struck you at first?

Eline Kersten: This is a funny story since we met while Lindy Hop dancing in London in June 2016. Only after we finished the dance, we got into a conversation and I found out that he is an artist.  We exchanged email addresses and arranged a meeting for the next day in a bookshop, where he gave me his own artist book "Hit or Miss". Afterwards, we stayed in touch and met up at Frieze Art Fair in October that year, where we stumbled upon one of Sigmar Polke's radioactivity pieces.  This encounter marked the start of our collaboration. 

It was the humor of "Hit or Miss" that struck me at first.  His book is made with great sensitivity for graphic design, paper choice as well as the placing and documentation of the individual works.  Furthermore, the interlinking conceptual threads throughout the book immediately grabbed my attention.

CH: How did you get involved with SEA Foundation and how have you appropriated the space for this solo exhibition?

EK: I approached SEA Foundation when they launched an open call. 

Taking into the consideration that SEA Foundation used to be housed as a shop, we wanted to make use of the shop window and its interaction with the outside.  We did this by placing a work in the window that should be experienced from the street.  During the installation period we noticed that many pedestrians stopped to observe the work.  In some cases, the work has become a catalyst for dialogues with passersby.

CH: What has been the most rewarding part of organizing this project?  What has been the least enjoyable, or maybe difficult?

EK: It has been most rewarding to experiment with the installation of the exhibition in situ.  We did not plan the whole show in advance, but found out on the spot what worked and what did not.  Additionally, it was wonderful to work with an artist who challenged me as a curator to contribute with artistic input.  On the downside, having unfixed roles also brought particular difficulties, such as defining parameters for the involvement of the works and maintaining a conceptual concentration.  In that sense it was at times challenging to provide the necessary curatorial guidance.

Installation view
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands

CH: When you see it finished, is it how you had envisioned before it’s materialized?

EK: I anticipated it to end up as a different exhibition.  Because our approach was organic and process-based from the beginning, the result was never a foresight yet open ended, and the result of a collaborative experience.

CH: Is there anything else behind the title of this exhibition besides that it refers to the innate concepts of the Tomicek’s work? 

EK: The title "Half a Life" has several dimensions. With it, we try to wrap our heads around the abstract phenomenon of radioactivity. This resonates in many different forms and symbols throughout the show, such as in the “invisible” yellow cloud or in the installation "Vérité/Réalité". On a more humanistic level, "Half a Life" is also a celebration of life itself, which is shown in the HD video work "Wesel", for example. This was further highlighted by the happening of when Timotheus and his partner got pregnant and gave birth to a daughter over the time span of the preparation of this show.

Installation view
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands


CH: What’s it like working with each other? Would you say you are partners or counter-partners?

TT: Our way of working was very much like a ping-pong game.  When Eline Kersten came up with an idea, I just played the idea with another idea back to her, and something grew out of that was the result.  This felt very organic and fruitful. I see our show "Half a Life" as a collaborative project.

EK: I would say we are collaborators, in the sense that we made this exhibition together.  Timotheus challenged me to intervene in his work artistically, which put me in a very interesting position.  We oftentimes agreed, but also sometimes disagreed. The best decisions were made in crisis.

CH: Has either “time” or “space” affected both of your works (as artist and as curator) through this project? 

TT: It would be a miracle if this wasn’t the case!  Since we spent a lot of time developing "Half a Life", space did manifest itself in form of the actual exhibition at SEA Foundation!

EK: Everything has changed over the time span of our preparation- we both moved house, Timotheus back to Vienna after his residency in London and I moved to the Netherlands after graduating from the MFA in Curating at Goldsmiths University.  We also both arrived at a new stage in life, Timotheus became a father and I entered the post-graduation limbo.  Since we were geographically apart, we had to employ a new communication strategy to prepare the exhibition over distance.  to these events analogously, we developed our exhibition concept while actively considering the changing circumstances and new inputs.

Installation view
Image courtesy the artist and SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands

SEA Foundation is a Dutch not-for-profit, artist-led organization in Tilburg the Netherlands established in 2011.  Over the past few years SEA Foundation has became known as an umbrella label for solo exhibitions, art projects, exchanges and publications.  From 2013 they also run an Artist in Residence program – AiR Tilburg. This program attracts professional artists, curators and writers to residencies that include bespoke mentoring.  

All the activities in SEA Foundation is fueled by visual arts.  The team members transgress the boundaries between art disciplines and always put the context and the idea before the medium.  SEA Foundation aims to be a cultural catalyst in the working lives of art professionals.

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