Text by Adela Demetja
Every Sunday in major European cities, citizens under the initiative “Pulse of Europe” are gathering to protect the idea of unification that the alliance of the European Union has been representing so far. In the face of increasing political populism, the vote for Brexit and the election of Trump, the future not only of the European Union but of the whole world seems at stake.
What does this all have to do with the exhibition “oneworld” by artist Tobias Donat at Philipp Pflug Contemporary? Well, as much as the above-mentioned events have to do with each of us, the citizens of Frankfurt, the citizens of Germany, the citizens of Europe, and the citizens of the world.
In our world, everything is connected. Every event that happens somewhere, will have an influence on us sooner or later. Nevertheless, this can only be understood if we accept that there is only one world—and not a second or third world—, to which only some people are supposed to belong, as capitalist politics predicts.
Capitalism is based on the idea of world division in at least two parts; that of the rich and powerful, and that of the excluded and oppressed; although the democratic idea on the other hand claims that all human beings are equal. To make a stand against the idea of the capitalist and democratic divided world, it is necessary, as French philosopher Alain Badiou put it in The Meaning of Sarkozy (2010), to claim the existence of only one world, that of all the united human beings. Although it is almost impossible to stand for this idea, while capitalism is interested in the unification of the world only when it comes to circulation of products and monetary value, whilst the majority of the population living in the “other world” is kept away with borders, walls, and wars.
To accept that there is only one world means that the “art world” is not separate from reality, although it is often the case. In Tobias Donat’s new body of works, this separation becomes blurry, allowing him to create a space where through aesthetics both art and reality are being questioned. Thus, in the works forming the exhibition “oneworld,” aesthetics is applied as a language enabling the artist to simultaneously visualize and communicate. By making use of commodified techniques of production in appropriating signs and symbols, he turns the gallery into a paradoxical space. Information that elsewhere is used to give direction leads nowhere. The visitors, without a destination to follow, are faced with a fictional transitory space, surrounded by guidelines and symbols, and challenged to rethink, to reflect, and to discuss issues related to belonging, moving, and identification.
In “oneworld” Tobias Donat manages to build a context, in which installation, space, and viewer are equally essential and involved in creating the exhibition as a unity. The exhibition, as a result, has become the ultimate medium of the artist.