Simulakrum

Benedikt Tolar

18. 9. - 22. 11. 2019

Curator: Jan Dotřel


The concept of the simulacrum refers, above all, to the principle of imitation or general appearance. In the realm of art theory, the concept primarily appeared within the context of French post-structuralism, when Gilles Deleuze repetitiously referenced the so-called Eternal Return. This concept is, in turn, already well-known from the philosophies of Greek atomists, the hermetical motif uroboras (a snake eating its own tale) or in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where it is perhaps used with the greatest intensity. French sociologist Jean Baudrillard ties into this line of thought with his own work wherein the simulacra is formulated as a principle of never ending changes, impossible without a return to its origins. Here the simulacrum takes on the status of something like a virtual copy both preceding and influencing its original.

If we continue along this perhaps slightly tautological process, the thought of a “non-existent origin realer than reality itself” may lead us to the work of Benedikt Tolar. His studio is a synthesis of ready-made objects pulled out of the bowels of landfills and junkyards. A small switch in parts makes a living creature out of a gas cylinder, crossed hockey sticks become a crucifix or, even more simply – merely using a refrigerator door as a frame creates a reference to an icon of the Middle Ages. Standing in the artist’s studio we may feel that we are in the middle of a vortex whose direction is influenced by the meaning of individual works – each object can immediately change the original meaning of the one preceding it. Vortex is an apt metaphor here, for turbulence draws everything to itself that comes near it. Afterwards, once the objects have come into its center, it releases them, ruined or transformed.

Sedimentation is another of the fundamental processes that can be found in Benedikt Tolar’s work. In this case, however, this is not a metaphorical comparison but a real process through which his works are created. Real life objects such as television satellites or car roofs are used as funnels along whose sides paint is allowed to drip down to the lowest point where a hole has been located. This paint then leaks into a spot where another object has been placed. The works are thus reciprocally generated completely anew. One is based on the premise of the discharge while the other in the pigments’ impact on the surface and gradual flow. One work directly influences another. One is the original, the second its imprint. One is is directly embedded in the other while the second is created as a result of the first’s remains. Neither is an original nor a matrix. Now the concept of the simulacrum may be clearer.

One interesting aspect of Tolar’s work is his many layered recycling of bathtubs. He uses them in his sculptural installations, cutting their shape into something other or simply leaving their mysterious timelines to sound. A bathtub is a container imprinted by human beings through everyday use. As the enamel begins to gradually disappear in spots where it comes into contact with the body most often, a direct print index of concrete persons is created. Sculpture is often defined as working with mass with the goal of a final shape – here too, this precedent can be fairly functionally applied. Alchemy, or at least how it was understood in Central Europe from the 17th century, is the study of kinship and substance transformation based on a holistic synthesis of different branches of knowledge. Among all the processes taking place in the universe, there is a correlation where one process analogously affects the other. Combining several ingredients creates (emanates) an elixir whose effects have nothing to do with the original properties of the substances. This spiritual, alchemical cabinet of pluralism and the richness of imagination can also be accessed through Tolar’s morphology.

The most interesting aspect of all in Benedikt Tolar’s work is the immersive ability of his works (that is their potential to absorb the viewer’s attention). This too makes the simplicity of the apparatus he uses to achieve this all the more surprising. A color-filled satellite dish can be used to effectively transport the viewer onto a metaphysical plane, even without their being explicitly aware of what is actually happening. The seeming triviality, contextual turnaround and evident openness to the spiritual realm makes Benedikt Tolar an artist which functions as a real medium – a mediator through which creative energies from the profane to sacral flow.