tomas schmit – soon it’s snail meeting again

Tomas Schmit (1943-2006) was one of the pioneers of the Fluxus movement in the early 1960s. Through Nam June Paik, whom he met in 1961, he became acquainted with George Maciunas and the first Fluxus activities. His close artist friends included George Brecht, Ludwig Gosewitz, Arthur Köpcke, Dieter Roth and Gerhard Rühm.
In 1962 Tomas Schmit participated in the performance Neo-Dada in Music, organized by the Düsseldorfer Kammerspiele, as well as the Parallel Performances of New Music in Amsterdam and developed his first pieces. He subsequently participated in most of the European Fluxus festivals, which took place in Copenhagen, Paris, Düsseldorf, London and Berlin, and organized the much-discussed Festival of New Art at the Technical University in Aachen on July 20, 1964.
During this period, Tomas Schmit played a major role in questioning bourgeois art and the beginnings of a new aesthetic. His correspondence with George Maciunas led to a theoretical examination of the political and aesthetic ideas of the Fluxus period becoming so intensively possible. However, he withdrew early on from active participation in the Fluxus actions, because he was against the dilution of the radical potential of this art form. The basic idea of Fluxus – the withdrawal and avoidance of the spectacle – became the rule of thumb of his intellectual and artistic economy. 1 In one of his texts on Fluxus, Tomas Schmit writes: what I learned, among many other things, from f[luxus]: what you can do with a sculpture, you don’t need to build as a building; what you can do in a picture, you don’t need to do as a sculpture; what you can do with a drawing, you don’t need to do as a picture; what you can clarify on a piece of paper, you don’t need to do as a drawing; and what you can do in your head, you don’t even need a piece of paper! 2
Since the beginning of the 60’s Tomas Schmit was occupied with language and text and began to work in drawing at the end of the 60’s. In drawings, editions and books he negotiates phenomena of perception and the logic of language. His pardoxal and word-playful works belong to the environment of the large research project on the evolution of the senses and thinking. 3 He always starts from his own concrete observations and deals with inexplicable phenomena. To take just one example from one of his texts on his drawing gummihopsen symbolic: sind farben nischenbesetzer? (1985): exercise for the brave: imagine colors that do not exist. 4
Kunsthalle Lingen honors the work of Tomas Schmit, whose tenth anniversary of death is in 2016, with a solo exhibition spanning works. Works from the 1960s to 2005 will be presented. On November 13, 2016 at 11 am, the last day of the exhibition, the Fluxus action zyklus für wassereimer (oder flaschen) (1962) with Hartmut Andres will take place at Kunsthalle Lingen. It is one of the best-known Fluxus pieces by Tomas Schmit, which he performed for the first time in Amsterdam in 1963. It has also been interpreted many times over the years by other actors and artists, including filmmaker Harun Farocki, who took the piece as the starting point for his 2010 film sculpture Umgiessen. The action, Farocki said, avoided symbolism, … there was nothing vitalistic about it. In its simplicity and conclusiveness, it is a Beckett play without words. Despite the uniformity of the action, there was a development; the anti-plot found an end of itself. 5
The exhibition will subsequently travel on to the Kunstverein Bremerhaven (January 21 – March 5, 2017) and the Wilhelm Hack Museum in Ludwigshafen (dates to be announced).
Tomas Schmit was born in Wipperfürth on July 13, 1943, and died in Berlin on October 4, 2006. His most important solo exhibitions were at Kunstverein Hamburg (1977), Kölnischer Kunstverein (1978), Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne and New York (1986 and 1994), DAAD Galerie Berlin and Sprengel Museum Hannover (1987), Kunsthalle Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (1997), Kunstverein Bremerhaven (2005), Museum Ludwig, Cologne and Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg (2007). He participated in group exhibitions including documenta 6 in Kassel (1977), from here in Düsseldorf (1984), Chronos and Kairos in Kassel (1999) and Museum of our Wishes in Cologne (2001/2002).