V. CANIARIS, N. MARKOU & K. VELONIS | The Future Lies Behind Us. Two New Proposals Beside an Older One

09.04.2014 - 17.05.2014

Kostis Velonis, “Who Might Rebuild?”, 2014, plywood, wood, hammers, 102 X 350 X 40 cm

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In a previous show presented at the gallery entitled Art in the Time of Collapse we attempted to explore how the period that preceded the collapse of economy and politics, the period when the tendency for the deconstruction of the social tissue became definite, was impressed in the artistic oeuvre. We also tried to get a feeling of the sort of images that the previous decade gave birth to and the way the latter was portrayed on them.

Firstly, it should be noted that the partial collapse caused the renewal of the visual vocabulary towards two directions; that of the counter-culture and that of the modernistic continuity. The difference of the second direction as opposed to the first lies primarily in the fact that the second is highlighting the victim of the Central Conflict, of the defeated version of History, as a carrier of hope for the renewal of institutions and culture, while it simultaneously averts the narrative’s directness and any relationship with the illustration and printed image, the sarcasm and the challenge as a commenting value, the psychedelic approaches and the popular form as a benchmark. In this direction the artists are not drawn away from History of Art as a basic reference framework.

The deep economic crisis seems to bring back to the foreground the Universal Narrative’s importance. However, nowadays the collective face of the victim does not refer to an abstract, impersonal category (the working class, women, immigrants etc.), as in the 60s and 70s, but it is composed of distinctive, according to their social and cultural origin and their position in the production process, entities. Gustave Courbet’s statement on realism as “the representation of the real and absolutely specific”, as well as Balzac’s declaration that “the depiction of life must be done scientifically in order to arrive at a comprehensive presentation and interpretation of social reality” seem to constitute the image’s new content.

During the past few years, we are moving away more and more from a perception according to which the use of certain kind of forms was quintessential for the political art. These forms either used directly the Archive or reconstructed it inside the artistic work by limiting the Political in a kind of documentary, which took no risks on the social stakes.

In their recent work the sculptor Kostis Velonis and the photographer Nikos Markou are formulating the search for a new realism. Both artists contemplate on the social reality seeking to connect the Present with History. The individualism, both as a theory and as a practice, that disdains highlighting the basic characteristics of social structures and makes the narration itself resemble as quicksand, has no part in their work.

We refer here to the works that they present at AD gallery’s second floor. Three sculptures by Velonis are presented in the show; Model for the Prospect of Shipwreck, Tout n’est pas Fleur, Who Might Rebuild? The first is an assemblage of objets trouvés in which a ship’s hull that is turned upside down raises a faded flag, which in a “glorious” past could have been red. From the stern of the ship pops up an improvised wooden fish rod that embodies any hope of continuity and survival. The work Who Might Rebuild? consists of a four-meter ramp. From its wooden surface tens of used tools emerge. Hammers, hoes, pitchforks and other agricultural tools which emerge and at the same time support the ramp and make it a meeting point and a space of equal dialogue. This dialogue evolves between the protagonists in the absence of any kind of leader. This is, perhaps, the visualization of Public Space, the space in which collective processes are being implemented, proposals are being filed and collective actions emerge.

Markou presents a video entitled Life Narratives which consists of articulated stories. In these, everyday people narrate signs of life in a non-dramatic way. The overall narration, however, transcends the individual and penetrates social history. A photograph of the family of an Indian economic immigrant falling apart is being presented on a gallery wall.

At the gallery’s first floor a historic work of 1974 by Vlassis Caniaris entitled Possible background is being shown. It is a work that comments on the immigration of the Greeks in Germany, the gastarbeiters. The work was presented in Bochum Museum and in Heidelberger Kunstverein in 1975.

The coexistance of the works of the two younger artists with the historic work by Vlassis Caniaris which was created right 40 years ago, helps to draw useful conclusions regarding what political art could have been back then and what it could be nowadays. During the past 40 years Greece has changed many times. From an exporting country of immiigrants during the decades of the 50s, 60s and 70s it became a host country of the immigrant stream in the early 90s, to become again an exporting country in the decade of 2010. 

Exhibition duration: April 9 – May 17, 2014
image gallery