Tom Estes – ‘Overlords’ at Art Basel

15- 19th of ~June 2011 


Location:  The Agency of Unrealised Ideas, The Kopfbau, Hall 1 Building
Messeplatz Basel (entrance through Time/Bank currency exchange) 

Following on from The Biennial Project’s Boston Online Biennial 2011 and The VIP Opening Reception for the opening week of the 54th Venice Biennale, Tom Estes’ work ‘Overlords’ will be displayed in The Agency of Unrealized Projects at Art Basel.

*Special events:
Agency of Unrealized Projects—Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co- Director of the Serpentine Gallery will be in conversation with special guests. Wednesday 15th, and Saturday 18th, 2pm, at The Agency of Unrealized Projects conversation room.

The Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP) is a project of e-flux in collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery devised by Julieta Aranda, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones and Anton Vidokle.

Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP) identity is designed by Liam Gillick.

The Agency of Unrealized Projects is organized as a join effort between e-flux and The Serpentine Gallery. The archive will be displayed in an exhibition at the Kopfbau as part of Art Basel.

Unlike unrealized architectural projects, which are frequently exhibited and circulated, unrealized artworks tend to remain unnoticed or little known. But perhaps there is another form of artistic agency in the partial expression, the incomplete idea, the projection of a mere intention? Agency of Unrealized Projects (AUP) seeks to document and display these works, in this way charting the terrain of a contingent future.


Overlords was originally conceived as a video installation comprised of images of ‘Time Travel’ projected on to a book called ‘Local History and Antiquities’. The work was deliberately left incomplete. The photographs, taken during the works formation, are the only physical manifestation of the artist’s original intent.



The project was inspired by the recent diagnosis by some analysts that the economy has become distorted in favor of the super-rich. It has been argued that what we are witnessing is not a single economy at all, but rather the emergence of two, increasingly distinct and divergent types of economy. Though alarming, this is hardly unique; drawing attention to the divide between the wealthy and everyone else has long been standard fare of the political left. In this instance, Time Travel seemed a reasonable fit as the genre of Science Fiction itself has long served as a useful vehicle for ‘safely’ discussing controversial issues about how individuals are constrained, liberated or altered.


For artist Tom Estes, fantasy and illusion are not contradictions of reality, but instead an integral part of our everyday lives. As it’s not possible to reference the laws of Quantum Mechanics without reference to consciousness, it seems a likely vehicle as quantum systems posit the existence of many different configurations at the same time.


As the Quantum Physicist, Werner Heisenberg once famously said “the atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real: they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of facts.” So perhaps, in this instance, creating the work as a partial expression is an even more valid form of artistic agency

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