December 24, 2016

THINGS THAT NEED TO BE SPELT OUT

Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas
Brevity is indeed the soul of wit. But some people need to have the obvious spelt out in easy-to-grasp terms...

October 21, 2016

MYRSINI KOUTLI: "ON DEFINITIONS"





At first sight, Myrsini Koutli’s photographic compositions slot neatly into the genre of contemporary urban and suburban photography: rich colours, locations of a studied banality, interstitial sites considered with a carefully neutral environmental and political eye. However, that neutrality is discreetly undermined by the still blander texts which complement the images in black or white sans-serif lettering. These consist of simple definitions of everyday nouns drawn from some English dictionary: river, hill, mountain, cloud, lake. Inevitably, the cognitive dissonance between definition and subject, text and image, in these deliberately ironic conjunctions confirm the poverty of the contemporary urban landscape. With On Definitions, Koutli uses technology and aesthetics to resurrect the conceptual art movement of the seventies, slyly combining image and text with the deliberation of a Victor Burgin.


 Εκ πρώτης όψεως, οι φωτογραφικές συνθέσεις της Μυρσίνης Κουτλή εντάσσονται υπάκουα στο πλαίσιο της σύγχρονης φωτογραφίας αστικού και περιαστικού τοπίου: πλούσια χρώματα, προσεχτικά επιλεγμένοι «ά-τόποι», interstitial sites που αντιμετωπίζονται με ουδέτερη πολιτική και περιβαλλοντολογική ματιά.  Την ουδετερότητα όμως αυτή έρχεται να υποσκάψει διακριτικά το ακόμα ποιό ουδέτερο κείμενο που συμπληρώνει την εικόνα με λιτά, λευκά ή μαύρα sans-serif γράμματα. Πρόκειται για απλούς ορισμούς καθημερινών λέξεων βγαλμένων από κάποιο αγγλικό λεξικό: ποτάμι, λόφος, βροχή, βουνό, σύννεφο, λίμνη.  Αναπόφευκτα, η γνωστική ασυμφωνία μεταξύ ορισμού και θέασης, κειμένου και εικόνας, στις με εμφανή πονηριά επιλεγμένες συζεύξεις, έρχεται να υπογραμμίσει ειρωνικά τη σημερινή χρεοκοπία των λέξεων. Διακριτικά, με την εργασία αυτή η Κουτλή ανανεώνει με σύγχρονη τεχνοτροπία και αισθητική τις προθέσεις του πολιτικά ευαισθητοποιημένου κινήματος νοηματικής τέχνης της δεκαετίας 1970, συνδυάζοντας ανατρεπτικά εικόνα και γλώσσα με τη σπουδή ενός Victor Burgin. 
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August 21, 2016

"IF THINE EYE OFFEND THEE, PLUCK IT OUT"


Following the passage of recent legislation, right-thinking Europeans can rest easy in the knowledge that their eyes will no longer be offended by the sight of burqa-clad maenads flaunting their religious beliefs on the continent's beaches, like the shameless group of religious fanatics pictured above.

July 19, 2016

THE TRUE THREAT TO EUROPE


“Fanatical defenders of religion start out attacking contemporary secular culture; it’s no surprise when they end up forsaking any meaningful religious experience. In a similar way, many liberal warriors are so eager to fight anti-democratic fundamentalism that they end up flinging away freedom and democracy if only they may fight terror. The ‘terrorists’ may be ready to wreck this world for love of another, but the warriors on terror are just as ready to wreck their own democratic world out of hatred for the Muslim other. Some of them love human dignity so much that they are ready to legalise torture to defend it. The defenders of Europe against the immigrant threat are doing much the same. In their zeal to protect the Judeo-Christian legacy, they are ready to forsake what is most important in that legacy. The anti-immigrant defenders of Europe, not the notional crowds of immigrants waiting to invade it, are the true threat to Europe.”

Slavoj Žižek, “Barbarism with a Human Face”, London Review of Books, vol.36 no.9, 8 May 2014

July 14, 2016

"THOU ART MATED WITH A CLOWN"


τὸ κακὸν δοκεῖν ποτ᾽ ἐσθλὸν
τῷδ᾽ ἔμμεν ὅτῳ φρένας
θεὸς ἄγει πρὸς ἄταν:

πράσσει δ᾽ ὀλίγιστον χρόνον ἐκτὸς ἄτας. 

Sometimes the gods
lure a man’s mind forward to disaster,
and he thinks evil’s something good.
But then he lives only the briefest time
free of catastrophe.

Sophocles, Antigone

 

June 28, 2016

ANCHORITES AND PIRATES


An almost surreal depiction of the Aegean island of Greater Kalogero, lying roughly halfway between Andros and Chios, from the Isolario of Benedetto Bordone (1528). An utterly barren, virtually sheer volcanic rock with a total surface of just over an acre, Kalogero was the site of an anchorite monastery from about the 12th to the 17th centuries. The monks were largely dependent on passing ships for the means of sustenance, reaching them with a small boat which could be launched from up high by means of a counterbalanced crane. The line between entrepreneurial activity and brigandage being notoriously blurred in these waters, the monks are also believed to have regularly provided safe storage facilities for the local pirates.

Libro di Benedetto Bordone. Nel qual si ragiona de tutte l'isole del mondo, con li lor nomi antichi & moderni, historie, fauole, & modi del loro uiuere, & in qual parte del mare stanno, & in qual parallelo & clima giacciono. 

June 25, 2016

"VERY WELL, ALONE"


History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
Karl Marx

June 12, 2016

FROM THE GLORY DAYS OF GREEK HIGH KITSCH


Two press photographs from the glorious summer days of Greek High Kitsch, the Colonels' Dictatorship of 1967-1974. Above, George Papadopoulos, junta leader now in the role of Prime Minister, visits a military unit accompanied by a phalanx of uniformed officers on the occasion of Easter Sunday (probably in 1968). In honour of the day, they are passing between two halves of a red easter egg painted with the message Χριστός Ανέστη, "Christ is risen". The looked-for audience response would have been to ponder the colonel's slogan, "Greece is risen", but the association with baby chickens is irresistible.

The lower photograph illustrates what was perhaps one of the high points of that profoundly tacky annual performance in Athens Stadium, the Celebration of Greek Military Virtue. An improbable number (fifteen or more) of the despised ESA military police cling to one another on a motorcycle, the topmost man waving a Greek flag disfigured by the dictatorship's soldier-and-pinioned-phoenix symbol. It is probably safe to assume that none of those involved saw anything remotely homoerotic in this and similar early works of performance art by the junta.

February 7, 2016

ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER


On perhaps two or three days a year, very early on a cold, clear morning, you can see all of Crete from Kythera, lying end-to-end on the horizon beyond Antikythera and almost close enough to touch.