m책g issue eleven/ 2013 published by nabroad www.maagmag.com
JANNIS VARELAS YORGOS STAMKOPOULOS GEORGIA SAGRI GREGOS THEOPSY IRIS TOULIATOU KOSTAS BASSANOS GOSIA BOJKOWSKA RADHIKA AGARWALA AMIR CHASSON TIMON BOTEZ
VODE Campaign http://boom-wow.tumblr.com
/editor/ Athens: Many artists have left the Greek capital to try their life elsewhere. More have stayed steady to impose order through their artworks or rebel against what is happening. Despite the economic crisis, the art scene in Greece is continuing to flourish and has led to the creation of a platform to re-imagine our own culture and propose structures, platforms, collaborations and projects that produce new alternatives. The situation in Greece is bringing up a range of juxtapositions: on one side there is a number of people, who are striving to make a difference and/or at least portray historic situations. On the other, it merely tells the story of Greece at its present state of emergency.
to be done.” Kostas Bassanos “Artists are not shooting stars unwillingly falling to entertain a comfortable and static crowd of passive spectators. Artists are processing, digesting and therefore generating access to a multi-dimensional world that is the one we all share, namely the idea of Humanity” Theopsy
Yet, we are all at the heart of this issue, and we see ourselves as part of a much greater context, this is why this issue of måg brings many unique viewpoints and standpoints. Welcome to måg issue eleven! “Heritage and national identity are things that you can’t easily shake off, but I think that they form one’s personal history and that they are not factors which indicate the national identity of somebody’s work. They are part of my process indeed, but I don’t believe in national art. I don’t believe that I am a ‘Greek’ artist as I don’t believe that there is such a thing. Nationality should be totally irrelevant to art.” Jannis Varelas “What sort of art can one teach when the whole system collapses? It is a problem with no answer. Fine art schools like other Universities in Greece suffer from lack of funding right now. We probably have to rethink art education outside the usual educational framework. As concerns my teaching experience, I realise that Fine Art students find themselves between the experimental and the ephemeral and an urge to grasp certainties. It is impossible to predict what is unpredictable and uncertain. The very social and political dramatic changes have a heavy impact to the way students think and act. Thus, teaching art becomes a process that infiltrates such changes and follows what seems to be the most important thing: being aware of being in the middle of something yet
MARIA PASSARIVAKI& AUDHILD DAHLSTRØM Editors måg | issue eleven
Artists are n unwillingly fallin comfortable and stat spectat
Arti digesting and therefor to a multi-dimensiona one we all sha the idea of Humanit
not shooting stars ng to entertain a tic crowd of passive tors.
ists are processing, re generating access al world that is the are, namely tyâ€? Theopsy
11 COVER YORGOS STAMKOPOULOS www.stamkopoulos.com MAGAZINE DESIGN by Rodney Point © 2011 www.rodneypoint.com PUBLISHER: NABROAD www.nabroad.org
EDITOR: AUDHILD DAHLSTRØM CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: LYNDON RILEY PAVLA ALCHIN MARIANNE MORILD RUTH BARKER LISA STÅLSPETS SUB EDITOR: LYNDON RILEY LILLIAN UTNE SKJŒVELAND EDITORIAL ASSISTANT: TRINE STEPHENSEN ADVERTISING: firstname.lastname@example.org LONDON Copyright of all editorial content is held by måg. Reproduction in whole or part is forbidden. måg © 2013 www.maagmag.com
FEATURES 12 YORGOS STAMKOPOULOS / Maria Passarivaki 20 JANNIS VARELAS / Maria Passarivaki 32 IRIS TOULIATOU / Maria Passarivaki 44 GREGOS THEOPSY / Maria Passarivaki 54 GEORGIA SAGRI / Maria Passarivaki 60 KOSTAS BASSANOS / Maria Passarivaki 70 AMIR CHASSON / måg 78 TIMON BOTEZ / måg 90 GOSIA BOJKOWSKA / Lisa Stålspets 98 RADHIKA AGARWALA / Kristin Hjellegjerde
text 3 Editor / Maria Passarivaki & Audhild Dahlstrøm
What sort of when the whole sys Kostas
The Bride 1988 244 x 244 x 153 cm mixed media performing sculpture Photo credit Tomek Sierek, courtesy of Liliane Lijn.
f art can one teach stem collapses?â€? Bassanos
Stamkopoulos by Maria Passarivaki
Yorgos Stamkopoulos, born to Greek parents in Katerini in 1983 and now based in Berlin, makes whirring, mesmerising art. His paintings look like the invention of a man obsessed with bright colour tones and LED shades. Also, you get the impression that a small amount of something hallucinogenic has been administered onto his canvases. To me he has the cut and paste attitude of our hip hop generation:
the stirring mechanism is freedom. I have adopted an art of formalism, but it is a very abstract one and without any traces of preliminary drafting or intent in it whatsoever.”
This January, instead of taking a coffee somewhere in our homeland, we decided to catch up via Skype to discuss perspectives on art, life and the ever changing face of the Greek art scene.
How did he end up in Berlin, and how does it feel to return to Greece? What’s different about Berlin’s vibe? It’s rather tempting to read into his work the effect of the Berlin-Greece axis.
There is extensive use of very intense colours and great contrasts in his paintings. He explains:
“When I was younger, I did graffiti and had a big comic collection. I would say that those two “I consider my work a mixture of concept and dynamics are my main colour sources, in aesthetic power. These two are bound together. addition to the LED atmosphere that exists in One cannot exist without the other for me.” club culture.”
Initially, Yorgos works on a large canvas nailed to the wall, creating a composition from which he later selects and frames only some parts. The results are addictive and mesmeric - a slip through time into a psychedelic reality. “The action and the result of the painting process are of equal importance to me; the action because it is at this specific time when I let my emotions and my thoughts explode, and the result because it is the visualisation of those feelings. Viewing my own finished work, I am sometimes scared or surprised by what I see. There is always a surprise at the end.” So far his works appear to employ or portray chaos. “I am dealing with the constant presence of the unknown. My paintings are portraits of the moment, landscapes of an inner vision universe, meditative paintings referring to existence, psychograms as I call them, that are characterised from temporality, melancholy, anticipation and energy.” “The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings is portrayed from the sense of loss and disorder, the premeditative chaos, the harmony of accident, randomness and the element of change.” So, how does his work resonate and what is the deal between necessity and freedom? “I suppose every artist’s work is a matter of personal struggle. Personally I have to admit that
“I arrived in Berlin as an exchange student and I’ve been here ever since. The city has a beautifully relaxed but productive energy that is hard to find anywhere else. Greece makes me somehow nostalgic for the ‘how’ and the ‘what if’ whenever I’m there, and it helps me somehow to redefine myself and gives me hope for a better tomorrow.” We talk about about difficult times and the artist’s creative instincts: “Artists are visionaries, it is necessary for us to keep developing.” And we are agreed that Greek artists living in a country of economic turmoil can cope by shedding their egos and starting to collaborate. As an active member of the art collective Daily Lazy, what view does he have of the collaborative process? “Being a member of Daily Lazy has boosted my personal work. Due to the many meetings concerning upcoming collaborative projects we are always aware of each other’s personal work and the direction it’s taking. I would say it has made me more open to honest criticism of my work and open to new collaborations with artists from different fields.” This collaboration has indeed placed him within a group of globally acclaimed artists and propelled his career accordingly. Yorgos Stamkopoulo’s artwork has been extensively exhibited in Berlin, Athens, Copenhagen, and Italy.
/Stamkopoulos/ Which other artists of your generation do you admire, I ask him. “The list is long, but to mention some I would say... Shannon Finley, Angel Otero, Keltie Ferris and Tauba Auerbach.” Finally, I ask him what his biggest aspirations and fears are. The response? “I want to keep on smiling no matter what and never to lose hope.”
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APEARANCE Front & Back cover Arrested in Abyss (Detail) 2012 Acrylic on Canvas,160x180cm Courtesy of Yorgos Stamkopoulos and CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery Lullaby Of The Lost Soul 2012 Acrylic on Canvas, 140x120cm Courtesy of Yorgos Stamkopoulos and CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery Installations shot, New Dawn at CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery 2012 Courtesy of Yorgos Stamkopoulos and CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery Towards Empyrian Sun 2012 Acrylic on Canvas, 160x140cm Courtesy of Yorgos Stamkopoulos and CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery Installations shot, New Dawn at CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery 2012 Courtesy of Yorgos Stamkopoulos and CAN, Christina Androulidaki Gallery LINK: www.can-gallery.com www.stamkopoulos.com
Jannis Varelas by Maria Passarivaki
Athenian bred and raised, Jannis Varelas currently lives and works in Athens and Vienna. Varelas’ practice includes a broad variety of mixed media installations and employs various human figures with fantastical, satirical, and grotesque elements. These provoke awe and outrage in equal measure in viewers. His work constantly crosses the boundaries of sexuality, floating around social mores and rituals in order to present a vision of modernity as horror show. In other words, Varelas’ work reconnoiters the gap between appearance and reality and exposes the theatrical nature of our lives. Whatever intuition guides his work, the thirty-five-year-old artist is one of the few Greek artists whose art transcends the confines of international gallery spaces. 1) MP: You have received a great amount of recognition lately, which also means more attention from the media. How did you catch people’s pulse? JV: I think that the important thing is not to catch the majority’s pulse, but to talk about things that refer to peoples lives through your work. I deal with identity and the existential perspective of human beings and that is something that is important to everybody . 2) MP: You are from Athens, a city that is presently in crisis. Do you find it challenging preparing a major art event in a city where everything is under constant transformation? Has this influenced the way you work? How is this reflected in your drawings? JV: Greece was always in some kind of crisis, but I think that the crisis you are referring to is a global phenomenon. In Greece of course, this phenomenon is very intense and is worsening rapidly. Working in an environment like this sometimes makes things difficult or even impossible, but at least it’s worth the try. Now about your question on the reflection of this crisis in my drawings, I must say that my work had always to do with the reappropriation of power structures, hegemonical models, consumption and social identity. So I am not dealing with the theme of crisis more than before. Now that we have this situation in our
hands, it is more fruitful to think about the future, about the possible outcome. 3) MP: Is Greek contemporary art ignored internationally? JV: I don’t think that Greek art is ignored, the problem is that no one in Greece - and I am talking about the state, the establishment – haven’t done much to support contemporary Greek art abroad. When it comes to culture all of them push an idea of an ancient glorious past, which of course has nothing to do with what people are actually doing now. Apart from that, small private actors - galleries, private institutions and some curators are trying their best to show what is going on in Greece in terms of contemporary culture. 4) MP: Tell me about your latest work. Why did you call it Oblong Series? JV: This is a small part of a bigger project that I have shown in Kunsthalle Athena under the title Oblong Box. The whole show was an attempt to comment on the structures that have formed and twisted us for the last twenty years in Greece, creating a society based on lust and ignorance. 5) MP: Tell me how you relate to concepts of sexuality and historical influences. JV: Masculinity and femininity in my work correspond and compress the concept of sexuality. Sexuality I think is at the centre of the structural overview of our society. The forms we use to imprint sexuality are very sophisticated but on the other hand often clichéd. In my work, I try to overcome these clichés via the symbolic nature of the erotic as seen through the eyes of authors such as Lautremont, Baitaille, Oscar Wilde and Michel Houllebecq, for example. I also think that through sexuality we can create a discourse on the hegemonic power structures of our time, and take a stand for or against it. Historical references I think are necessary in order to create the vocabulary of
a visual language which aims to develop a discourse on the path that humanity takes. 6) MP: What is the central idea upon which your work is based? Are your intentions fundamentally anthropocentric? If not, to what extent do you want to overcome the human figure? JV: I start with human beings but in the process I step into more abstract concepts. I work a lot with literature and what can be called the cultural ‘net’ of one period of time. I am interested in depicting values and meanings from a certain time frame and projecting them into situations. Take as an example the concept of law. Imagine this concept in one of its historical forms, being shaped on an island in the West Indies few centuries ago, by a tribe whose main activity was eating other people, and then project it onto our contemporary democratic apparatus. You would have an interesting metaphor but also a very weird looking judge. 7) MP: The faces of the creatures you depict in your paintings are mysterious. Are your drawings an expression of your own identity as an abstract artist, as a person? JV: I don’t do portraits. My drawings are more or less an attempt to analyse the human condition, to depict characteristics and identity through references and indications. I am trying to organize my drawings into groups according to their initial idea, in order to create a mechanism of understanding which sometimes happens to be a paradoxical instrument of perception. 8) MP: What are your thoughts regarding national identity and heritage and its effect on everyday artistic creation? JV: Heritage and national identity are things that you can’t easily shake off, but I think that they form one’s personal history and that they are not factors which indicate the national identity of somebody’s work. They are part of my
process indeed, but I don’t believe in national art. I don’t believe that I am a ‘Greek’ artist as I don’t believe that there is such a thing. Nationality should be totally irrelevant to art. 9) MP: You are now based in Vienna. Has this change had any impact on your work? JV: I really love Vienna, and of course it influences the formulation of my work. I don’t have plans for the new year - I will take things as they come and try to make the best of them. 10) MP: How do you perceive the outcome of your work within the overall artistic scene and contemporary artistic production? How would you judge the current status of the Greek art scene? JV: I think that my work is part of a general dialog in the contemporary art world. We don’t exactly have movements and manifestos but I think that there are artists who work with particular ideas and formulate groups in some kind of way. Even the materials they use are a kind of a connective element. I could say that a lot has happened in Greece in the last six years or so, concerning the contemporary art scene. The important thing is that at the moment in Greek society there are controversial and twisted elements that are worth investigating and understanding and for this reason I think the Greek art scene has a lot to contribute.
/VARELAS/ IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Faces 2012 mixed media on paper, 190x180 cm Jannis Varelas Image Courtesy The Breeder, Athens http://thebreedersystem.com Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep, installation view at CAC Cincinnati 2012 curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou Jannis Varelas Image Courtesy The Breeder, Athens http://thebreedersystem.com Faces 2012 mixed media on paper, 190x180 cm Jannis Varelas Image Courtesy The Breeder, Athens http://thebreedersystem.com Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep, installation view at CAC Cincinnati 2012 curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou Jannis Varelas Image Courtesy The Breeder, Athens http://thebreedersystem.com Facade 2009 mixed media, collage, graffite, ink, spraypaint on paper 253 x 300 cm Jannis Varelas Image Courtesy The Breeder, Athens http://thebreedersystem.com Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep, (Detail) installation view at CAC Cincinnati 2012 curated by Xenia Kalpaktsoglou Jannis Varelas Image Courtesy The Breeder, Athens http://thebreedersystem.com
Touliatou by Maria Passarivaki
Born in 1981 in Athens, Iris Touliatou first garnered attention in 2008, a year after she graduated from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, with a show at Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Iris’work takes an investigative, methodical approach. Use of historical facts and her own personal interpretations through a process of symbolic gestures is central in her works, giving hints of things that no longer exist. There are also references to her Greek roots (for instance work dealing with the rise and fall of a Greek modernist hotel chain, Xenia). In person Iris is laid back, working from Paris while taking her work to unchartered places.
missing information, unfinished sentences and encyclopaedia pages torn and restored, my work takes the form of a postscript, or an editor’s note.
1) MP: What are the origins of your art?
In that framework, I have been honest to a methodology but I have not been faithful to one single medium, which has given me considerable freedom… My work is expressed in many forms including sculpture, collage, drawing, lens based work, script writing, performative lectures etc. Beneath this pluralism lies the desire to form new associations and narratives, where both appropriated and self-generated material merge to comment upon art production itself, its mechanisms and displays in relation to a political and social context.
IT: I was born and raised in Athens, in the 80s and 90s, and in what I would define (if it were a film or a book) as a non-linear structure narrative; an era with its own complex implicit chronology. Amid flashbacks and foreshadows, tradition and technological progress, between the Middle East and Western Europe, global and local. It is allusions, metaphors and coincidences that bring and keep everything together. 2) MP: Do you have a certain system of working? IT: Although I have always felt the need to write things down and name them, I never managed to keep a diary - undoubtedly a symptom of forsaking linear timekeeping. I keep notebooks instead. I tend to write on unbound paper so that I can shuffle and rearrange my subjects and material constantly, and I rarely date my notes. My projects, past and future, meld; they remain incomplete, in a state of reanimation, perpetually subject to re-use, re-titling, re-contextualization, open to new associations and links. There are eras and movements I’m fascinated with, a matrix of influences and references that I draw from and try to project myself into; Bauhaus, Russian constructivism and political theatre, agitprop, living newspaper; these are the threads I have been weaving with. In a process of associations and juxtapositions between historical facts and inaccuracies,
While my research focuses on the complex set of practices that we refer to as Modernism and on its principal actors, it is also a way to get at a time period similar to where we are now, it mirrors our present situation, inserts the original incident into a larger context to suggest its real political actuality. The facets between now and then define the project’s vocabulary, materials, and the elaborate process of its becoming.
3) MP: We become witnesses to specific historical events through much of your work. IT: Yes, I am interested in associations between politics and form, between history and representation. I collect information around incidents that have a certain political, socio-cultural significance and that are relevant to a spatiotemporal setting in which I am placed. However, the way I present this research, the way the information I collect is finally materialised, is affected by completely subjective choices. The narrative I weave is very specific to me, it reflects these choices and translates them into a visual display, into words, into gestures. In addition, components of an ‘exhibition device’ as well as the site’s own architectural components, are treated as narrative structures, opening the perspectives of display and montage of history and place into an infinite mise en abyme. 4) MP: Tell us more about why you are interested in
/Touliatou/ historical heritage as material. IT: I am interested in the strategies of appropriation that drive this sort of practice as well; that is, how an artist can process and transform source material, the difficulties of relying on a safe distance or intense proximity with one’s chosen sources… I do not wish to introduce the act of appropriating itself as a main theme in my work. Authorship or originality have been my subjects; however I feel that my re-enactments or adaptations derive from personal interrogations focusing on the social relevance of art. 5) MP: In Apollo goes on Holiday you depict Greece’s transformation to tourist attraction and cinema set. IT: Apollo belongs very clearly to a body of work investigating the so-called ‘cultural diplomacy’ employed broadly during the Cold War and in one specific case, by the Greek National Tourist Organization under the 1967-74 military regime. ‘Apollo Goes on Holiday’ was originally the title of a 1968 propaganda film disguised as a naïve and romantic musical comedy, shot in idyllic locations. One of these was the Xenia hotel in Nafplio, a modernist structure built in 1961 where I coincidentally spent my summer holidays in 1985, a few years before the hotel closed its doors. Xenia Hotels were at the core of an ambitious Greek state-run project to modernize tourism infrastructure after the Second World War. Until 1965, an overall number of 60 modern units were built all over the country by the most prominent Greek architects. The regimented effort by the National Tourist Organization to export the new image of the country wisely engaged, for the marketing of its new architectural achievement, the rising Greek cinema, whose goal became to demonstrate a modern way of living. The newly built Xenia hotels were used variously as backdrops for Greek dramas and comedies. Both real and fictitious scenery sets, they echoed the popular
anticipation of financial recovery and stood as displays of Western consent. Following the epilogue of the Xenia units - their carcasses can be found along the Greek coastline - the project takes the form of a postscript, revisiting conventions of presentation. I try to determine associations between appearance and reality. 6) MP: The ‘discovery’ of projects from the 60s or 70s are predominant in your artistic career. Do you see the danger of nostalgia when re-approaching a work of the recent past? IT: I read this book some time ago called ‘The Future of Nostalgia’ in which I discovered that nostalgia, a word that sounds Greek, was in fact coined in England in the 17th century as a medical term, describing a sometimes fatal condition of displacement and longing. Mountain fresh air and opium were believed to cure the symptoms of the virus, while later it was discovered that, and opposite to the general conviction, a return to the homeland would actually kill most of the patients. Nostalgia is inserted here as carrying a negative connotation while being an aesthetic miscarriage. However, there is a distinction to make between nostalgia that just restores fantasies of the past and nostalgia that enables ways of non-linear existence, of inhabiting many places at once and living in a time out of time. I try to think of nostalgia as a powerful mechanism, utterly detached from aesthetics. A mechanism that designates a frozen moment in time, both a statue and an opera; a device that enables the work to constantly cross the boundaries and suspend between memory and expectation, seen and foreseen, fact and hypothesis. 7) MP: In one of his texts Andreas Huyssen attempts to link the ambiguous meanings of ruins, nostalgia and authenticity, while at the same time restoring their glamour. Your works have a direct relationship to these concepts. Would you say that this particular obsession of yours with mixing sites and years is able to offer you an alternative vision of modernity and has even informed you about the shortcomings of the present?
/Touliatou/ IT: It has been noted that epidemics of nostalgia often follow revolutions or periods of social and political upheaval like the 30s or the 60s. This sadness caused by displacement and the sentiment that something is no longer able to be repaired or to return to its initial condition, is fundamental to the modern condition. What is noteworthy in that association and possibly related to the present situation, is that the attempt to restore a distorted image of a glorious past and the mix of non-prospective nostalgia and politics create a dangerous cocktail, partly responsible for nationalistic and religious revivals. 8) MP: How do you feel about the ubiquity of architecture in art today, compared to when you started working with it? IT: Following the same line of thought, it is interesting for me how cultural institutions are mirrored in their architecture, consequently influencing our reactions both as actors and as spectators. Major museums as well as commercial spaces have abandoned the white cube concept and/or try to recreate it as a backdrop inside industrial relics, whilst revealing more or less the former state and function of the building. This is unavoidably creating associations that artists are called to reflect upon and to project in, conceptually and spatially. 9) MP: How important is the concept of montage in your work? IT: It’s a tool and a concept that I think responds well to the specific conditions or politics of time and space we just mentioned. It enables a process of interpenetration, of adaptation, of incorporation, in which what is appropriated and what is generated is cut, re-shaped and reformed in a new perspective.
10) MP: What is the current status of your relationship with Greece? IT: An audience craving a story with a happy ending is probably an audience susceptible to fiction, fabrication and fakery. Without undermining any cultural reinforcement and involvement I think it’s equally important to address the complexities of why ‘culture’ should not and cannot be regarded as a panacea for a country’s injuries, or the risk that is involved in using culture as a political tool. 11) MP: Do you sometimes feel pressure that your next work has to be better than the one you did before? IT: Creativity and suffering or heavy anxiety are somehow inherently linked. In a world of unmanageable expectations about performance, production crisis and the nail biting agony of always trying to come up with the next thing, pressure starts to transform into a component of the work, both thematically and structurally. Recent projects have investigated Robert Smithson’s destroyed artwork Enantiomorphic Chambers, the cancelled theatrical premiere of the labour opera ‘The Cradle Will Rock’, directed by a very young and ambitious Orson Welles and Sergei Eisenstein’s unrealized film ‘The Glass House’, which I revisited under a long illustrative title: Proposals for the materialization of three impossible scenes. My next project is entitled Solus Rex. Borrowed from chess terminology ‘the solus rex problem’ is where the black king is the only black piece on the board. Solus rex problems tend to be waiting-move constructions. The white pieces cannot directly force checkmate, so white makes an aesthetically pleasing ‘waiting move’, which compels the black king to move into a ruinous position.
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE The Cement Is Just For Weight, Dear 2012 Screen, ca. H 194 x 104 + 85 + 62 x 4 cm patinated steel, concrete, one way mirror, glass Image Courtesy Iris Touliatou Still waiting for brighter days 2008 Collage, 30 x 40 cm framed Image Courtesy Iris Touliatou and Duve Berlin Mr.Mr R.R 2012 Collage on paper, ca. 22 x 32 cm framed Image Courtesy Iris Touliatou and Duve Berlin The Medium is the Message 2011 Glass, hand cut, polished, sandblasted edges, adhesiv 130 x 102 x 67 cm On the breaking act of seeing through and through the other side of grounds and things Installation at Duve Berlin gallery Image Courtesy Iris Touliatou and Duve Berlin Mr.Mr R.R 2012 Collage on paper, ca. 22 x 32 cm framed Image Courtesy Iris Touliatou and Duve Berlin Still waiting for brighter days 2008
Collage, 30 x 40 cm framed Image Courtesy Iris Touliatou and Duve Berlin LINK: http://iristouliatou.com www.duveberlin.com
Gregos Theopsy by Maria Passarivaki
Why exactly are you so interested in youth culture, and what took you in the direction of street art?
His approach has been emulated by a younger generation of artists, including some within the fashion industry. Is that interesting to him?
“‘Youth culture’, it’s really a terrible expression. I am not interested in youth culture, I am interested in what is alive, what has not been labelled, has no self-assurance, no recognition but has the certitude that it participates in inventing tomorrow. Regarding street art, I never looked in the direction of street art, only in the direction of the street. In those open spaces, streets, like the Internet, or blue oceans we can exchange and share, express, confront each other, copy what’s good, learn, sharpen our views. And it really does not matter if it’s writing on walls, planting trees, building boats, playing music or verbally addressing a crowd. History, trees, kids cannot wait!”
“I am not expecting much from the dissemination of what I do. In fact I don’t really care what happens once it’s out of the studio. Some of my work has reached out to people, mostly because of the fact that everything is exposed now. I receive images, poems, and sounds as feedback and meet quite a lot of other artists. I am not sure if these people have an accurate image of who I am, or what I am after, but who cares? What’s important is that we’re inspiring each other.”
Theopsy works mostly in black-and-white: “Like when you turn into a vegetarian upon realizing how meat ends up on your plate. It’s the result of an accidental thought that occurred very early, while pondering the nature of light and colors. It intensified through contact with the work of radical painters such as Rothko and Reinhardt. I came to realize that - at least for me - colours should be left free, ungrasped and unused. Free to permanently change, to be unstable. So, I am mainly left with black ink. And black does not exist. It’s an abstraction in itself. Sometimes, however, I use a glossy oil paint, but that’s because it reminds me of my fisherman friends, and it’s this specific paint that just happens to be blue. My relationship to colours is purely contemplative. I despise using them.” Theopsy refuses to be associated with the art ‘system’. “I just keep a distance. I would be more involved if I had the feeling that the art system was efficiently promoting ideas that are worth the material they use. Or at least participating in a wider human debate. And it’s not my role to change it. My role is to create, and make sure that what I create does not serve a counter-purpose. Anyway, I publish my books in runs of 150 copies, I keep total control over the production of my shows and I refuse to sell my work. So this does not make me very attractive for art dealers. I am a lost cause to them.”
There is something contradictory in his work, like a rave party in a serene setting. “Nice image. It reminds me of a text Romeo Gigli wrote about my work, where he shared the notion that it is the soul that contains the body and not the opposite. There is an intuitive idea that the surface of things is usually more stable than what they contain. But I believe the surface of things is always unstable and shivering. While the deeper you go, the more serene things are. A little bit like an ocean or maybe the human soul. I am naturally inclined to find a balance between order and chaos within my work. But it’s a parabolic point of equilibrium and I make sure it is never totally reached. Or reached with a lot of traps around so than it can break again and unleash perpetual movement. All this happens very consciously by now, but it occurred probably intuitively in earlier works.” Boom-Wow on Tumblr started as a response to what is now known as the ‘crisis of representation’ in politics. “The original idea was to look for new tools, new ‘words’ to update political language. It is not something new. Many bridges through history have been built around this idea, and not all of them have been a positive input. I have to tell you here that I never conceived of politics as a battlefield for ruling organs. To me, politics is about how we organize together, and therefore everything is politics. We are all politicians. The ultimate challenge today - the relationship between each individual and the group - can only be addressed by diversifying the way we participate in the political debate. Within this frame, I believe that artistic expression has a lot to propose, because it is also a language
/THEOPSY/ based on the relation of the individual with the entirety. By doing this I am attempting to emancipate both politics and the arts.” So do you believe in the idea of good or even responsible art? “Art cannot be responsible. It necessarily has to challenge our limits of perception and remind us that there is no equilibrium. There was a time when everyone was painting grapes and oranges, because this is what people wanted to see. And at the time Chardin was also painting grapes and oranges, but he was in fact wondering about the nature of matter itself with such intensity that this was actually reflected in every millimeter of his work. Now, nobody cares about the apples and oranges and grapes, but we all care about Chardin.” Do artists have to maintain their identity as citizens? Or do they need to escape this sometimes? “You seem very careful with this hypothetical right to ‘escape’. Your ‘sometimes’ reminds me of an undecided winter swimmer. Listen, art is not about people sitting there watching other people burn out. Artists are not shooting stars unwillingly falling to entertain a comfortable and static crowd of passive spectators. Artists are processing, digesting and therefore generating access to a multi-dimensional world that is the one we all share, namely the idea of Humanity.” What do you like about Athens, or what would you try to change if possible? “There is a certain lack of self-assurance in Athenians. People are very concerned about the way others see them, about their image abroad. You can’t stand for, propose or appreciate much novelty when you’re like this. Which would be your ideal place to live in? The United States of Poetry. A place where everyone’s individuality is expressed and in symphony with the others. It’s a utopia of course, but I believe it’s not very far from what is already going on. Although right now, most people are more concerned
about the others not playing in tune, and less concerned about the sound they make. Sándor Petöfi wrote once that when people can rule in poetry, they will be ready to rule in politics too. A lot of people would like to see the Greek scene as booming, but in fact despite the growing amount of art you really have to search to find the people that have something good to propose. I just wish artists and creators would see the opportunity to try new paths, explore new ways to reach out. Most of the artists I meet are doing far less good stuff when they are confronted by the regulars of the Greek scene. I don’t know who’s fault it is, but it’s a fact. So I avoid going to galleries and I prefer visiting artists in their studios or seeing them perform in squats, in the streets, where they feel at ease. That’s also a concern addressed by a new generation of art promoters, with fresher and sharper minds that may or may not take over, but they’re certainly helping the art scene now.” In one of his latest works, Vode campaign, Theopsy created forty posters inspired by political street posters and posted them around Exarcheia - central Athens - endeavoring to conjoin two social classes diametrically opposed to each other. The history of graffiti confronting a gentrified city, a comment on the current situation in Greece. Most of his ongoing projects focus on Greece. “Which is a choice due to the boiling but also challenging situation there. They’re mostly collaborative works with people from different fields. I still collaborate with ‘L’impossible’ in France, and still work on the campus on the island of Anafi. I will also soon be finished with my war installation - which is a three-day, non-stop war between armies of bent toys and objects. But I still don’t know where it will be presented. And of course, I play a lot of piano.”
/THEOPSY/ IMAGE CREDITS All images by Gregos Theopsy © 2013 http://theopsis.blogspot.co.uk The VODE Campaign: VODE is a virtual political campaign lunched by artist Theopsy in April - Mai 2012 during the national election in Greece. In an attempt to infiltrate in real time an historical event and displace its content, the artist has used the means of a classical campaign to promote a fictional character through social medias, videos, speeches, press and posters. During this campaign, Theopsy as constantly leaped between real and unreal, providing a diversity of contradictory but yet complementary actions ranging from a simultaneous exhibition of art works in two socially opposite venues, the art direction of a very real campaign for a very real eligible politician, and the active participation to radically opposite political think tanks. “By hijacking the key object or event on which an historical sequence is based, by hijacking an historical “praxis” and transfer it into a non-historical context, i believe we can create a new point of observation, from which such an historical sequence would simply reveal its porosity. The result of such an experiment could be to a better understanding of the synchronicity principles that relate each one of us to any Event, historical or not, and somehow initiate a process of taking back from history what belongs to us.” http://boom-wow.tumblr.com/ https://vimeo.com/41311115
Georgia Sagri by Maria Passarivaki
Georgia Sagri is out there, trying to figure out our era by exposing herself, either in real or virtual places. Live experience is at the centre of what she does; in deforming and restretching her (and our) limits, she draws us closer. Sagri grew up singing and playing all kinds of musical instruments - her background is in music - but as regards her performances, they are a mixture: of PowerPoint presentations, projections of Word documents, and sound recordings.
each and every person who looks at them become part of them - it is more a search of community than assuming that because we are in a space we are already a group or a community. A shaman needs a community to exist but in my case there is no community, or let’s say the community is always in question.
1) MP: Some of your performances are about conforming to social roles.
GS: ‘Rhythmanalysis’ is a book by Henri Lefebvre that one of my teachers at Columbia University gave to me in the first year of my MFA studies in Visual Arts. In the book, Lefebvre analyses the various social and biological rhythms that exist in space and time, interrelated to each other. An observation of rhythms is an observation of the many factors that constitute a society (its creative force, economic factors, commodities, production, measurements, architecture, politics, etc.) If we listen to these rhythms and analyse them, there can be several ways to shift them, to create syncopations, transformations and expansions than to just simply go against or with them.
GS: Considering my participation in water, which is present in fountains, I find illuminating the concept of the source, constituted through the practice of performance, the gender “woman” like the gender “man” remains open to interpretation. In this way, I can be identified as a “man” and a “woman” and at the same time I am not identifying myself with those two genders at all. 2) MP: Is it your professional ‘mission’ to overcome binary oppositions? As the artist stretches his boundaries, the audience comes closer? GS: In most of the works the aim is to blur the dichotomy of the universal and the personal and that determined ‘I’ as only individualistic and the ‘we’ as only collective, so perhaps the issue is how we come together, closer to the subject and act. There is no mission. 3) MP: Jerry Saltz from New York magazine compared you to a shaman. Would you agree with that? How do you evaluate what you do? GS: As far as I know, the shaman in a community is the one who is a healer. I personally don’t relate to that characterization because I have no knowledge of plants, the forces of the earth and the animals’ talk like the shaman does. My work is to translate behaviours, collect gestures, repeat and expose them and to try and have
4) MP: Can you speak in detail how rhythm analysis and the concept of voice work in your work?
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE (Detail) Working the No Work 2012 Whitney Biennial 2012 performance view courtesy of the artist and Andreas Melas & Helena Papadopoulos, Athens, Anthony Reynolds (UK), Real Fine Arts (NY), Formalist Sidewalk Poetry Club (FL) and Melas Papadopoulos (AT), copyright Georgia Sagri Working the No Work 2012 Whitney Biennial 2012 performance view courtesy of the artist and Andreas Melas & Helena Papadopoulos, Athens, Anthony Reynolds (UK), Real Fine Arts (NY), Formalist Sidewalk Poetry Club (FL) and Melas Papadopoulos (AT), copyright Georgia Sagri Gardens 2012 Andreas Melas & Helena Papadopoulos, Athens performance view courtesy of Anderas Melas & Helena Papadopoulos copyright Georgia Sagri Link: www.georgiasagri.blogspot.com
Bassanos by Maria Passarivaki
From Kostas Bassanos’ text-based work with a scanned piece of a wooden pallet commenting on the versatility of the object itself, following the tradition of modern architecture, to the artist’s short looped videos, to black ink elements and A4 paper works... in the last, Bassanos refers to sculpture as a stratification of layered material but also to the tradition of late modernism. Whether combining or assembling, in a minimal way, materials, forms, and meanings, Bassanos’ interest focuses on horizons of aesthetic and cultural form, while his practice has a deep conceptual character enriched by references from Romanticism or literature (Eliot, Poe, Kafka...) Constantly referencing social and political fragments and writings in his work, he firmly believes that art is always, to some degree, a political act. 1) MP: Do you still live and work in Athens? KB: Yes, I do. I live right in the centre of Athens. I find Athens inspiring despite the difficulties that the current socio-political situation brought to the city and its habitants. The degradation of the quality of life coexists with the necessity for change and this is very challenging. 2) MP: Your work is constantly constructing or deconstructing reality - are you an unrepentantly romantic person? KB: Romantic... I wouldn’t say that. I am just interested in how we can deal today with issues raised in that period of art history defined as Romanticism. It goes almost without saying that as a visual artist I am more interested in the visual vocabulary of Romanticism rather than the literary. Dwellings have always been related to human history - exploring dwellings is to explore the places where we die. In the meantime we construct and deconstruct reality. 3) MP: Most of your works bear intriguing titles - why do you chose these titles in particular?
KB: Some titles like, Second Attempted Suicide with Smarties (1998), are somehow complementary to the work. However, in the most recent works - especially the ones that are text-based – the titling has an element of tautology; it is the work itself. That leaves no space for allusions and interpretations. What you see is what you get. In the end, the titling is as important as the work itself. 4) MP: Back in 2011 you presented your work La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi at the third Athens Biennial. Could you give us some detail on your main inspirations and what you are trying to convey to visitors? KB: This particular work was made in 2010 and it was inspired by a work by Joseph Beuys - a famous life-size silk screen print which has ‘La rivoluzione siamo noi’ handwritten on the bottom left of the image. The reference to Beuys was intentionally made in order to readdress a thought that has been forgotten and stimulate the audience to engage with it. 5) MP: Are you able to see these works as your audience do? KB: The public, the beholder, is the destination. Thus, as an artist I have no other choice but to build a visual language that can communicate. On the other hand, I am part of what constitutes the public. So, what we create comes from and is delivered to what comprises our immediate environment. I do not exclude myself from what is defined as the audience; I am a part of it. 6) MP: What is your work process like? KB: I do not have specific routines in my work process. I usually take notes or I compile an archive of whatever is related to the issues that I am investigating. However, being in the studio, doing nothing in particular or being in a state of inertia is an essential part of the work process.
/Bassanos/ I prefer working to natural sounds, like those coming from the window or the next-door neighbor: a ‘reality’ medium. 7) MP: Can you explain something of the context of the recurrent ideas of disaster, surrender and survival in your work? KB: Back in 2009 I made a work called The Crows (from the Collection of Monuments of Catastrophes). It was a large installation of pieces of pallet cast in plaster, ink and plastic crows cast in plaster. The main inspiration for that work were the illustrations of a book by Georg Wolfang Knorr called Recueil des monuments des catastrophes published in 1768-75. I tried to make an interpretation of the illustrations combining pallets as an industrial and economical growth residue, and crows as a reference to disaster, decay and death. However, my approach to disaster is not limited to the way the resulted imagery of a disaster (e.g. ruins in Piranesi’s illustrations or photos from the ghost town of Chernobyl) could suggest a new representation; I am also interested in how disaster affects someone individually like in Stalker by Tarkovsky. Surrender and survival are conditions that someone may find himself in. It is something that I am not interested in at the moment. In short, I am not into representing human conditions but in what could be perceived and experienced as a dwelling - either a vast landscape or a mole’s hole, where conditions are simply suggested. This is the reason why the human figure is absent in my recent work. 8) MP: Could you say a few words about the dynamic in the Athens art scene? KB: It is very complex. You have galleries that struggle to keep going, and the institutional framework to support and promote Greek contemporary art either doesn’t exist or is insufficient. The very few examples that
successfully attempt to generate a debate are driven by individual or group initiatives independent from the museums, public spaces and collections. However, a lot of things happen against the odds. But what comes when the party is over? Where will all this cultural production end up? We need action in order to keep the scene thriving. 9) MP: You have been also teaching in Greece. What does the future hold for students of Fine Art? KB: What sort of art can one teach when the whole system collapses? It is a problem with no answer. Fine Art schools, like other universities in Greece, are suffering from lack of funding right now. We probably have to rethink art education, take it outside the usual educational framework. As regards my teaching experience, I realize that Fine Art students find themselves between the experimental and the ephemeral and feel an urge to grasp certainties. It is impossible to predict what is unpredictable and uncertain. These very dramatic social and political changes have a heavy impact on the way students think and act. Thus, teaching art becomes a process that infiltrates such changes and follows what seems to be the most important thing: being aware of being in the middle of something yet to be done. 10) MP: What’s next for you? KB: I am currently working towards my solo show at the Ileana Tounta Gallery in Athens next April, and I am looking forward to a project on the Greek island of Andros next summer, which is a collaboration between Greek and French artists.
/Bassanos/ IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Five Days 2009 A4 whitepages, wax, ink Image Courtesy Kostas Bassanos and Ileana Tounta Gallery Athens Das Kapital 2008 plaster (pallet and gold bar cast) Image Courtesy Kostas Bassanos and Ileana Tounta Gallery Athens This is the way the world ends 2011 pallet wood, ink Site specific installation at The National Thetare in Athens (Ziller Building) for the exhibition Common View/Contemporary Art at The National Theatre Image Courtesy Kostas Bassanos and Ileana Tounta Gallery Athens Melancholic Black 2012 A2 white paper, black ink, 100 x 59,4 x 42 cm Image Courtesy Kostas Bassanos and Ileana Tounta Gallery Athens Nightwatch 2010 plaster (pallet cast), torches, 480x160x80cm Image Courtesy Kostas Bassanos and Ileana Tounta Gallery Athens LINK: www.bassanos.gr
AMIR CHASSON by m책g
1) måg: Portraiture is an integral part to your practise and your chosen subjects have been diverse; from middle age men to representations of a Nazi; what has been your process in choosing your subjects? AC: I show people who are hard at work; bankers in suits, rugby fans or astronauts. Being a Nazi also meant being a part of a workforce, just like City employees or male nurses. Some Nazis must have been highly motivated with a sunny, can-do attitude, while others felt stuck in a nine-to-five McJob and worried about their pension. The clothes in these portraits are also important. The astronauts’ blue suits with their round collars, for example, are almost identical to the uniforms worn by men who work for commercial cleaning services at a minimum wage. They come in, they do their job, and once a year they even get to step into a side-office and have their portrait photo taken. This portrait will later be used in some publication or other that will help the organisation they work for increase sales or get better PR and more government funding. They themselves will probably never get to see this publication and in many cases their photographs will continue to be used long after they themselves have already left that organisation. 2) måg: When presenting the portraits you juxtapose them with graphical data, is this an attempt to remark on the way people traditionally read and view portraits, a way of elevating them above the simplistic? AC: The starting point for these paintings was the idea of making the portraits work as a kind of eye candy or a ‘gaze-trap’ to grab the viewer’s attention and then it built up from there. People started interpreting my work as political, or in some way referencing sociology, or economics, or demographics. But the truth is that I just wanted to capitalise on people’s natural inclination and attraction to portraiture as a way of making them take notice of my work. I thought that if I could paint interesting faces, I would be free to put anything I wanted next to them. It’s a bit like Holbein’s Ambassadors, where the figures are a sort of
excuse to show other things. It is two faces looking straight at you in a room bursting with objects that show how rich and sophisticated they are. In contrast, in my paintings, the men look perplexed, yet resigned to their fate: they are physically detached and separate from the symbols of knowledge placed next to them. They are ignorant and embarrassed, yet calm. While the ‘Ambassadors’ is perceived as symbolising the human quest for knowledge, the men in my paintings appear to be estranged from such things. 3) måg: When looking at the men in your paintings I think of the famous quote from Jean-Paul Sartre’s play ‘No Exit’; “Hell is other people”. - Their big noses, sweaty foreheads, awkward yet (maybe) charming smiles – the feeling of looking at someone looking back; an unwanted eye contact. However; it is this slightly unpleasant feeling which makes your paintings intriguing. Who are these men? Where do they come from and how can we attempt to try to understand their stories? AC: Early on in the process of making these paintings, I realized that the subtlety of the facial expressions adds to the sense of uncertainty and mistrust that the viewer might feel when trying to equate the portrait with the graph, because the facial expression does not give away anything: they just sit there like official TV news presenters or mental patients on medication. In the ‘Ambassadors’, we cannot be sure that these two characters really do posses some important knowledge that they keep secret: it may be that they don’t actually know anything. We are not sure if they really did study and master the plethora of scientific devices, musical instruments and other intellectual artefacts that surround them or if this is just a contrived photographers’ studio backdrop. But never mind all that — some researchers have suggested that these two elegant Frenchmen never even existed and that Holbein just made them up… I would compare the portraits in my paintings with the Archaic Kouros sculptures of pre-classical Greece. Like them, my subjects appear to be in a nirvana-like state – although the truth is there is something quite vacuous and unspiritual about them. They will never experience a real epiphany or achieve a better understanding of life — only the vacuum of
/CHASSON/ acceptance and blissful ignorance. 4) måg: What issues are you exploring in the work ‘Nazis and Astronauts’ (2011)? AC: This painting started as a semiotic joke, playing on Hollywood blockbusters such as Cowboys & Aliens etc. It is actually a painting of heads. The heads are components of a decorative pattern that plays with the visual effect of a black and white picture next to a coloured one, like the pattern of a chessboard or bathroom tiles. The portraits should be perceived as being devoid of meaning. I screwed around with the viewer’s expectations even more by making sure that not all of the black-and-white photos are of Nazis and not all of the coloured ones are of Astronauts. Somewhere in this pattern there is an astronaut disguised as a Nazi…. Of course, I would expect viewers to perceive this work as showing that good and evil are interchangeable. It highlights the game of musical chairs that men play in society, the way they find themselves trapped in certain situations where they must perform according to the rules of the square they were put into. But, seriously, the actual content of each tile is secondary. Everyone knows how staring at the pattern formed by one’s bathroom tiles can bring on a state of transcendental joy and calmness. In that sense, this work is spiritual: it is a form of mandala, a Buddhist symbol for meditation or, if you wish, a psychoanalytical symbol in a dream, representing the dreamer’s search for completeness and self-unity. 5) måg: In your recent solo show at the Outpost Gallery, the floor were covered by canvasses bolted together to form a towering entity; did you intend these sculptures to reinforce the themes of your portraits? AC: Yes, absolutely. It was a sort of a continuation of what I was doing in my previous two-dimensional work, only here the statistics
and graphs spiralled out of control, taking over the whole space. The imposing canvas tower acted as barrier, a dividing force, which, from the front looked vey intimidating and musical but when you went round to the back and saw what was behind the façade, the whole macho power structure collapsed. It was like going backstage at the theatre and realising that the life you had seen on stage was just make-pretend. And then there were the four portraits, which were all very similar – all sweating and sneering at you, like a bank manager refusing you a loan. This effect also comes through in the canvas tower: it is covered in geometrical shapes which from a distance look cool, logical and precise, but up close are revealed as imperfect, dripping with sweaty household gloss paint. At the end I decided to throw in an old press photo of Elvis with his parents. I wanted it to act as an alien presence that would be detached from the rest of the show. But as it turned out, it was the perfect sign-off. The Elvis family’s faces are all just variations of the same all-American face. They all smile for the camera: but their complexion and hand gestures betray the anxiety and neurosis bubbling under the surface. IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Nazis And Astronauts, 2011 Oil on canvas, 151 x 121 cm Image courtesy Amir Chasson Villette 2012 Oil on unstretched canvas with coax cable nail-in clips, 220 x 500 cm, installation view, The British School at Rome, December 2012 Image courtesy Amir Chasson A Whiff Of Evidence 2011 Oil on canvas, 61 x 76 cm Image courtesy Amir Chasson The Drooping Draperies 2012 oil on canvas on board (5 panels), 130 X 130 cm approximately Image courtesy Amir Chasson LINK: http://www.amirchasson.com Upcoming 2013: ‘New Order: British Art Today’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. Solo show at ArtEco gallery, London www.artecogallery.com
TIMON BOTEZ by m책g
1) måg: One fascinating aspect of your practice is the sculptural elements you construct in which to ‘display’ sound. The wood, at times roughly cut while at the same time carefully designed and crafted with its own purpose and life, becomes a participant in a larger composite of music or symphony of sound. What goes into the creation of these objects/sculptures and what is the process behind their construction? TB: I think of these objects as performers. They all have a certain personality, relative to the sound they play, but they are secondary to the primary concept. I usually sketch them up based on purpose, e.g. frequency response and exhibition space. Then I build them. That process is much more intuitive. I draw directly on the lumber and crudely cut out shapes. I often come across problems during assembly so a lot of improvisation is involved in getting the pieces together. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no carpenter and most of the time the end result is far from the initial plan. Arranging the objects/sculptures is the last step and always happens on site. It’s a bit like moving building blocks around without a plan. I really enjoy that. 2) måg: How do you compose and explore these sounds? What is the creative process that brings their relationship with the objects/sculptures to life? TB: Sound and composition are conceptually driven. I attempt to rationalize conceptual patterns that I observe in my surroundings, like... translating a sensation into a texture. These concepts usually have an aural reference that I try to emulate with sound. I write software to do the translation job. The software behaves a bit like living systems that tell the ‘performers’ what to play – in real time. Similar to the building process, things happen along the way and the outcome is not always as planned, but that’s part of the excitement. I am not totally in control.
3) måg: Is there a reoccurring concept that you wish to explore through your practice? TB: I find human interaction fascinating. I grew up in Oslo, a relatively small capital city. My grandmother lived in Paris and going there as a child I felt as if the world opened up. The bustling markets and the metro’s flow had underlying structures that everyone followed and broke with simultaneously. Like an orderly chaos. This fascination was also nourished by living in London and New York as an adult. I guess on a lower level, finding structures in seemingly everyday situations is a recurring theme. 4) måg: The music and sounds we experience through your work often seem ‘accidental’ in nature as well as distinct in their beautifully composed qualities. Could you tell us about the different working methods that you use and how you explore different strategies in composing? TB: I like the appearance of randomness, but randomness by itself is not that interesting. So I look for ways of constructing seemingly random elements and inserting these into the composition. Sometimes I play/improvise with software instruments and other times I work with a graphic programming environment called PD (Pure Data), building little program-organisms that can trigger software synthesizers and/or sound files. Once a program is set to run, I am no longer in control and these seemingly accidental sounds happen. 5) måg: A Symphonic Quarrel was a recent exhibition at the Jam Handy in Detroit (2012); a symphony of speakers feeding sound, noise and voices. It is not obvious to the ear what the voices are expressing; however a sense of unease is prevalent. You have written that you are influenced by the erratic behavior and incidental interactions that take place around you in daily life. Tell us what role ‘chaos’ plays within this particular work and your experience of life.
/BOTEZ/ TB: Infinite Argument was the name of the installation. The work explored the irrational and combustive nature of arguments. A disagreement can be civil and healthy, but if you insert passion, emotion or stress to the equation you quickly see the pattern change. It can turn combustive with unpredictable behavior patterns dependent on a number of factors. This intrigues me on several levels. The aspect of stress/emotion being a catalyst to break patterns is one. I guess a trigger to act outside the rational can be translated in many ways, but I choose to think it’s a critical component for progress (big statement!) On a personal level it’s an attempt to understand my own issues with irrational and combustive temper. My father’s family is from Romania. The archetypical Romanian has a Mediterranean temperament, in stark contrast to the sober Norwegian-Lutheran environment in which I grew up. Given my heritage, you could say that I’ve inherited a volatile temper from my dad. I have tried to understand and control what triggers it for some time (without a therapist), but there is a lot I’m struggling to grasp. I think much of my interest in the chaotic and unpredictable comes from that. 6) måg: Your approach to sound is to explore the space in front of a sound source by funnelling and projecting the moving air as a way of sculpting audio waves, and your approach to sound as a medium is that it can be shaped and formed. The physicality of your understanding and conceptualisation of sound and noise is compelling, as it often does not stop with the sound itself, but with the sculptures in which sound exists within your installations. How are these relationships challenged and explored i n the process of making new work? TB: Because I don’t play an ‘instrument’, in the normal sense, my sound does not have a specific character. It can have any or all sounds
at the same time. A room and its acoustics become all the more important. The space in front of and around the speakers adds layers of reverberation that can be used to colour these sounds. I am no audio engineer, so I experiment. I direct sounds into the space, bounce it off the walls, dampen it on site, localize resonance, funnel and mould it etc. Certain curves, sizes, exponential volume, materials, all affect the end result. There is a fascinating amount of research into the behaviour of sound and its interactions with materials, but I won’t bore you with that. 7) måg: Peripheral Noise was shown in Oslo at Gallery Storck recently (2012). For this work you monitored the changes in name patterns in the USA over the last 100 years. Was there a specific mapping technique you used in the making of this work - was it based on scientific research methods? Or did it derive from a direct visual representation of the statistical evidence? TB: Both. Humans have a certain flock mentality, even where the naming of newborns is concerned. The database reveals that the majority of us don’t dig very deep into the pool to find a name. On average, 70% of the population choose from 20% of the names that are in circulation. Interestingly, naming studies each year look at the variations within the 200 most popular names (100 for boys and 100 for girls). This list makes up about 0.6% of the name pool. The project began some years ago when I got hold of a database containing every name given to an American newborn over the last 110 years, down to a popularity of 5. I am interested in the quantity of names, and how that change over the years. I wanted to look for variation in the name pool with a focus on years of distress, such as the great depression, Pearl Harbour, Bay of Pigs, the race riots etc., to see if I could find a relationship. The initial methods I used were fairly conventional - counting names, sex, length of names, number of alphabetical characters, popularity of names, and measuring the data up against each other. This produced a series of graphs and tables compiled in a dossier.
/BOTEZ/ The way names behave on a page is very different from written language with a unique rhythm and texture. Names also have visual references, e.g. images of people you know, have heard of or read of. I obviously wanted to produce some large visuals exploring that. This work is not scientific in approach. I explore abstract and (possibly) meaningless data within the lists and filter it back into the visual as a generative ways of adding texture to the visual. These are all methods to explore patterns within the list. At the exhibition in November, I only showed the lists of names, male and female, side by side for four different years. The exhibition’s focus was to show the growing list of names at an almost unchanged birthrate. It’s just too much to show in a small space, and the project is still running. 8) måg: The story behind Gallery Storck in Oslo, of which you were one of the initiators, is interesting and it pays tribute to the Romanian artist couple Frederic Storck and Cecilia Cutescu. What is your connection to the two and how do they continue to influence the gallery’s current agenda? TB: The Storcks were my great-grandparents and both of them were renowned artists in Romania. Frederic was a sculptor and Cecilia a painter. They left behind a legacy that has benefitted following generations. I won’t go so far as to say that they influenced the gallery’s agenda, rather its existence. The gallery is a way of giving back to the arts in their name. Gallery Storck is a non-profit exhibition space and we’re contacted by a wide variety of artists. We don’t pursue or promote specific artists and we don’t engage in the sale of the artworks. We like to keep an open mind. After all, not all art is made to be sold.
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Infinite Argument 2012 A symphonic quarrel at the Jam Handy, Detroit, USA Installation shot, detail Image Courtesy Timon Botez Infinite Argument 2012 A symphonic quarrel at the Jam Handy, Detroit, USA. Installation shot Image Courtesy Timon Botez Infinite Argument 2012 A symphonic quarrel at the Jam Handy, Detroit, USA. Installation shot, detail, (Control board) Image Courtesy Timon Botez 1979 Periferal Noise 2012 Image Courtesy Timon Botez 1999 Periferal Noise 2012 Image Courtesy Timon Botez LINK: http://www.botezco.com
bojkowska by Lisa St책lspets
Gosia Bojkowska works with objects in different ways. The object as a commodity, with powers of attraction and sometimes a hidden agenda. Her practice also deals with ideas about mass consumption, the value of objects and the transformation of identities. Both the transformation of the use of the object as such and the illusion that somehow objects can define the identity of their owners or users. She explores the feeling of being able to live without objects, but also of missing objects and being attracted to and fascinated by objects. Bojkowska was born in Poland and lived in Krakow until the age of seven, when her family emigrated to Sweden in 1986. Poland was a communist country at the time. There was a shortage of food, clothing and coal for heating the house with. Bojkowska’s father had already migrated and she lived together with her mother, sister and grandmother. “We tried to get by on the few means we had. Every once in a while my father sent parcels to my mother containing food and VHS tapes that she could sell on the black market. I remember the way that people talked about the west. Everything seemed so much better over there. As if you could have access to anything. Sometimes one could get a glimpse of western life style and western objects in special stores called Pewex where you could buy foreign commodities if you had western currency. We sometimes went there just to look at things. The colours were bright, a whole different palette than we were used to. Everything outside the store seemed grey in comparison. We did not have a lot of toys, but I do not remember that as a problem, however I did wish for a train and a railway model for a long time. Things existed in the form of descriptions, mystical concepts rather than physical objects. Someone told me about a music player not bigger than a cassette, driven by a battery, this object was portable and could be easily transported.” One day Bojkowska’s father sent a Walkman to his daughters and a lot of kids visited the girls to try out this exclusive toy. Using the Walkman was problematic at times. The batteries in Poland were of poor quality and often leaked, which destroyed the apparatus. This was Bojkowska’s first meeting with the idea of the object and its symbolic value. There seem to be ideas in your practice about
how we relate to the notion of place and how architecture and design create identities and become symbols not only of themselves but of certain groups in society. “Objects and fashion are a way of expressing social identity and a way of signalling which group in society one is a part of, or what political agenda one has. Not only objects but also information is a part of this. Knowing what discussions are going on, which books that are read or what newspaper articles that are causing a buzz. This is a way of socialising, of communicating and developing as individuals. It becomes a problem when this way of signalling who you are causes barriers. These barriers can be geographical, as in Stockholm where identity is closely knitted into which part of town you live in. If you live in Södermalm you are associated with a certain kind of culture, if you live in Östermalm a different one. Where you live is often one of the first questions you get when you meet new people in Stockholm. You become a product of a geographical area. In order to fit in to this structure people try to live up to whatever standards that are seen as defining for their chosen group of people. Sometimes on a rather unconscious level. This creates an environment where people who do not have the economical means to live up to these standards or who simply do not wish to play by these rules are excluded. This way of thinking about identity creates a culture that limits and impedes individuals. At the same time those who do not have the economical means to live up to these standards or who simply do not wish to play by these rules are excluded. I am interested in the symbolic value of things. How certain things are coveted, used as security, how dependent we become of objects, as if we would not be able to live without them. To own things becomes a way of socialising with other people, a way of measuring status. This behaviour becomes very obvious among adolescents but even if it is toned down and not as important later on it stays there as we grow older.” Bojkowska’s latest body of work is called Toys, candy and other props and is a series of pigmented acrystal objects roughly the size of what one can fit into a hand, in seductive colours and smooth shapes. Acrystal is a kind of plastic that is used to imitate materials like wood, metal, leather or stone. An infantile idea of wealth is to have access
Furniture, books, clothes, household utensils, china - everything was given away, free of charge. Did you experience a sense of exposure during this process?
to huge amounts of candy. As we grow up this image of an overflow or richness takes on different connotations. It is no longer an image of prosperity but carries with it ideas of class and potential destruction, a contemporary still life where consumerism shows its most manipulative side. Bojkowska’s objects are subtle and seductive. They do not reveal their poisonous potential. As a viewer you find yourself wanting them, and not just one. You want to pick them up, feel their surfaces. You want to own them, several of them, the more the better. These are collector’s items, suitable for placing in a home; symbols of wealth and cultivation. The objects mimic the aesthetics of abstract fine art as well as that of candy and toys, objects of more simple pleasures. When will we have enough things? Will we reach a limit of satisfaction? Another body of work is called Cinderella. It is a series of similar objects but made in bronze and chrome, more exclusive materials. Bronze turns green with age, but by coating them with chrome the artist stops the aging process and offers an object of eternal youth. An object promising everything the princess in the fairytale longs for. Cinderella is a tactile piece. The objects are formed as handles, the idea being that you can place your hands around them, and they are made specifically for Bojkowska’s hands, so they might not be a good ‘fit’ for everyone. The handles are smooth and inviting but as you clutch the handle the touch of cold steel repels your hand. Bojkowska says that for her the idea was about not wanting to be a part of the Cinderella myth, about not fitting into the fairytale. There are also aspects of power at work in the interaction between the spectator and the artwork. One earlier project in Bojkowska’s career seems to have been a defining point both artistically and on a personal level. In Lotterivägen 20, Bojkowska emptied out her flat and presented all of her belongings in the gallery space. She made a catalogue of all of her things and placed them in boxes and shelves. The audience could then browse through the catalogue and take anything they wanted.
“The process of getting to the point of getting rid of my things started on a personal level a long time before I actually went through with the exhibition. I knew what I wanted to do and I felt like it was something inevitable, that it was an idea that I had to go through with. Then a series of events unfolded that started the process long before the actual exhibition. I was travelling for over a month and at the same time there was work being done with the ventilation system in the house I lived. My landlord had failed to inform me about this beforehand so I had not cleared away my things. With my permission the workers were let into my flat to do the work they had been contracted for. I understood that the work would maybe take more time than originally planned and when I came back to Stockholm I spent the first weekend at a friends house. I went to my flat because I wanted to see if I had gotten any mail and to see what kind of work was being done. As I opened the door to my flat I realised that it was gone. Not only the furniture but the wallpaper, the floor, my bathtub and kitchen. Everything was gone except naked concrete. It was a brutal experience. My first reaction was that my exhibition was gone. In a way I had already started saying goodbye to my things but when I had thought about giving all my things away I had not actually pictured anything that literal. When I contacted the landlord he gaily told me that my things had been put in storage, that the restaurations would take several months and that another flat had been organised where I could live during the spring and summer. Several months later I went to check mails and found that the flat was not only ready, but that all my things had been reinstalled without contacting me. I had lost control of my things a long time before the exhibition took place. They were already in other people’s hands. I was very certain about the project during the whole process. On a personal level I felt very confident. As if I knew exactly what I was doing and what I wanted from the project. But I was not prepared for how I would react afterwards. Not only your things make up your identity, but everything from books to small gadgets and certainly the clothes you wear.
/bojkowska/ The consequences of Lotterivägen 20 put me in a very vulnerable position. The exhibition took place in October. It was cold outside and I had chosen to keep one winter jacket. One day on my way to the studio I accidentally got caught in a door handle and tore a big hole across the back of my jacket. I did not know whether to laugh or cry but had to be practical and walked from my studio to the closest shopping mall, which was in a very commercial area in Stockholm. Most of the establishments are banks or fancy stores and there I was with a huge hole all across my back. At that point I felt very exposed, transparent. As if everyone could see that I carried with me everything I owned. I had lost a protective layer. Not long after that the zipper in my boots broke; my only pair of shoes. Everyday life was suddenly so brittle. I was always in need of something. I do not think I have ever been as tired as I was during this period, but on the other hand I had money and could afford to buy myself a jacket and a new pair of shoes.” Did this project have any consequences for how you think of yourself as a consumer? Have you ended up with a new pile of things now? “I became very tired of things and the energy it takes to build up a ‘life’. People asked if I would start to shop for new things now. Make a fresh start. At that point I did not have the energy to do that, or the motivation. It took a couple of years before I felt the need to. I left Stockholm and it was not until I returned in 2009 that I started to assemble a home again. I bought a bed and a table. I chose my objects carefully and I still shop that way. I like objects that have a history and often buy second hand things. Old things that could have belonged to my grandmother or some distant relative.” Do you know what happened to the things you gave away? Have their new owners told you anything about their new uses? “It has happened. I met somebody who had a purse from the exhibition. It was a good meeting. The purse united us in a way, as if the object had become loaded with something more - a story and a specific moment. I know
that some people treat their objects as memories from the exhibition, whereas others use them.” Losing one’s things is in a way a loss of identity - who am I beneath all of these objects? Did you feel a sense of catharsis during this process? “As long as I was living in Stockholm the exhibition sort of stayed with me, as something I lived with and was reminded of. In order to have a functioning every day life you need certain facilities to work, sleep, eat and so on. I did not want to buy new things straight away or rebuild my life as if nothing had happened so I ended up in a conflicted situation with an every day life that was not really working. I wanted to experience what it was like to be without things and what it would be like to live without belongings in the sense of extensions of my identity. The feeling of catharsis came only when I left Stockholm in order to travel. I suppose one is always in need of an identity in one way or another. Something that defines who you are. Travelling offered a temporary refuge, in the vagabond or tourist persona. It was a way of avoiding becoming a consumer once again. I enjoy the things I have more now. I am also more aware of the choices I make as a consumer. I have replaced many of the things I gave away with similar objects, so the project did not change my taste in design. I do however think of objects differently now.” IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE (Detail) Toys, Candy and other Props 2012 Pigmented Acrystal size: between 10x10x4cm -11x9x4 cm Image Courtesy Gosia Bojkowska Lotterivägen 20 2005 8 shelves 160 x 120 x 50 cm, mdf and pine 142 cardboard boxes Household goods Image Courtesy Gosia Bojkowska Lotterivägen 20 2005 8 shelves 160 x 120 x 50 cm, mdf and pine 142 cardboard boxes Household goods Image Courtesy Gosia Bojkowska Cinderella 2012 Chromed bronze size: 10x9x7 cm Image Courtesy Gosia Bojkowska
Agarwala by Kristin Hjellegjerde
1) KH: What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you? RA: That’s a difficult one. There have been many pieces that mattered to me. However, I think it was Egon Schiele’s drawings that affected me the most. I had never seen anything so intensely and vulnerably present with gestures of human emotion. I was more used to being surrounded by classical forms of representation. As a teenager, I was also enchanted by Kalighat paintings (which come from 19th century Bengal), loaded as they are with stories and illustrations. 2) KH: Growing up in India you had an uncle who had a gallery - do you feel that that influenced you in any way to choose a career as an artist? RA: Yes, growing up in Calcutta, which is considered the creative capital of India, has indeed shaped my life in various ways. Some of the greatest philosophers, poets and artists are from the city, so there was always this urge to delve deeper into history and literature. Spending most of my time at my uncle’s gallery was probably one of the most enriching experiences as a child. While my friends were playing in the fields, I would be surrounded by this avant-garde community of people, listening to their stories (which made no sense to me at that point). My uncle introduced me to the world of music and cinema. I would come back home every time with a book, or movies by Kieslowski, Wong Kar Wai, Satyajit Ray and others. Some things happen by destiny and chance but I think my uncle definitely affected my decision to become an artist. As time passed by, I hated going to school and the only thing I enjoyed was drawing. I would draw on all my books and sketch my surroundings and myself. I started creating another, more interesting kind of reality for myself. 3) KH: Do you find that your Indian roots inspire and affect your art? RA: I’m generally quite intrigued by a lot of things
and find inspiration everywhere, but obviously living between cultural worlds that are polar opposites, I have become more conscious of my cultural heritage. This is something that I never imagined would become a topic of discussion for my work, but it has now become a significant point. Having lived in many different cities and cultures, and most importantly being away from my roots, has enabled me to get closer to, and understand, the importance of one’s identity and how people around me associate with that. Walking is a good comparison - the longer we walk in an unfamiliar environment, the more we start discovering the history of the place, finding new meanings from it, and ultimately we create our own narratives. In the same way, I’m trying to build my own vocabulary of symbols and stories that come directly from my everyday experiences and the constant floating images from my city. 4) KH: You’ve travelled and explored different directions with your art - how did you get to where you are today? RA: Observation is a powerful tool. Landscapes and narratives alter each time we travel from one place to another, and filter through to construct new ideologies. To be honest, I never thought that things would turn out the way they are now today, but all along, my explorations, my eagerness to learn and ambition to achieve something greater, and simply keeping an open mind have helped me a great deal. 5) KH: What made you travel and settle in America and Europe? RA: I left India after finishing my degree in painting from my home city. I received a scholarship to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and still remember the struggle and frustration I went through just to get a paper signed by my professor in India, and various levels of bureaucratic nonsense. It was my first taste of the Western world and contemporary art. I was overwhelmed and suddenly everything was changing too quickly. I decided to go back to India to digest all the visual encounters. I worked non-stop in my
/Agarwala/ studio for a year, in the suburban part of my city, during this time. Then it was time for me to set off on another journey, and I received a grant to study at the University of Florida. I felt as if I had come into a kind of wilderness, but I soon made friends, and showed my work in Miami. I experienced a different part of America; a place where I felt I did not belong at that point of my life. I then decided to move to New York for a while to work for the American sculptor Patricia Cronin, who later became a great friend and mentor to me. I lived in Brooklyn and spent my evenings in Williamsburg. Strangers on the streets became friends and I saw some of the best art shows, which inspired me a great deal. Spending time in New York changed my world completely. I think that was what finally prepared me to study in London at Goldsmiths. This is where I presently live and work from and I finally feel slightly settled somewhere... or maybe not. My art has definitely gone through strange and very interesting cycles and movements through my years of academia, and now finally I think I’m beginning to express my voice through my work and mix these experiences into something meaningful. 6) KH: When you work do you listen to music, or how do you create a comfortable work environment? RA: I’m always listening to music. I live in a dilapidated, yet charming, Victorian house in Camden in North London. I listen to the radio in the kitchen, in the shower, and obviously in my studio. Lately, I have been listening to lot of classical music, and Icelandic musician Olafur Arnalds is one of my favourite artists at the moment. There is no one way to create a comfortable situation in which to make art, especially in a city like London. Having said that, it’s discomfort that keeps me constantly making art and gives me the urge to introduce everyday experience into my practice. I usually make a few drawings each morning, which is a ritual I like to follow as it allows me to move
away from general distractions and enter quickly into another world. 7) KH: How long does it take for you to create a piece that you are happy with? RA: Happiness is a strange emotion, to begin with. I enjoy the tension created within the process and there are certain moments that make me feel accomplished or settled with a piece. Sometimes it can take me only a few hours, at other times, a few months, to create a work. Some are made on impulse, some based on initial drawings, and some are images from external sources. 8) KH: You have been working with bronze lately. Can you tell us about your inspirations here? RA: I had an urge to try a new sculptural material, and bronze, being the toughest one to tackle, seemed like a rewarding challenge. I went back to India this year, where I saw miniature paintings from India and Persia along with figurines from the Chola period. I wanted some of my two dimensional works to have a certain kind of presence and physicality to them. The sculptures were ultimately a reaction to the images from the streets of my home city and previous drawings. I would like to understand this medium more and experiment further on. 9) KH: I find you to be incredibly productive and driven, an embodiment of Rilke’s statement, Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further. The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible, and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity. Can you relate to this? RA: Thinking about this quote brings to mind another quote, from Tagore:
/Agarwala/ Yes, I can relate to this. Desire and curiosity are by far the most important emotions for me; the ability to turn both of them into something worthwhile and follow one’s instinct is very powerful. This and my desire to explore my art from different views has driven me to overcome the struggles and situations I have found myself in, and along the way become stronger internally.
shown in a space that I understand so well. I am currently working on a thematic direction for the show that will encompass my paintings and sculpture. It will combine Western classical paintings, Indian miniatures and manuscripts, and Russian medieval tarot cards, woven into a dense, somewhat absurd, fairy tale.
10) KH: There seems to be a lot of story telling in many of your pieces - can you tell us a bit about where the narratives come from? RA: Storytelling and iconographic imagery have always been important in India, so mythologies and folklore are areas that interest me. It is difficult not to play with the duality of such notions. When I moved away from my country, I realized the importance of telling my own story for the first time. I felt an urge to recast history and tradition in a new light and deconstruct these narratives through an imaginative process. I saw a great retrospective show of the Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer in Prague earlier this year. He said something very logical and powerful about the concept of imagination that resonated deeply with me: Imagination is subversive because it puts the possible up against the real. That’s why you should always use your wildest imagination. Imagination is the biggest gift humanity has received. Imagination, not work, makes people human. I feel very strongly about this. I think historical sources are a mere starting point. Thereafter the images created can often be complex, playful or absurd. 11) KH: In August you will have your first solo show at my gallery ArtEco, which I am very thrilled and excited about. Do you have a direction for the show yet? RA: It gives me great pleasure that my work will be
IMAGES IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE New Beginning, Gouache 2012 Watercolour and gold leaf on panel, 82 x 76 cm Image courtesy Radhika Argawala & ArtEco Gallery As The Gentle Beasts Come into My Paradise, 2012 Watercolour and gold leaf on panel, 82 x 76 cm Image courtesy Radhika Argawala & ArtEco Gallery Untitled (Series from the Indian Summer Delight) Gold leaf and watercolour on panel, 76 x 101 cm Image courtesy Radhika Argawala & ArtEco Gallery Synthesis of a Paradise Lost I 2012 Bronze Image courtesy Radhika Argawala & ArtEco Gallery LINK: www.radhikaagarwala.com www.artecogallery.com
When will things? Will we of satisfa Lisa St
The Bride 1988 244 x 244 x 153 cm mixed media performing sculpture Photo credit Tomek Sierek, courtesy of Liliane Lijn.
l we have enough reach a limit action?â€? talspets
Arrested in Abyss,2012,Acrylic on Canvas,160x180cm | http://www.stamkopoulos.com
NEXT MÅG OUT 31. MAY 2013