Neja Tomšič
mixed media

Opium Clippers

Booking & inquiries:

Photo: Kaja Brezočnik

Hand painted ceramics
and storytelling performance,
2017 -
Five ceramic tea sets, sound,
for up to 10 participants
Duration: 90 minutes

Available in English, Slovenian, Italian.

Five ceramic tea sets, artist book

The Opium Clippers is a visual essay joining hand painted ceramics and performance. The central part of the project are five hand painted ceramic tea sets. The work is activated with a tea ceremony that uses ritual and storytelling to shed light on the history of the period of the ‘China dream’ that resulted in conflict and colonisation, and in the development of global capitalism. As the story of the opium ships unfolds, the tea ritual reveals how 19th century tea and opium trade profoundly shaped the political world today.

Illegal trades, often drug trades, have historically been the basis of colonial projects. Their infrastructures allow for accumulation of capital, they rely on tax evasion, speculation and on exploitative forms of labour, on extraction of materials and value. Their legacies and current iterations are, regardless of their hidden nature, embedded in our shared present. While these massive historical currents are omitted from historical narratives, as well as most socio-political analysis, their systemic impact on the lives of communities and individuals is neglected even more.

The Opium Clippers starts from the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States which has, in the past 20 years, claimed around 0.5 million lives, and asks: how do illegal drug economies and their financiral currents manifest, and shape the lives of communities? How can we speak about the current epidemics while and by speaking about the past? How can performative practices, storytelling and ritual expand our sensitivity towards addiction, and deepen our knowledge about systemic violence?

Since their premiere in 2017, I performed the Opium Clippers more than a 100 times. So far they have been presented in 16 countries.

They were performed, among other: at TATE Exchange, London; ZOOM Festival, Rijeka; Young Lions Festival, Ljubljana; Bazaar Festival, Prague; Auawirleben Festival, Bern; Sarajevo Winter, Sarajevo; Prototipi festival in Cagliari; at the Institute of Contmporary Art, Cetinje; Winchester School of Art, Winchester; ACT Festival, Sofia; Cukrarna Center for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana etc.


BOOKING: barbara/at/