David Tomas


David Tomas (1950-2019) was an artist, anthropologist and writer. His production in the visual arts has its roots in a post 1970s critique of conceptual art's disciplinary infrastructure. Over the last forty years, Tomas’ work has explored the nature and functions of different forms of knowledge that are produced at the interface of the history of contemporary art, the history and anthropology of media and the cultures and transcultures of imaging technologies. Both in his visual work and his writing Tomas has conducted this exploration within a framework in which art is considered to be a discipline that operates in tension with the other disciplines that constitute the university's knowledge matrix. His most recent body of work investigated the nature, function and derivative forms of different configurations of knowledge that are visually deployed in service of the auction house’s primary objective which is to sell something to the highest bidder. For artworks will pass, at one time or another in their history, through the auction system in order to be evaluated and recirculated in society. Tomas' inquiry was conducted with the objective of pursuing a long-term relationship with that system and its culture through a visual dialogue with one of its principal by-products: the auction catalogue.

Tomas exhibited in Canada, the United States, Europe and the Middle East where he presented works at the Montreal Biennale (MAC); National Gallery of Canada; Walter Phillips Gallery; Vancouver Art Gallery; PS1, New York; California Institute of the Arts; San Francisco State University; ZKM, Karlsruhe; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig; Vereinigung Bildender Kunstler Wiener Secession; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; ELAC, Lyon; Aorta, Amsterdam; and the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. He also collaborated with several artist run centers in Montreal such as Optica, Oboro, and on numerous occasions with Dazibao.

In 1994 -95 he was appointed Mellon Fellow in Contemporary Arts Criticism at the California Institute of the Arts; he was Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 1997; and he was awarded the Claudia De Hueck Fellowship in Art and Science at the National Gallery of Canada in 2001-2002.

Tomas authored seven books, the most recent being An Economy of Discursive Fields(2019), Vertov, Snow, Farocki: Machine Vision and the Posthuman (2013), Live rightly, die, die… (2012), Escape Velocity: Alternative Instruction Prototype for Playing the Knowledge Game (2012), Beyond the Image Machine: A History of Visual Technologies (2004), Duction (with Michèle Thériault) (2001) and Transcultural Space and Transcultural Beings (1996). In 2004 Dazibao published a collection of his essays from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s entitled A Blinding Flash of Light: Photography Between Disciplines and Media. Tomas taught at the University of Ottawa from 1989 to 1999 and was Professor at l'École des arts visuels et médiatiques, Université du Québec à Montréal from 1999 to 2019.