THOMAS ZIPP – society of the spectacle



Society of the Spectacle

Opening: January 25, 2024, 7pm
Duration: January 26 – March 13, 2024

In Society of the Spectacle, Thomas Zipp examines Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” and Guy Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle”. The two literary works offer different perspectives on society. Debord criticises modern society’s obsession with images and spectacle and argues that it alienates the individual. Dante, on the other hand, explores the soul’s journey through hell, purgatory and paradise, incorporating moral and theological dimensions. While Debord focuses on the dehumanising effect of the spectacle, Dante devotes himself to a broader exploration of morality and spirituality. Both works offer valuable insights into social and individual dynamics, but they approach these themes from different angles.

In principle, Thomas Zipp’s works can be read as poetry, but they are mostly the expression of a scientific investigation. He depicts phenomena that are not perceptible to the naked eye by enlarging them – zooming in – and thus creating a scientific document. Thomas Zipp’s paintings and drawings, standing alone or in the context of his installations, demand an active reception from the viewer and enable the experience of changing temporal and spatial dimensions. With his spatial installations, he adds a further level; a still image beyond our perception; the enlargement or decomposition of a phenomenon. A diversification of different temporal and spatial levels takes place, similar to what we know from the aforementioned Divine Comedy. Dante Alighieri’s poem tells of the vision of a journey into the afterlife, which the first-person character Dante undertakes with his companion Virgil through the three realms of the afterlife, which are arranged and structured according to a geocentric view of the world. He descends into hell, passes through purgatory and ascends to heaven. These areas are initially arranged next to each other spatially, but are obviously subject to different temporal orders. While hell is depicted as a timeless place of endless torment, in purgatory and paradise there is an “interweaving of human, this-worldly time and eschatological time”. The first-person character Dante remains an outside observer who can pass through the boundaries between the realms and their respective temporal orders unmolested. By interlacing temporally stretched and zoomed images, Zipp creates a similarly external perspective. Strategies of alienation undermine the certainty of the distinction between the illusionary and the real. In his works, we encounter an apocalyptic scenario that is very similar to the inscription on the gates of hell in Dante’s third canto: “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi che entrate/ Let all hope go away from you who enter “, and also a – slightly ironic – hope for an infinity that transcends time and space. The spectacles of nature are treated like a distant, memorable past and at the same time a sense of permanence is discovered in the fleeting.