Arts & Culture, Interview

Artist Interview: Tommy Hartung

On western tourism's soft invasion


Artist Interview: Tommy Hartung: King Solomon’s Mines 

Still, Tommy Hartung “King Solomon’s Mines”


I caught up with Tommy Hartung, a sculptor and video artist, via email to find out more about his video “King Solomon’s Mines,” currently on view at the Rose Art Museum, from February 17 – June 11, 2017.


Emily Cobb: One thing that really interested me about the process of making the video was how you planned an actual trip to Tibesti. But you never went. Was turning this digital journey into the feeling of real presence part of your concept? Or was this more of a practical matter?

Tommy Hartung: The absurdity of western travel and tourism is a major theme in the show. Contemporary western imperialism takes on many forms, this project is a look into tourism as a soft invasion of territory. These vacation invaders often use the promise of capital to entice communities to put themselves on display and create a cheap commodity out of their own respective culture. I never intended to go anywhere. I was interested in going somewhere just looking at the photographs much like remote viewing. Instead of psychic phenomena, the Internet allows a collective gaze with imagined realities based on fragmented and filtered digital images.


Can you tell me briefly some of the politics behind the work?

There are not so much politics as an interest in warping deeply rooted Abrahamic traditions. I love these faiths, but despise the patriarchy and xenophobia that is acted out in the manner of any dick-centric politics. Growing up myself in a evangelical community I have made it my work’s mission to expose the subtle and overt brutality acted out in the name of a god. The movie is difficult…filled with its own internal hypocrisy and it’s meant to totally fall apart.


There is something really satisfying about the aesthetic…perhaps imbuing the crude digital with the divine…or normalizing it the in the context hand-crafted and physical world. Is this your intent? Why bring these elements together?

The aesthetic for my work is often thematic. I wanted to enhance it to the point of awkward cliché. The impressionistic lens that westerners associate with the Sahara or the entire continent is as if it’s seen through squinted eyes. So much history and current events is ignored and painted over with fuzzy humanitarian notions or ugly colonial policy.


Okay, I have to ask—what is happening to that woman who is convulsing?

She is being exorcised. Which I believe is a form of psycho-sexual abuse. It’s practiced by millions in the U.S. and abroad by mostly Christians and Muslims.  It is torture and it needs to be looked at more seriously.


Read about my visit to the exhibit here: Went There: King Solomon’s Mines, Video Art At The Rose Art Museum

See the show through June 11th at the Rose Art Museum in Waltham. Free.
An Artist Talk will be given on April 20, 2017 at 4:00 PM.

Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The galleries are closed to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays and holidays.

Rose Art Museum
Brandeis University
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02453

Phone: (781) 736-3434
Email: [email protected]

Still, Tommy Hartung “King Solomon’s Mines”

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