1-on-1: Timna Tomiša

Timna Tomiša is a video artist, film maker and production assistant based in Amsterdam. Skandl is super excited that she’ll be showcasing work at the debut The Tube event taking place in Amsterdam on 20 January – find out more here.
Hey Timna! You’re from Croatia originally, where you specialized in Mathematics in school – what brought you to Amsterdam to study audiovisual art?
Hey! I guess the condensed version would be that even though I really wanted to go to that school and have had and still do have great interest for scientific disciplines, especially being brought up by what you would call a true ‘mad scientist’ and spending a lot of time at my father’s work in the university lab, I very early started loosing interest in the school’s curriculum. I found it very dry, not creative and somehow it didn’t stimulate my curiosity enough. Also the school was very strict and authoritative and me being the type of person that does not respond to unquestioned authority well… well let’s say it wasn’t a match made in heaven.

Meanwhile I started developing an interest in film and photography. I became friends with a guy who worked in a video rental store and he supplied me with great movies to watch. With that I also started attending photography courses in my hometown after once snatching a camera from my father’s desk. I started organising photoshoots with my friends where we would spend days building improvised sets on the roof of my building, the forest a bit outside the city and many other locations. It was great fun.

When it came to deciding where to continue my education after high school my older sister suggested “why not going to art school?” Then I literally googled: ‘list of art schools in Europe’, cross-referenced the results and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie turned out to be my best option.

I did still graduate with honours from my high school haha. And I am very happy to have had such an education background, it has actually helped me a lot in realising my artworks but also in developing my abstract thinking. I also find that art and science are more like sisters than diametrically opposed. My hard-core scientist and engineer father has been my biggest collaborator on my projects. I think it’s a big misconception that artists and scientists are dramatically different from each other — it takes a great deal of creativity to be successful in either disciplines.

Your work utilizes lots of nightlife atmospheres and neon lighting. Talk to us about your aesthetic…
I cannot really pin-point exactly how my aesthetic came about but I guess it has to do a lot with this certain atmosphere of nostalgia that night time and neon lighting inspire. Perhaps I also suffer from this phenomena Woody Allen explored in Midnight in Paris — longing for and idealising times prior to your contemporary present and I guess that could be the reason for my affinity for objects and aesthetics from ‘before my time’.

I derive a lot from ‘children’s books’, they are a goldmine of basic truths about life, etc. Just now I’m rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events before Netflix releases the new season and I’m having the best time.

When I was in 2nd year of art school I saw a great Finnish film Drifting Clouds by Aki Kaurismäki which mostly takes place around a restaurant called Dubrovnik (incidentally namesake of a famous Croatian town with immense historical heritage), which had a beautiful cyan coloured neon sign prop in it — an element that I shamelessly ripped off in my first student film Time Shop. I spent quite some time in Helsinki where you can still find quite a lot of neon signage all around, and for me the city has this atmosphere of nostalgia and retro-futurism that appeals to me. I don’t think I can really explain it … but come on, neon — colourful shiny lights flickering against the night time background — what’s not to love? During that time I also saw Blade Runner for the first time and it blew my mind.

Who are your main influences, both from video art and elsewhere?
Just recently a friend of mine told me that whenever I tell her about my new ideas she can always relate all of them to one of my favourite and probably most influential books of my life, ‘The Little Prince’. I read it first when I was 6 and have since read it a million times in multiple languages. Two very impactful films for me were Gattaca and Amelié. They are very different from each other in terms of the plot and aesthetic but they both deal with depicting outsiders, and have an underdog in the leading role and I have always been a sucker for the underdog.

I also have to mention fashion photographer Tim Walker who takes amazingly beautiful and wonderland-like photos, and his set design is impeccable. I think wanting to be like him, creating such lovely imaginary worlds, is what ultimately pushed me to start doing art myself. Somewhere along the way our aesthetics diverged and I found my own language that I’m still developing. But I guess him and my sister have to share the guilt for me becoming an artist.

Your recent work ‘The Graveyard Slot’ was based around research into nocturnal mythological creatures, what got you interested in that topic and how do you explore it in the movie?
I realised during my schooling and development as an artist that I am very much interested in metaphors and analogies, and how metaphors rely on analogy to explain/represent real life phenomena. Mythologies themselves are in fact full of metaphors, analogies and allegory so that was kind of a no-brainer for me.

From there I wanted to see what would happen if I found an analogy of a nocturnal mythical creature in someone who lives a nocturnal ‘real life’. Those latter people are often considered outsiders, people on the edge of society, there is a lot of stigma around them while at the same time a lot of these negative images and judgments come from misconceptions and ignorance. At the same time mythological creatures mostly have an elevated status that is never questioned. They are somewhere ‘up there’ on a level higher than us. I wanted to see what would happen if I brought the two together and if the characters could come out of this concoction being more humane. Absurdist literature uses this approach and I relate to it very much.

Plans for the near future?
I’m writing two new scripts — one live action short dystopian fiction film involving a sad love story and one coming of age animated short about growing pains. For the latter I already found a producer in my home country, which I’m very excited about. Croatia has a history of producing some quite successful animation films and I would love to be a part of that.

I would also like to continue the mythological films as there are still so many creatures I haven’t yet explored. In the meantime, I’ll continue working as a production design/art direction assistant on various productions. I feel like I have a busy year ahead of me but I’m very much looking forward to it. I have to admit I’m quite a workaholic.