By Hanne Hagenaars

The work of Thomas Zipp is all about the idea that not a single human being is ‘normal’: ‘I believe that everyone is a freak, each in their own way. We have to learn to accept this.’ In his expositions, he often creates a dark, uncomfortable world in which you seem to have got lost in an unsavoury mental institution.
Zipp is convinced that every human being should embrace that which is strange or deviant, let go of control. According to him, this is precisely what art has the potential of doing.

This dark portrait comes from the exhibition ‘Beyond the Superego’ which was held in gallery Krinzinger in Vienna (2011). At this exposition, two rooms were designed as clinical laboratories. Here, among other things, photos were displayed in which treatment with electroshock therapy was re-enacted.

The motto of the exhibition was: ‘If I cannot move the gods of the upper world, I will be able to move the underworld.’ He took this sentence from the classic work of Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams.
Another citation from Freud appeared in this exhibition, a text that was scribbled in a shaky handwriting, as if Doctor Freud was heavily medicated: ‘It is impossible to resist the impression that people commonly apply false standards, seeking power, success and wealth for themselves and admiring them in others, while underrating what is truly valuable in life. Yet in passing such a general judgment one is danger of forgetting the rich variety of the human world and its mental life. (…)’

The portrait A.B.: Boresight Error (2011) shows a painted face against the background of a screen print. The abbreviation A.B. stands for ‘Abstraktes Bild’, the German words for ‘abstract painting’. The brain as the centre of the senses, feelings and motivations is unmatched in its complexity among living beings. In an attempt to nurse this complex system back to health, shocks and pills are administered, to deaden the more extreme thoughts and feelings. But wouldn’t it be better to realise that there is no standard, that madness is just one side of normal.

(bore-sight = adjustments made to optimise eyesight, e.g. in such instruments as rifles, microscopes)