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The Opening Response: Tomas Silgalis

The Opening Response titles a special series of interviews with artists, curators, writers, composers, mediators, and space-makers around the world. Dialoguing within and around the thematics which have rapidly emerged as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we offer within this frame a differentiated, honest, and beautiful bid at understanding. Weekly, distinct doors are opened into the lives of the contributors; into their experiences dawning on pleasure, productivity, metaphysics, and paradigmatic shifts. Hopefully, these conversations can act as way-posts and lead to furthered empathy, unison, and co-creation. The Opening Response meets the need for weaving the autonomy of a web of conscious communications in times of extreme perplexity.

Tomas Silgalis is a mutlidisciplinary artist and founder of nonterritorial. Born 1978 (Vilnius, Lithuania), lives and works in Rome.

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Josseline Black – In your recent work, Climate Exchange, at Piazza Colonna, Rome, you intervened with text, image, and projection. What is your position on intervention in public space vs. intervention in bureaucratic space?

Tomas Silgalis – The truth is that both are the same. Bureaucrats managed to inject formalism into public space on a large scale through mass media, screen manipulation, and take control of everything public. The public is under a deep state of hypnosis, so they became bureaucrats or the adopters of such a mode. For example, Piazza Colonna is protected by guards, why? Why and what some prime ministers afraid of? Why does he need 45 bodyguards? Authentic individuals who are still able to process what’s happening, and are active thinkers are dangerous today. And there are very few authentic individuals left, who try to resist all the aspects of formalism, attacks of monsters of wealth with their agendas. Any independent or autonomous action is a rarity. So public = bureaucratic, in my view today. This means there are almost no more unexpected, very few surprises. Everything is expected.

JB – In your text about the work you describe “cosmological coordinates” as a way of locating the artwork, can you share more about this kind of address?

TS – “Cosmological coordinates”

The address is where there is no human. So it’s a non-human location. Metaphysical humility is an irreplaceable advantage of non-human against the human – it’s a cosmic aristocracy. Nowadays, humans are trying to accomplish the mission – to confront the cosmos. Why?

JB – How would you describe your process of generating text and image in your work? What are the synchronous and a-synchronous timelines for generating this material?

TS – All in parallel. The image in this case is an excel spreadsheet. Conceived as a lens, or membrane through which people are seeing the world, and each other. And then this unfolded into multiple layers of what kind of life is inside this spreadsheet. And what is being generated there. The text part of the exhibition is the Collection of Titles. Some of the titles are the other interconnected artwork, some of them are synthetic articulations. Each title lives, or can live in the spreadsheet, and is part of our contemporary reality. They can be understood as fragments of life, or episodes, or summaries.

JB – Artist as researcher, artist as public servant, artist as place. How do you identify?

TS – Artist as a special agent.

JB – What are your plans for future installations of Climate Exchange?

TS – The exhibition will unfold in multiple locations, involving other participants. Lisbon is the next location, also there are some invitations to host from Japan and other locations.

JB – In the past year and a half of isolation, have your practices in terms of engaging with social media changed?

TS – Social networks today, as we know them, are very dangerous also fully censored. For many reasons. For example, why someone would decide to look at the blue colour screen, with abbreviated messages, instead of looking at the tree, the river, the sky, or the other. Why people decide to exchange their lifetime or the big part of it to the social networks. On top of that, they donate their data to some suspected man. My views on social networks got sharper. I think it’s urgent to close them, and re-think this topic from scratch. I see the deep anomaly, a deep relational crisis between people, a deep decline of emotional intelligence, and the disappearance of intuition.

It’s a dramatic situation, which leads to uniformed relationships and represents a lost battle against the techno zombies. On top of everything, it’s all censored by private individuals with interests in something really ‘unknown’.

JB – You wrote that “culture is, today, as in the past generally reducible to never-ending fashion statements”. Can you elaborate on this idea?

TS – It is about the commodification of culture to the highest degree possible. Almost all culture today is represented by a price tag or is simply pornographic. So in most cases, it became just a fashion statement, and nothing more than that.

JB – Finally, what is your relationship to solidarity and catastrophe?

TS – Solidarity is badly needed, but solidarity can exist only amongst like-minded individuals, who share the same degree of values. I don’t feel the sense of unity, or “we are in this together”. The sense of commonness or belonging is gone, due to the same transactional landscape. So the idea of solidarity is the past. Catastrophe – I think we live in the post-catastrophe phase, and not in an upcoming one. The catastrophe already happened. The human lost against the power of techno-zombies. The final sunset already passed. Now the only a naive idiot or a cosmic homeless who still dreams, who still holds poetic intention, can still hope to discover a new sunset, a new light, but it’s unlikely.

Josseline Black-Barnett is a contemporary curator, writer, and researcher. She holds an M.A. in time-based media from the Kunst Universität Linz and a B.A. in Anthropology (specialization Cotsen Institute of Archaeology) from the University of California Los Angeles. She operated for five years as in-house curator of the international artistic residency program at the Atelierhaus Salzamt (Austria) wherein she had the privilege of working closely with a number of brilliant artists. Included in her duties within the institution she allocated and directed the Salzamt hosting of the E.U. CreArt mobility for artists program. As a writer, she has reviewed exhibitions and co-edited texts for Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado, Portugal, Madre Museum Naples, the Museums Quartier Vienna, MUMOK, Guimarães Gallery, Gallery Michaela Stock. She is regular theoretical contributor to the Contemporary Art Magazine Droste Effect. In addition, she has published with Interartive Malta, OnMaps Tirana, Albania, and L.A.C.E (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). In tandem to her curatorial practice and writing, she has for the past decade used choreography as a research tool inquiring into the ontology of the performing body with a focus on embodied cartographies of public memory and space. She has held research residencies at the East Ugandan Arts Trust, the Centrum Kultury w Lublinie, the University of Arts Tirana Albania, and the Upper Austrian Architectural Forum. It is her privilege to continue developing her approach to curatorship which derives from an anthropological reading of art production and an ethnological dialectic in working with cultural content generated by art makers. Currently, she is developing the methodology which supports the foundation of a performance-based trans-disciplinary platform for a spectral critique on art production.

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