Thomas Medicus *1988 is a visual artist based in Innsbruck, Austria. Best known for his anamorphic cubes he also works in other fields such as illustration, animation, digital art, stained glass, restoration and conservation as well as public art. He studied social work at MCI Innsbruck before attending the Glasfachschule Kramsach, a school for glass art, where he earned a master glaziers degree later. In addition to his independent activity as a freelance artist, he was employed in the long-standing firm for stained glass windows Tiroler Glasmalerei for seven years. From the beginning of 2021 he became completely independent and founded his company Studio Medicus.
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Exhibitions / Installations / Events
2015 Tummelplatz. Festspiel – Bäckerei Kulturbackstube, Innsbruck
2014 Mythos Tier – Kunstverein Talstrasse e.V., Halle an der Saale
2014 Performance mit „Heads“ – Kunststraße, Imst
2014 Trans-Form – Wildwuchs – Haus der Begegnung, Innsbruck
2013 Premierentage – Wildwuchs – HTL-Galerie, Innsbruck
2011 Babylon, Vertikale Positionen – Wildwuchs – Münzerturm, Hall in Tirol
2011 Einzelausstellung – Integrationsbogen, Innsbruck
2010 Kunstsymposium – Wildwuchs – St. Magdalena, Halltal
STUDIO MEDICUSWorkshop for stained glass, conservation and cultural projects
Dreiheiligenstraße 19, Stöcklgebäude
2023 - Below The Surface Is Another Surface
Whoever removes one surface encounters the next. The installation Below The Surface Is Another Surface deals with questions of staging and cognition. Is there an interior behind the artificial facade or do we only look at the next surface there? Is there something hidden behind the art or is it what it is? Does cognition ultimately remain the perpetual removal of the ever-next layer?
The American philosopher Thomas Nagel states in this regard that our subjective experience, that is, the experience of what it is like to be, can ultimately only be experienced. Since scientific knowledge by definition must take an external perspective, its description of this quality of consciousness, which shapes our entire reality, would miss the point.
"Below the Surface Is Another Surface" revolves around these themes: The experimental sculpture shows sectional planes of a head and a discreetly recognizable star-shaped body. The installation, reminiscent of MRI scans, is meant to make visible that there are different ways to look inside a person, different perspectives that come to different conclusions. On the one hand, we can gain impressive insights into the inside of a human being through examinations and measurements, on the other hand, the experience of what it is like to be that human being remains closed to these methods.
Go to Below The Surface Is Another Surface project entry.
2022 - Human Animal Binary (RIVER TROUT)
Many fish populations in our waters are increasingly being deprived of their habitats. Hydroelectric power plants, river engineering and water warming are accelerating the drastic decline in populations. The river trout, which is highly endangered in our country, is also affected.
Internationally, overfishing of the oceans is a particularly explosive environmental issue. Alongside human-induced pollution, it is one of the main reasons for the extinction of countless fish species. In many places, overfishing also causes social upheaval: Fishing companies are depriving themselves of their own livelihoods through unsustainable and profit-driven practices.
Go to Human Animal Binary project entry.
2022 - Human Animal Binary (KING FISHER)
The displacement of non-human species can only be understood in a larger ecological context. Because the native kingfisher lives along flowing waters and feeds primarily on fish and insects, it is directly affected by declining fish populations and insect mortality.
Like many of its congeners, it is in particular distress because of the destruction of its habitat: almost all rivers and streams in Europe have been obstructed or regulated, and ponds and wetlands drained.
Human intervention in nature has led to a global decline of more than 60% in wildlife over the last 50 years.
Go to Human Animal Binary project entry.
2022 - Human Animal Binary (LYNX)
Lynx were common almost throughout Europe. However, they have largely disappeared since the 20th century. Instead of making ecological sense the focus of hunting, they were often shot simply for their fur. In addition, the animal posed a problem in livestock farming.
Since the shy and largest wildcat species in Austria does not migrate much, its reintroduction is proceeding very slowly and is further hampered by illegal killing.
Worldwide, humans with their farm animals account for over 90% of the biomass of all existing mammals. Only a small minority - like the lynx - lives in the wild.
Go to Human Animal Binary project entry.
2022 - Human Animal Binary (BEE)
The contribution of honeybees to the agricultural economy and the survival of countless plant species is enormous. Due to pests, diseases, pesticides and air pollution, many bee colonies are dying in different regions of the world. A complete disappearance of the honey bee would have devastating consequences for our entire ecosystem.
In Tyrol, the endangerment of various species of wild bees is particularly noteworthy. Due to their specialization on certain plant species, these bees play an important role in maintaining biodiversity in meadows. However, overfertilization has already greatly reduced plant diversity and thus deprived wild bees and many other insects of food sources.
Go to Human Animal Binary project entry.
2022 - Human Animal Binary (project description)
The discourse on climate change is not new; it has been the subject of scientific and political debate for decades. In recent history, the debate about humans' problematic interventions in nature has gained urgency and publicity, and has achieved considerable success. Nevertheless, it has not yet been able to cause a turnaround.
The Anthropocene era has long since dawned; harmful human influences can be detected across the globe. But the climate crisis not only threatens dramatic ecological upheavals, it is also accompanied by the intensification of social conflicts.
What can be the symbolic and discursive contribution of art in view of the extent of this threat? Social processes are always criticized, commented on, or at least represented by art. In a sense, it is an outpouring of its own historical context; neither aspect can be fully read without the other.
The anamorphic sculpture with four richly detailed images of bee, lynx, kingfisher, and river trout is initially a low-threshold intervention with a strong experiential dimension. An optical trick creates a synchronicity of image and object: the animal representations are interlocked according to a certain system over 144 glass strips in a cube-shaped space. As a result, the two-dimensional representations disintegrate into a cloud-like complex of image fragments as they circumnavigate the sculpture and reassemble themselves - like a constant emergence and decay of living creatures.
Thomas Medicus has already used the functional principle of the installation in various contexts. Coupled with the idiosyncratic animal representations, this illusionary technique fulfills an affirmative task in Human Animal Binary. It conveys the incomprehensibility of life, even when this threatens to disintegrate in the next moment. The brutality of environmental destruction becomes clear in contrast to the overwhelming diversity and independent vitality of nature.
This artistic treatment is accompanied by a text on the biodiversity crisis per picture and page. Starting from the respective depiction, an arc is drawn to larger ecological contexts; the linking of locally particular phenomena and globally universal processes is expressed therein.
Human Animal Binary is in many respects a sculpture that links dichotomies and in this way creates that "in-between" that locates a work of art in a discursive space.
The title Human Animal Binary, as well as the use of the industrial materials concrete, glass, and metal, allude to a dilemma in which much of humanity finds itself: Human habitat largely contradicts coexistence with non-human animals. In order not to exceed the capacity limits of the planet and thus prevent the destruction of our habitat, a fundamental show of force on a global scale is needed.
The human living, production and activity space expanded to large areas of the planet is based on the plundering of "nature". It affects - not least - ourselves, who as highly developed living beings are part of nature and completely dependent on the success of biological and ecological processes.
The climate crisis and the pandemic make it clear once again that our understanding of "nature" as something different, something subordinate to us, has begun to crumble and that the renewal of the foundations of civilization has long since become necessary.
Yet artistic intervention is unable to resolve this dilemma; the representations of nature remain trapped under the glass cover.
The construction of Human Animal Binary caused about one ton of CO2, which takes a mature spruce fifty years to bind. A maximum of two tons of the greenhouse gas may be emitted per capita and year for the human species to become climate-neutral. This limit is currently exceeded many times over in industrialized countries.
Would it have been better not to produce Human Animal Binary at all because of this incorporated contradiction?
The countless image fragments of the object were made with the help of the stained-glass technique that has existed since the Middle Ages: Colors are burned into the surface of the glass and can last for many centuries, despite the fragility of their support material.
One day the installation will stand in a different social context: as a memorial that has come true or as a relic of a time that has been overcome.
Go to Human Animal Binary project entry.
2022 - EBBE
EBBE [German for ebb tide] is a formerly site-specific installation for a decommissioned hydroelectric power plant in Innsbruck. The project aimed to make energy production visible and thus raise awareness of issues such as energy scarcity and water ecology.
As a largely CO²-neutral form of energy production with good possibilities for energy storage, hydropower is an indispensable energy source in times of climate change. Nevertheless, hydropower is criticised primarily because of its serious impact on the ecology of a landscape. The regulation of rivers and their construction with power plants has caused great damage to the biodiversity of water bodies.
The power plant with its impressive turbine hall is a listed building. Since this space was to be made accessible to the public, it was important to develop a project that would emphasize the historical dimension of the building and at the same time have a strong independent quality.
The majority of the turbine-shaped installation consists of mirrors, which serve two purposes:
Mirrors do not have an independent surface, but take on the appearance of their surroundings. Thus, the material contributes to the site-specific character of the installation.
At night, moreover, the mirrors distribute water-like reflections throughout the hall. The vivid light is created by a rotating geometric glass element made of float glass and blue hand-blown glass, which hangs in the center of the installation and is illuminated by six LED bars.
The palindrome EBBE as the title of the installation not only transports the reflective character of the artwork. For as is well known, after the ebb comes the flood: the installation makes use of this dichotomy and transforms the stagnant hydroelectric power plant into a dynamic place for art and culture.
Go to EBBE project entry.
2021 - Optometrist
The eye as a boundary layer between the outer, surrounding world and the inner, perceived world has always created space for reflection. It is a allegory of that self-referentiality from which we can never really squirm out: All knowledge must always be perceived and interpreted in one way or another. Even if there are many indications that large areas of our reality can be described, the description always differs from the thing itself. This applies in particular to our perception: how it is to experience is reserved for the experience. It can also be described, but that is then again the description of something and not the thing itself. Perhaps art will succeed in making this subjective experience tangible for others, i.e. making it intersubjective.
Go to Optometrist project entry.
2020 - Ryan Frost
The sculpture explores aspects of the “natural” and the “artificial”. Ryan Frost is a hybrid object, it looks like faded driftwood and at the same time it is reminiscent of a fragment of a demolished building. The object merges the cultural technology of reinforced concrete with a piece of lively nature. Ryan Frost touches on our highly industrialized and anthropocene reality, which is permeated by cultural constructions, scientific perspectives and biological as well as ecological processes. With all the advantages and disadvantages, we are in a sense outside “nature” without ever really being able to leave it.
Go to Ryan Frost project entry.
2019 - Best Before - An Artwork Answers Itself
Text for UND-Heft #7
Originally, the dilapidated concrete lectern Best Before was intended as a dystopian fictional relic from a comprehensively de-democratized society, as a critical commentary on the relationship between the economy and the state, and as an interactive installation. Interactive because by entering it, a playful role reversal can take place from democratic sovereign to representative of that very sovereign.
More simply, the sculpture was meant to invite general reflection on democracy and the state of that very democracy. The art installation was intended to make political speech what it is in essence, namely a public matter, and thus to show that democracy can only exist at all in a constant process of negotiating itself out of existence. But it turned out differently - and yet not.
The project was submitted in 2019 to the project funding track TKI open, which is announced annually and is endowed with funds from the province of Tyrol. For this purpose, TKI - Tiroler Kulturinitiativen puts together a jury of experts who discuss all project submissions in a public jury meeting. The results of this transparent and content-focused process are then proposed for funding to the state's cultural department, where a final review of the submissions is conducted and the final decision is made.
Best Before was selected by the TKI jury, approved by the Provincial Councillor for Culture and funded by the Province of Tyrol.
The site-specific intervention was conceived for Innsbruck's Landhausplatz, which is obvious and makes sense due to the political relevance of the square and its proximity to the Landhaus. This was also described in the project submission.
In order to coordinate the many processes in the public space, it must be managed. This also applies to the Landhausplatz. The real estate administration - a department of the province of Tyrol - is responsible for handling all processes on the square. With the intention of finding a suitable period for the installation of Best Before, a corresponding request was submitted to the property administration. This was rejected because of the alleged "endangered traffic safety" caused by the project. This is a surprising reason, since the square is very large and the sculpture occupies an area of one square meter. The installation of a project financed from the cultural budget of the province of Tyrol was therefore not permitted by the same, namely the province of Tyrol.
In countless subsequent conversations with various people from the legal department, property administration and culture department, many reasons were given for a cancellation, none of which could be explained conclusively. It was made clear that the space was taboo for art and that the sculpture had no place on Landhausplatz.
After laborious negotiations, three weeks were verbally promised for the installation of the sculpture at Landhausplatz, which finally became three days at the back of the square.
However, the property management offered to place the object in front of St. George's Chapel for one month, i.e. in the semi-public courtyard of the Landhaus. The sculpture had thus found its way into the political heart of the state directly in front of the Tyrolean parliament, but there it was - swallowed by the Landhaus, as it were - in a place largely hidden from the public.
Fortunately, Best Before found other installation sites not administered by the state, such as the square next to the Landesmuseum and the Waltherpark.
In addition, the story about the permit was picked up by both the Tiroler Tageszeitung and the Stadtblatt. In this way, this example of non-transparent administrative procedures was heard by the public, and an interest in administrative transparency that went beyond the project became apparent.
In a way, the approval processes of Best Before made visible what the project originally asked for: democracy crumbles when the debate about it does not take place publicly, when non-transparent processes exclude the population or parts of it, when the implementation of decisions that are transparent in terms of democratic policy is hindered and made impossible by the administration.
A step that would express political will would be an open discussion process with the goal of creating transparent conditions for art projects at Landhausplatz.
Go to Best Before project entry.
2016 - Take a Seat, Make a Stand!
In the dense urban space, controversial debates constantly arise over who may use the city and how. It is noticeable that a politics of exclusion and restrictive partitioning is accepted to a large extent amongst the general public. At the local level, examples of this are the exclusion zones where alcohol cannot be consumed in public, where begging is forbidden and where refugees may be accommodated. Displacement also takes place if people have to move out of the city centre, where rents are high, to live on the periphery of the city.
Such societal processes are issues for all of us. They derive from the cultural, social and above all economic ties between many parts of the world and also between different social classes.
Power and responsibility cannot be separated. Playing off marginalised people or groups against each other - as often happens in public discussions - is contradictory as responsibility for this situation is being shuffled off. In reality, the consolidation of power through the amassing of income and wealth, partly detached from democratic control mechanisms, must be bound to responsibility.
The politics of exclusion and ostracising builds structural and infrastructural obstacles for those people and groups affected and increases inequality of opportunity. Thus, exclusion contributes to the stabilisation of a hierarchy, in which the rich nations ensure their well-being and prosperity through the exploitation of poorer countries.
The art installation ‘Take a seat, make a stand!’ by Thomas Medicus establishes a connection between local phenomena and a globally interconnected world. It depicts the massive inequality of power and resources as the primary societal challenge. The intervention makes invisible boundaries recognisable, points up problematic contexts and aims to encourage the adoption of critical, responsible and evaluative standpoints in discussions. It presents the freely accessible public space as a valuable commodity and thereby reveals a dystopia, in which a park bench as place and symbol of participation in urban space now only exists as an inaccessible museum piece in a glass case.
Go to Take a Seat, Make a Stand! project entry.