Tuesday, March 25, 2008

About Apollonian Beauty

Florian Waldvogel :How does your work relate to art history, Russian constructivism for example?

Kostis Velonis: The examination of the strategies by which avant garde movement seeks to legitimate itself is a crucial point in my work. I usually portray a specific moment of an emotion which reflects the failure of modernist utopias and my emphasis on historical and artistic facts of that period relies upon my need to opposite individuality within ideological systems.

FW: Which philosopher of the post-modern influenced your work?

KV: I was always interested about a philosophy that stands outside linguistics and Kconstructs its arguments beyond the dictatorship of the “signifiant”. I follow the post Marxist theorists and of course I am quite Foucauldian and Deleuzian because they offer an act of thinking towards life. The idiosyncratic brutality of Deleuze suits me and everything that questions the rational tradition from Spinoza and Nietzsche (even If sometimes I wish to kick his ass). Concerning the style of thought I hate everything Hegelian and the boring application of dialectism. But your question about postmodern thought returns to the base of philosophy which demands always reexamination and revitalization of concepts that have been realized in the past.

FW: I’m asking because your work offers me a meta-narrative reading of reality.

KV: If you mean the Lyotardian use of the term I really feel sometimes that I have the tendency for a biblical narrative. In that case I use to remember Kant’s confession that says “I am very much inclined to as­sert the existence of immaterial natures in the world and to put my soul into that class of beings”

FW:Nietzsche asks “What is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms.”

KV:Nietzsche challenges conventional moral assumptions about truth that cannot simply identified with the coming wilderness of modernity. Because Art is polysemic by nature, his definition can explain the condition of truth within culture

FW: To add, Nietzsche says that language is unable to get us through a clearer picture of reality. That makes our conversation not easier (laugh) but would you agree that there is only one way in comprehend your work and that is by changing the perspective all the time?

KV: There is no single concept to be told, but rather many of them, each one embedded to a certain degree in the others. Usually the internationalities of the artist broaden its impact to more than one linear dimension. Art is the vital acceptance of life, a desire for living, an understanding of that plurality of meanings that each viewer has the right to experience differently.

FW:Do you have an interest in politics?

KV:I think the notion of Beuys for the expanded concept of sculpture, responds to the present intellectual debates of how we define politics in art. One of the recent representations of political issues is based to the genre of display for which post capitalism seems to recognize the history of capital, the commodity phantasmagoria of capital. But for many artists the real issue in the specific interest and involvement in politics means easily access in art events. Personally I feel embarrassed to find any interest to the monolithic dimension of a journalistic approach to contemporary art. There is a rather misconception of the role of politics by a general pathetic agreement of a team of curators and experts that find how useful seems to be for their career and consequently for artist career to provide political issues.
I am interested in politics but not in the form of the politics as a thematic reference, a popular subject on the prisoners of Guantanamo for example which profits the sensitivity of the common citizen. Political art becomes in many cases simplistic and populist. Also I dislike all this pseudo theatrical performances and interactive works that defend a situation in which the public has a leading role or share moments with the artist –director. Tiravanija’s menu is the ultimate decadent case. I t could be interesting to ask what is the real exchange of all those political and social manifestations in parties-performances, the favorite taste of French. Deleuze said in an interview with Toni Negri that “Creating has always been something dif¬ferent from communicating. The key thing may be to create vacuoles of non communication, circuit breakers, so we can elude control”.

FW: Don’t you think that in times of crisis, when the categories of Truth and Beauty lose their importance and primary socio-political necessities move to take their place that it becomes obvious that messing about on canvasses or sculpting blocks of puff-concrete hardly contributes to highlighting or even changing living conditions?

KV: Even if art object like any merchandise can be bought and sold, it always can be served as an instrument that questions the crust of authority and the strategies for normalisation, or to put it differently art is politics.

FW:Cultural production is an instrument of criticism. The placing of the position of art within a global social context underscores the attempt of bringing together different disciplines, theories, and methodological perspectives in order to be able to experience complex issues. If there is no meaning, there can be no reception. If the meaning is not articulated in practice, it has no effect.

KV:I think art can be understood as a composition of particular insights that usually are developed through time. Rarely visual arts provide an immediate frame of useful knowledge or the same process of knowledge which can justify meaning.

FW:Can a postmodern maintain firm beliefs in anything, e.g. architecture, law, politics?

KV:If today contemporary art argues about the failure of modernity at the same time we discover many other parallel modernity’s with the official one. The same it happens in architecture and the whole history in modern art is reinventing again and again. My impression is that in the heroic years of modern movements we could enjoy a kind of rebellious spontaneity which now if it happens becomes lifestyle. The difference is because of the lack of belief. The contemporary triumphant nihilism over the past and in a general plan this method to approach fragments from contemporary data in a mocked and parodied tone is insufficient.

FW: Belief in what?

KV: Belief to the radical character of culture as an alternative for the majority of humanity.

FW:I think «autonomous » art requires an environment that makes it „autonomous“. As High Culture is protected from the influences of societal change by the cultural elite, works of art need time to liberate themselves from institutional bonds. Every layer of society is guided by material and cultural interests. Educational products nowadays serve only to hint at progress and to lead consumers.

KV:Of course, cultural industry is not the same with the Enlightenment ideal.

FW:But we are part of this industry. A lot of artists confirm habits of thinking and perceiving which are wide-spread and which the market expects. In this way, artists reinforce a problematic process of permanent adaptation to the requirements of the market, which itself in no way holds a critical attitude towards issues of social change. How does your work resist to the influence of these cultural processes?

KV: These kinds of contradictions could only be resolved by a kind of radical conscious political activity. However, we should try a form of independence within capital, a form that doesn’t adapt revolutionary practises necessarily but slow us down and fulfil our self. That might be something related to freedom because politics on politics is not any more an ethical calling.

FW:What influences your work most?

KV:The productive value of sadness

FW:How important is the material you use?

KV:Those gathered discarded materials, from the backyards and streets are components in the construction of identities and at the same time they provide the structure within which I develop a place for self understanding. I always wish to use objects from many origins that claim a kind of cosmopolitan expansion. At the end I am restricted by the things that I collect on the surroundings of my studio. Athens and suburbs is a huge depot of odd bits of woods. My wish is that everything attracts me from the street to simply display it in order to keep the reality of the material. But this condition of the miracle-inspiration that we always like, never never happens. The question is how to present and transform the "objecthood" into a "socius" condition that constructs a new way of perception. Always materiality allows such things to be approached, I mean the materiality of sculpture that structure even the most immaterial emotions and intimacies.

FW:Is this „objecthood“nature like memory traces that are part of our conscious memory?

KV:Yes.. Perhaps…This second nature suggests a large field of contextual possibilities.

FW:I’m asking myself if it’s possible to opt an analysis of an object itself. How you draw a distinct line between the parameters of the object and sits discursive and social context?

KV:There is a point for which you have no reason to dismiss questions around the objective reality of the object and to pose empirical relations on that and at the same time to put your issue within a cultural system of references that are not accumulated on its physical reality.

FW:What is your most favorite fairytale?

KV:At the time I am impressed by the illustrations of fairy tales in children’s books especially those of the late nineteenth century. My interest is based less and less on the narration and more in the level of the visual representation. I remain a fanatic reader of the writers such as …during this period and I have a preference on stories that have a connection to the description of houses. In the general sense in which we are using the term I am amazed about Greek mythology that I suppose that had a huge impact to the definition of the fairy tale in the Middle Ages until the transportation of the Greek myth into modern narratives.

FW:Do you like Dionysus, the god of masks?

KV:Dionysus was always meant an act of liberation from the restrictions of organized societies which their base in west countries followed the typical moralistic values of Judeo-Christian tradition. From this point, Dionysus becomes the god figure for the people outside the city walls representing the demonic and chaotic side of human nature, the apolis, but also represents the same primordial aspect of universe without a conscious anthropocentric perspective. Dionysus comes from outside, it express the otherness and some of the “negative” characteristics of contemporary art. Our “sublime” now is mostly Dionysiac.

FW:Can we find your work behind this masks?

KV:Behind losers and desperate people apollonian beauty is the demand. My heroes are looking for that, but in their deepest soul they remain dark and anticonformists.

FW:Are your heroes victims of a social reality which produces alienation?

KV:My heroes are desperados of all human types and cultural categories..Lonely figures that fight for a true romance.

FW:What is true romance? In the sense of Tony Scott?

KV: Not so much.. it is more of a mix between Fellini and Dreyer. Fellini’s in the sense of an artful form of love expression, sometimes playful and charlatanian and Dreyer’s need for utter devotion and faith.

FW:Are your installations maps of social reality, and your single works a kind of a socio-political ready-made?

KV:That could be a excellent introduction about my work.. but I refuse to take seriously the sociopolitical dimension because even if it is intelligible expressed by the title or the immediate historical references of the visual material, an artwork should display its failure from all of that. But my answer is yes.

interview for the catalogue "Craft Consciousness-Class Conciousness", futura editions , 08