OMSK Social Club in conversation with editor Julius Pristauz after they participated in one of the collective’s performances.
During exercises that stimulate mind and body, the collective OMSK Social Club guides participants through journeys that explore the spiritual and partly undiscovered parts of the human mind. They create installations and environments specifically for these happenings. Ultimately, an OMSK installation is only ever activated when there is an individual or more likely a group performing spiritual or meditative training within it.
In a way similar to psychedelics but completely natural and detached from any substances they use various techniques from live-action role-play, traditional meditation as well as other exercises to detach from the now and blend the participants’ senses.
Quite remarkably, the collective has established a position within the circles of contemporary fine arts without really producing independent physical works, and perhaps that’s what makes it meaningful.
However, looking at their website one finds photographic material as well as scenes that draw from or remind of choreography, dance as well as site-specific, installative practices.
In the following conversation, they talk about backgrounds and influences to their work, the potential of their group sessions and where they might head with them in the future.
To set a starting point to this, could you try to link the topic of demons to your practice and explain where they occur in your work?
These beings, often called Demons are a common denominator in our work. But not as evils, more as knowledge-giving energies. Omsk’s practice often works with pulling the demons and energies that live inside us to the surface in our durational immersive installations.
It's important to acknowledge these demons are not always one's own, society, family structures, economy, religion, culture, experience all have their demons which they readily cast upon us. This has been something we have been fascinated with since we began trying to reappropriate life/the living in order to create progressive (yet not always holistic) modes of exploring the networks we live in.
We have been trying to do this since we created our practice of Real Game Play in 2017, which aims to simultaneously integrate and manipulate artifacts of seduction and fantasies of fear for collective repurposing during our immersive frameworks. As you might know from your own experience…
Yeah, I think the experience that I had during the night we spent together at Galerie Kandlhofer definitely shaped my opinion on what power our unconscious insides can hold over the construction of our reality and how much these energies could add if we dare to let them flow.
There were only a few vivid images that I was able to maintain and focus on afterward but the ones that I could remember stayed with me for the coming days, even weeks.
Actually, it made me wonder how far one could go with that, how far some of the more experienced participants or players must be able to go. What could this going further look like?
It's interesting to think about it in terms of a threshold, how far can one person go? As far as listening to recounts of people's experiences, most experienced players who come back and work with us over and over again can really bind their former self up, tranquilize their mind and spiral down the vortex. Yet it seems more that someone progresses to this state by unpacking the experience they had prior, locating the thoughts and looking at the details seems to be the keystone and how easily they give themselves to the community they are working with and vice versa will always determine the depth you can go. Speaking of which: We are running a new commission in March called “Unrealism” that lasts for 58 days in Berlin - curated by Tilman Baumgärtel at Bethanien - this will also be a new precedent of far for us.
But also going back to your question “What could this going further look like?" In a sense it's the death of the known, in order to rebirth maybe more aptly, we would phrase it as the beginning of a death, a Necrologue. To participate in our live works, you have to tranquilize some parts of yourself - mostly your rational self. This also goes for our static object work, such as the game boards were your directed to tap into your subconscious and let your mind find the artwork.
Or in our work at Galerie Kandlhofer, Tulpatrancing which you were part of - to which we summoned tulpas into the space over the course of one night, their energies were left in the space to be exhibited, alongside Tea Strazicic’s artists impressions she took from our sound recordings, where we all mouthed our versions. Even as a viewer, you still have to explore an irrational part of viewing to be able to see the work. Yes you can see the illustration from Strazicic but that is only one part of the image, the other is the audio transcription taken live from the Tulpamancer session and the other is the leftover energy in the gallery were the ceremony was conducted. In a way Strazicic, illustrations act as vehicles of conceptualizing fan fictions to the collective energies we raised in Galerie Kandlhofer over the 14 hours we worked there together but you need the other parts to make them “real”.
I like that comparison with fan fiction since the illustrations –– as great as they are and even though they were based on descriptions–– can only depict one possible, filtered and therefore ultimately imaginative interpretation of what was seen and felt by the partaking person at that moment.
During these sessions, you are able to touch peoples' lives in a very special way, in partly quite intimate moments. I wanted to know if you ever feel some kind of responsibility for what happens under your guidance?
Absolutely, that is the most important part of the work, the sheer emotional weight of having guests in the work is literally the reason why we create this work but it comes with a need for great care. Without the people who join us there would be no work. To try to address the responsibility which is given to us, we also do a lot of training in our practices from other practitioners and also try to leave a lot of space to listen afterwards to those who attended. It's key to understand we are not the gamemasters or directors. We invoke a space, but others inhabit it - that is crucial for Real Game Play.
In recent months, we have come closer physically to the theories of gnostics and chaos magicians through a series of fortunate events, and the ideas of evoking and invoking have become even more important to our practice. Although we started with the structure of role-playing this was just the tip of centuries worth of knowledge regarding bodying, channeling and self-hypnosis we are uncovering more and more. You can find these ideas of ritual self-assassination appearing in new and old digital technologies too. Naturally, today's society's point of trajectory is most acutely video games when you speak about such things, but our research has led us into a world of immersion, virtual reality and augmented environments from a historical and spiritual space too - this lust for pyscho-realism is citing our need for spiritual vandalism, but how it transpires is always different depending on the users.
It seems essential to me that in most of your work and especially in the parts that I could witness myself so far, there is an equal distance to something I would like to call one's personal fiction as opposed to one's inherently individual reality.
Immersion appears as a keyword here, more so when talking about realms that a lot of new technologies try to open up but which can at times feel cold, disconnected and that ultimately stay external. With your practices on the other side, there is a warmth, there are no tools in-between, no further enhancements, it’s somehow very raw.
I don’t dare to state that it was more real than other experiences I had –– not only because I am hesitant of classifying and comparing them–– but it for sure carried a notion of on one side spirituality but even more so of authenticity and I think nowadays it becomes harder and harder to label anything as authentic. So, I got to understand where a fascination for these modes of experiencing your own body and brain originates from.
I could totally see this becoming a more relevant and trending way of entering engines that allow what you call spiritual vandalism in a rather physical environment. However, it also stages a lot of vulnerability, exposing yourself to very existential sources of understanding, to places that present themselves as somehow irrational.
We actually just did a large piece at the Volksbühne entitled “S.M.I2.L.E - A trip into Synesthesia” curated by Yvonne Zindel which played with the idea of a memetic simulated death drive in order to progress beyond the historical tropes of our lived systems. It began with conversations between Zindel and us about the cultural systems we find ourselves inside of, delivered and dictated by past predecessors and current servitors. These systems are of course also living and are so entwined with other systems that to entangle them is virtually impossible, they are cultural, emotional, political, economical and are written by the millisecond. Judith Butler phrased it well “Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.” This is an interesting take on it and perhaps nearer to our line of practice, which you just outlined very well above.
We often think of a system as being oppressive, which it surely is but Butler also goes on to see it as an experience of desire, to be undone by someone to not stay intact, to lose oneself in another. To rewrite yourself by choice, this also lends itself to our hope of allowing the people we work within our simulated worlds to lose themselves in themselves. We are not often given the chance to lose ourselves in the depths of our own mind in western society at least not in a sober self-organized “madness” we are often encouraged through the labor of drink or drugs, however.
What a fitting quote! Isn’t that exactly what you do in your collective sessions, you undo layers of each other by just invoking the personal inner through the reflection of movements and exercise, through the presence of a group, a number of bodies present in that very moment?
I think we (westerners) tend to generally underestimate the systems of energies floating within ourselves and our peers. We are so trained to turn towards external broadenings and we learned to like the things that numb us, to even feel like they make us come alive.
Moving forward, I have the feeling that this kind of performative experiences might gain a wider relevance simultaneously to ever-increasing technological innovation.
Yes, hopefully! These systems are naturally writing our future systems, or like digital systems that are filled with the demons of our past and future. Speaking more with you, it seems that a demon is literally a desire without an object-binding, that’s not to say it’s your personal desire, it could be just a desire in the system, which of course if part of another million systems.
In our Real Game Play works we try to offer spaces to investigate these demons through living bodies, systems of pain and codes of mutual care - this is a sort of care gamification of both a persuasive overarching theme and one of a personal nature from the people who want to experience the work.
Evolution is an unconscious luxury – slow and without control, whilst progression is a brutal hard fork – radical in its virtue yet difficult to implement and even more challenging to adopt. The works we create are in-between states... testbeds for demons and deities.