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Tomas Schmit (born 13 July 1943 in Thier, now part of Wipperfürth; died 4 October 2006 in Berlin, Germany) was an artist and author, one of the pioneers of the Fluxus movement of the early 1960s. During the subsequent 40 years, he developed a ramified work of drawings, texts, books and concepts of artists' books. From the late 1960s until his death, he continuously exhibited in international galleries. With his series of drawings, he is represented in renowned museums and collections (among them Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Collection Harald Falckenberg, Hamburg). His works are represented by the galleries Michael Werner in Cologne / New York, Marlene Frei in Zurich, Rudolf Springer and Barbara Wien in Berlin and the Edition Armin Hundertmark. The Tomas Schmit Archive is dedicated to his life and work.
Tomas Schmit has played a considerable role in shaping the radical questioning of civil art and approaches to new aesthetics. It was his correspondence with George Maciunas that made a theoretical discussion on the political and aesthetic concept of the Fluxus period possible. As an artist, he took part in Fluxus events that are nowadays considered milestones in the art of the 1960s. As organiser, he arranged for the legendary event "20th July TU Aachen" 1964 (with Beuys, Köpcke, Vostell, Paik amongst others). In 1982, in the book 1962 Wiesbaden Fluxus 1982, he wrote the theoretical text "about f" which represents one of the rare profound evaluations of the ideas of Fluxus from the artist's perspective. Friends and colleagues who he worked with and who appreciated him due to his consequent artistic position and wrote about him, are: Nam June Paik, George Brecht, Arthur Köpcke, Ludwig Gosewitz and Dieter Roth – just to mention a few. It was also Dieter Roth who in 1982 adjudged him the scholarship of the Rembrandt-Prize which had been awarded to him. In 1986, the Kurt-Schwitters-Prize of the City Hanover was awarded to him.
Tomas Schmit pulled out of the active Fluxus actions early, as he was against an adulteration of the radical potential. It is also this potential which his probably most important working principle is based on: "what I learned from f., along with many other things: what can be mastered by a sculpture, doesn't have to be erected as a building; what can be brought by a painting, doesn't have to be made as a sculpture; what can be accomplished in a drawing, doesn't have to become a painting; what can be cleared on a scrap of paper, doesn't need to be done as a drawing; and what can be settled in the head, doesn't even require a paper scrap!".
In the following decades, he developed works that comprise several thousand drawings. He published editions and books. His topics are language, logic, paradoxes, biology, cybernetics, cerebral research, behaviour research and apperception theory etc. In 1989, his book "first draft (of central aesthetics)" provided an introduction to cerebral research, which the cyberneticist Valentin Braitenberg characterized in the following way:
"I actually intend to recommend this book when some physicist or whatever other beginner, as it often happens, will again ask me for an introduction to cerebral research. I suppose, it took a poet to grasp the charm of the material access to psychology, including the pleasure in self-critical accuracy. Consequently, the book is an antipode to what ever so often annoys you: the belittling of events and concealment of problems that popular science uses to ingratiate with the people – but, thus, only shows its disrespect for the audience."
His fourth catalogue of works is published recently (published by Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne), which he, like his already existing works catalogues (1978 Art Society Cologne; 1978 DAAD Berlin / Sprengel Museum Hanover; 1997 Portikus Frankfurt) compiled as artistic self-commentary.
A publication that Tomas Schmit prepared in his last year will be released in 2008. It consists of "13 conversations" (Wiens Verlag, Berlin) which the art historian Wilma Lukatsch held with him. In these 13 conversations, one is introduced to the biographic data and artistic questions of Tomas Schmit with a refreshing sense of linguistic wit, serious and entertaining at the same time. The new aspects of the art of the 60s, the period of the actions, the friendships with the like-minded, the demands and the results of the artistic ideas are discussed and critically questioned. The particular position of drawing and writing that Tomas Schmit settled on is explained in detail. An important aspect, which has so far hardly been considered in secondary literature, is that he developed concepts which are linked to 'drawing actions' while he was drawing. Philosophical questions and also points of contact with literary fields, such as Gertrude Stein and Franz Kafka but also John Cage and Morton Feldman foreshadow the territories Tomas Schmit has dealt with in the area of language and signs. They are: indeterminism, chaos and order, aleatory principle and open form. Altogether, the works of Tomas Schmit comprise more posed questions than given answers. The conversations well reflect this open form, which shows the state of flux of things.
- Katalog 1. Koelnischer Kunstverein 1978.
- Katalog 2. Daadgalerie Berlin und Sprengelmuseum Hannover 1987.
- Katalog 3. Portikus, Frankfurt/Main 1997.
- Katalog 4. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König 2007.