“Do things around us disappear or do they always ‘just’ change? Is everything staying here?”, asks Slovak visual artist Dana Tomečková, who was an artist-in-residence last autumn at the Studio of Young Artists’ Association (SYAA) in Budapest.

What happens to a ring that is worn for years and therefore wears out and becomes thin, almost imperceptible—at least to our visual perception and sense of time? Where does the material escape from it? “Do things around us disappear or do they always ‘just’ change? Is everything staying here?”, asks Slovak visual artist Dana Tomečková, who was an artist-in-residence last autumn at the Studio of Young Artists’ Association (SYAA) in Budapest, in the frame of the Visegrád Fund—Visual and Sound Artists Residency program.

As in the circulation of (the) material(s), the questions that concern Tomečková and the everyday observations she pursues recur in her artworks repetitively, whether they are objects, installations, performances, or texts. As material entities exist in cycles and as continuous ‘becomings,’ Tomečková’s artistic work and way of thinking can be strung on a loop-like thread, although always slightly beyond herself. This is how the question investigating the eternal being of things re-appears in the artist’s notebook entitled Temporary Matter that collects her contemplations in a poetic format: where did the several boxes of baking soda disappear from her grandmother’s pantry shelf, leaving the empty paper boxes behind due to the passing of time and their interaction with air. To quote the title of one of the poems: Something is everywhere without me knowing. Through Tomečková’s concentrated, thorough, persistent, and deliberately slow attention, the objects and materials become twice as alive, the void of the empty spaces gets filled, the observant gaze equalises the object of contemplation and the actor.

“Heisenberg is looking at the atomic nucleus. The question is, whether the nucleus would be looking at him if he was not doing so.”[1]

In the lines of Nádas—which in their original context assume the mutual existence and attention in romantic love—we can observe a state of equilibrium that can only be maintained if both of the participant agents are actively present. Dana Tomečková seeks and examines these similar states of equilibrium and at certain times she creates them by herself and allows the visitors, the observers, to interact with space and materials. The attention as an act, the observed, and the observer become equally important and form a three-factor equation—wherein the case of the latter two, the roles are interchangeable and can refer to a living or inanimate object as well.[2]

The installation-based exhibition The End of Greatness was on view at the beginning of March at the Studio Gallery, accompanied by a performance event on the last day of the show. The colour blue appeared on the walls too in the form of pigment prints and traces but it mostly dominated the floor where the entering visitor (wearing a protective shoe cover) could encounter pigment heaps in different shapes and forms. The performance lasted for a half-day, therefore the installation was in a constant change and took place in a continuous and organic way, pointing out the mutability and ever-present nature of the material, with visitors being able to engage in the process every hour. The particular forms and compositions defined the appearance of the space only temporarily, the formation of pigment particles resembling a mountaintop soon transformed into a flatland. And the word soon should be put between quotes afterward, as time existed separately in this blue space. Every participant, whether a performer, an observer or an actively interacting visitor could be present at their own individual pace. By accepting the invitation to participate and interact with the pigmenting material, the roles between performers and visitors were phased out and we could place ourselves in Tomečková’s artistic process: we became observers and—from the point of view of the material—, the object of the observing and contemplative attention as well.  

The cluster of the pigment grains leads the gaze into infinity, like the notorious Vantablack, but it absorbs light more gently: in sharp shadows, the edge of the material meets the empty space, and staring at the shapes from a distance, the outlines merge with the particles of material in the background. The title does not refer to a tragic end nor the passing of a great era, but rather to the unknown beyond and its potential. The colour of the sky during a different time of the day, the sea, the water, the core of a crystal, the galaxy itself can be all blue. “The colour blue is the path to infinity, where reality becomes imaginary.”[3] The endlessness of reality and our knowledge—as it is also mentioned in Tomečková’s statement—also applies to the universe, whose magnitude is unknown and might be infinite. Greatness ends (or continues to exist) in the bluest blue, beyond superclusters.

After the end of the performance and the exhibition, the blue pigments were collected, stored, and put into a waiting position, except for those parts that escaped into the air—since the material is never lost—, or stuck to the interacting surfaces. In this way, the visitors, the actors of the three-factor attention equation, could bring some home; by inhaling them inconspicuously, or carrying them adhered to their hands, faces, and shoes, and then adding them to the water circulation system of the city.

Text by Judit Flóra Schuller

[1] Nádas, P. (1991). Az égi és a földi szerelemről. Budapest: Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó. p. 68

[2] Harman, G. (2018). Object-oriented ontology: a new theory of everything. London: Pelican Books.

[3]  Chevalier, J., & Gheerbrant, A. (1996). In A dictionary of symbols (p. 102), Penguin. 

Dana Tomečková (1986) is a visual artist based in Bratislava, who works as a jewellery designer in addition to her artistic work. She studied in Bratislava and Oslo, and her work focuses on objects, installations and the specificity of space. She is often concerned with ephemeral situations and material things, and is interested in the unstable nature and elusiveness of reality. In early March, her exhibition 'The End of Greatness', which was accompanied with a performance event at the Studio Gallery of SYAA was the closing event of her three-month-long residency in Budapest. The performance was created in collaboration with Vilma Braun and performed by Vilma Braun, Emese Kovács and Gergő Lukács. https://www.danatomeckova.com/

Judit Flóra Schuller (1991) is a visual artist currently based in Budapest. She obtained her Master of Arts degree from Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki (FI) in 2018. Her main interest is centred on the topic of inherited (traumatic) memory and its effects on our personal and collective memory and identity. She often uses her own family heritage as a starting point, aiming for collective reconciliation with unprocessed narratives of the past through personal, familial elements and microhistories. She is currently a PhD student at the Contemporary Art department of Aalto’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture.