Neja Tomšič: Tea for Five. Opium Clippers

Posted in Projects

Neja Tomšič: Tea for Five. Opium Clippers
Performance with hand painted ceramics

Nacional library of Montenegro “Đurđe Crnojević”, Cetinje
12th December / 5pm
University Donja Gorica, Donja Gorica
13th December / 11am and 2 pm
5 – 8 people per ceremony
Reservations on institut@ica-me.org

Tea for five: The Opium Clippers is a visual essay joining hand painted ceramics and performance. The central part of the project are five hand painted ceramics tea sets based on traditional Chinese gongfu tea sets. The work Tea for Five, though, takes the form of a happening, a Chinese tea ceremony for five participants during which the artist Neja Tomšič tells (true) stories about forgotten episodes in the story of the China dream that resulted in conflict and colonisation, and development of capitalism. As the story of the opium ships unfolds, the tea ritual reveals an understanding of profound consequences of tea and opium trade had on the political world today.

Neja Tomšič (1982) is a visual artist, poet and writer whose interdisciplinary practice merges different disciplines and media such as drawing, photography, poetry, performance and music. By uncovering overlooked and often hidden stories from history, her passion is to rethink the dominant historical narratives, researching into particularities, and creating situations that approach histories as maps of starting points and links. By using performative elements her projects explore projections of history into the subjective present of individual visitors. Neja also works as a curator and producer and is a co-founder of MoTA (Museum of Transitory Art), a Ljubljana-based research and production platform devoted to transitory art. She lives and works in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

A project by Neja Tomšič
Ceramics by Anja Slapničar
Photography Jaka Babnik
Limited number of places.
Duration: 60 minutes +
The project is financed by the Ministry of Culture of Slovenia.
A production by Glej Theatre.

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Opium Clippers by Neja Tomšič
Artist Book, published by Rostfrei Publishing

Extent: 40 spreads
Dimensions: 200 × 270 mm
Box dimensions: 245 × 310 x 35 mm
Edition: 200

The artist book Opium Clippers is based on the series of homonymous tea ceremonies in which artist Neja Tomšič tells (true) stories about forgotten episodes in world history to a chosen audience while making and drinking tea. In the second half of the 18th and beginning of 19th centuries the tea and opium trade was one of the most lucrative businesses in the world and was, at the time, completely controlled by the great European colonial powers and private corporations enjoying state protection.

The book Opium Clippers is a combination of images and texts through which the artist narrates stories based on documents while, at the same time, consciously transitioning from the factual to the symbolic level of this issue. The tea and opium trade refers to a time, in the past, when notions on politics, class, gender, religion and culture as we know them now were being (trans)formed. It also refers to the present time, however, as this enormous industry is still at the heart of many economic and military superpowers, whose roots can be traced to tea and opium trade. Numerous successful financial, trade or transport companies still active today were established in the period of the tea and opium trade, often as a result of it. Based on short-term planning and quick profits, the tea and opium trade had profound consequences on many societies around the globe.