Fantomat in Tromso Photo: Arthur Arnesen
A project by Dritëro Kasapi, theatre director, writer and cultural initiator based in Sweden, and Venelin Shurelov, set designer and visual artist, who works with drawing, sculpture, installations and film, from Bulgaria.
Co-Production: Via Pontica and Theatre Laboratory Sfumato (Bulgaria) and Intercult (Sweden).
Fantomat won the 2009 Mtel Award for Contemporary Bulgarian Art.
Fantomat is a sculpture-installation of humanoid-looking sculptures with plasma screens in their eyes. They are designed like a slot machine. By inserting a coin (which is not compulsory) and pressing a button the viewer can watch a video. There are seven Fantomats, one of which is wired with a receiver and a transmitter and “talks” with the viewer, answering and asking questions.
The concept of the Fantomats was born during Kasapi and Shurelov’s SEAS Date in Skegness, UK. Neither of the artists had been to a place like Skegness in the UK before, and both responded together to experience. Almost the whole community (from children to teenagers to elderly people) seemed to be possessed by the “Penny Arcade” culture: one person in front of one slot machine, doing repetitive motions, in silence, not communicating with other people in the hope of winning some small amount of money. The slot machine reduces the subject to a machine but the machine is always the winner and the player is always the loser with no prospects of change. For the artists, this was an extreme example of alienation in a commercialized public space. The absence of public art and public spaces for relaxation and contemplation added to this sensation. The only places in Skegness that offered an alternative were the beach and the sea which were almost always empty except in summer time and the tourist season. The idea of the Fantomat was born from the need to subvert the commercialised space by mimicking it, but at the same time offering contemplation, reconnection with the city and with oneself.
The Fantomat is a machine that wants to be a human being. The name Fantomat is made from two words: Phantom and Automat. Phantom derives from the Greek word phantasma and it means a shadow of a being, apparition, illusion and spectre – ”something apparently sensed but having no physical reality”. The automat gives this soul a body.
The machine’s raison d’être does not lie in its function or the information it provides. The Fantomat offers a human expereince meeting our need of contemplation and relaxation in order to experience something that connects to oneself. An offer that contrasts with the hectic urban life and commercialized public space.
The Fantomat project won the prestigious Bulgarian Visual Arts Award in 2009.
Dritero Kasapi was also inspired to create Glorious Death based on his trip to Skegness and Venelin Shurelov’s project “the Labyrinth”, although not realised within the Black/North SEAS project, has been created by the Slovenian festival Exodos in Ljubljana.
Co-producers of this Production:
Production was presented at the following Events: