Artemis Potamianou, Theorimata, Deductive and Axiomatic systems, AICA - EMST 2018
The main conceptual axis in the artistic practice of Giorgos Papadatos is the exploration of the human condition and the ways it is determined by the mix of social and historical institutions.
Papadatos makes a caustic comment on the arbitrary, often contradictory logic behind the concepts of authority, economy, functionality and productivity. Using various media, the artist builds ephemeral structures, undermining and ultimately deconstructing the notion of monumentality and by extension that of authority.
Eschewing all manner of lyrical approach, the form of his installations tends towards rationalism. He does not seek to charge the viewer emotionally. His installations often work as a grid in which space not only interacts but becomes part of the in-situ artistic intervention. In this way his works act as an arbitrary, non-functional and non-habitable platform, demonstrating and censuring the conventions of the concepts under scrutiny, reorganising their forms or creating ecosystems with the potential for intermediary or transitional experiences, social spaces and historical intermissions.
His Transitional monuments series is a project in progress since 2012, consistent in its conceptual field and method of production.
The final form of the artist’s installations often remains negotiable until their final viewing. They have been shown in different versions and thematic approaches that constitute chapters in the same story and adapt themselves to the in-situ circumstances. The comprise photographs, drawings, small sculptures, fragments and adaptable wood structures that operate in a modular way. Texts and aphorisms often convey an ironic, metaphorical mood in the works of Papadatos and are directly linked to historical events by way of critiquing what transpired. A typical example from the series is the Notes for a banished monument, in which the phrases written on shards from vessels make a clear reference to the practice of ostracism in ancient Greece. The work traces the oxymoron in the fact that while contemporary society needs and extols critical thinking as a narrative, at the same time it neutralises and ostracises it as a practical possibility.
The works in the Transitional monuments series act as latter-day, ephemeral ‘popular’ monuments without the ‘heavy’, ‘fixed’ form of historical monuments that are symbols of institutional leadership. Clearly referencing Zygmunt Bauman (Liquid Modernity, 2000), these fragile structures criticise and subvert the monumental expressions of power in an attempt to explore the intermediary, transitional space.
Translation from Greek Tony Moser
Marina Fokidis , “infected forms” for the exhibition Corporate Cities,
, 2007 Athens
In his famous “allegory of the cave” Plato describes the world as a big cave where people live bound in chains, while looking at their own shadows, cast on a wall in front of them as if on a screen, which are produced by the entrance’s light. The only perception of reality for the chained is pastime with shadows. This perception is being enriched by the shadows of the masters who also live in there and pass before the light, so as the chained to have more reasons for being absorbed by the spectacle and not realize the existence of their chains, let alone break them in order to escape!
Although many centuries have past, Plato’s allegory remains actual and true in this modern world strictly under control. The development of contemporary society seems to be governed by miscellaneous economic interests, whilst social behavior and communication are being manipulated to a great extent by mass media, which in their turn are by all means being controlled by global economy. Resting on one’s illusionary certainty and safety that we all seek to secure for ourselves, it seems now that we are living cooped up in a fictitious world, loosing (in part voluntarily) conscience of the reality. More spectators than inhabitants of the world we allow anybody else to playing God and have the power (mostly through TV) to stage, determine and bring under control other people’s lives. But this mental violence against a more natural and conscious evolutionary stage of human condition is not exerted only upon the existing social and geographical structures that constitute the general framework of reality. In the last years, in global scale, private investors have reached the point to determine more and more the shape of our geological and geographical environment. An archipelago of artificial islands, exclusively reserved to private property (hotel groups and housing estates) by way of fictitious paradise, spreads dangerously violating even the laws of nature! This transformation of the original geological structure of the planet, although it is attempted for the supposed welfare of the society, it is pregnant with danger.
The possibility one to be found walking on a palm tree shaped island while listening from all sides in the central squares Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s voice reciting lines such as the following:
Take wisdom from the wise
It takes a man of vision to write on water
Not everyone who rides a horse is a jockey
Great men rise to greater challenges
is not that far anymore, as it may seemed Seaheaven’s environment in the prophetic film Truman Show by Peter Weir back in 1998. Today it has come into reality under the name Palm Jumeirah and regards one of the Persian Gulf’’s artificial islands that can house 4.000 residents in villas and apartments made, or rather commissioned, by -who else!- Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Dafni & Papadatos, in the context of their last work titled Corporate Cities Ltd, deal exactly with these “cosmopolitan utopias”. It is about a new reality within which both “cosmopolitism” and “utopia” take negative connotation. If the word cosmopolitism in this case implies a world of relativity where all values are equal provided one has access to the global (in the sense of universal) information system, utopia refers to a zone of lazy “counter-investment” in the real world, from which all undesirable elements have been excluded.
Corporate cities have their own jurisprudence and their own rules connected rather to an economic system, it’s about a fabricated dream (regarding a few) served for consumption. Faithful to their tactics finding connections between different realities, Dafni & Papadatos use the platform of Art in order to create an allegory with a critical stance towards society in a wider sense as well as towards the meaning of the Art itself, in the sense of representation of the world surrounding us. Making a series of “infected forms” that deal with the features of these newly formed urban complexes, they make a statement about the concept of new “globalized megacity” ,resulting from the corporate regime of artificial islands, as well as about the mode in which Art can assimilate the various aspects of capitalism, by making up an open subjective ground for multiple meanings, and not an environment similar to that of the aforementioned fictitious communities where every potential dissent has been excluded in advance!
The installation part of the show Corporate Cities Ltd does not have the character of a denunciation through tangible documents gathered from various sources in order to be presented within the context of Art. It doesn’t implement the methods of political activism and in this sense it doesn’t create a framework for an immediate action towards a better new future. By means of an environment that appropriates symbolically the language of the investors to whom they refer, Dafni & Papadatos do what they actually know better.
Following a classic visual and plastic tradition (via which they usually face the world), they create a series of drawings and sculptures that look like being infected by the present state of human condition!
Art has always been expressing the aspiration to change the world, but during the last years a series of artistic revolutions animated by teenage temperament tumbled onto the wall of impossibility without result. This doesn’t mean that the sign of the times cannot change through the context of creative challenge.
Dafni & Papadatos seem to grasp the proper balance. Their work represents another example of the substantial possibility of Art as being described by Charles Eschew, that of “Modest Proposals”.
«Modest proposals that make use of existing objects, situations and conditions and manipulate the elements into different more aspirational or purposeful configurations. The concern for concrete necessity is the quality that defines the limits of the term modesty in the expression rather than the scale of the issue involved or the absence of grand ambition for change . In doing so these modest proposals exploit the possibilities of free transformative and singular imaginations that art has reserved for itself since the late eighteenth century!»1
1. Charles Esche, Modest Proposals, Theory Series Baglam Istanbul, 2005
Chiara Parisi, interview, St Andrea permanent istallations, curated by Zerynthia, Rome, 2001
Chiara Parisi: A complex project the Sant'Andrea's, isn't it?
Alexia Dafni: Actually, hospitals are special kind of space, with two exceptional requisites: one is the strong psychological pressure experienced by those who live in it and the other that it is not a place to be used for a temporary exhibition, yet these works of art have been planned as a permanent feature.
Georgios Papadatos: Yes, the Sant'Andrea project has many facets. The works of art become part of a public space, and are subject to all those restrictions and conditions encountered when we deal with a public place, besides, another very important factor is the theory of colours by the psychiatrist Roberto Tatarelli.
CP: Has this question of colours exerted an influence on your work?
GP: Well yes, as one of the aspects that could be developed in the work. The professor's theories are not far removed from what we already knew about theories of colours as they come across for example in the Art Academy. The question could be taken even further by applying colour to shapes. We obtain a very different effect if we take a triangle, which is considered an aggressive shape, and we paint it using a calm colour. The chromatic aspect is interesting but is just one of many. Another aspect which we took into consideration, and that has played a decisive role in our work, is the attention towards all those people who happen to be there without being ill. For example the hospital workers who spend there most of the day. It is very easy to simplify and to think only of the people who go to the hospital to receive treatment, forgetting much as in a constant contact with pain, the hospital is for many people just a ordinary workplace.
AD: We have talked with the staff about the difficulty they experience working in a space which was not built "for them".
CP: Yes, the hospital is essentially a place for the ill.
GP: There are so many ways of thinking about this space: from the point of view of the ill who are here for long stays, from that of visitors, from that of workers or students. Therefore it is not interesting to apply a theory or to impose a single point of view. Our first aim has been not to be aggressive towards space or impose ourselves on it, rather our idea has been to follow the space.
CP: The space you applied yourselves to is the waiting-room on the ground floor.
AD: Yes, it is a waiting-room but it is also the place were emergencies arrive. It is spaced out by pillars and we have followed the rhythm built in walls and pillars.
GP: The architecture follows a regular rhythm and the pictures inside the light boxes work by analogy and linearity.
CP: Thus the project is enfolding rather than static, it moves along the whole space.
AD: It is a project that starts from the idea of the screen. We have in fact light boxes and within them are pictures of the room itself, thus the reference to space is almost tautological. We have taken the shots the first day we visited the Sant'Andrea.
GP: The space at issue is a hospital with its specific features: we thought of following the rhythm given by its space - all spaces have one - and then to re-propose it tautologically. We have photographed space and given it back as a whole. To this we have added the idea of the screen, which unrealistically magnifies the architecture thus making it even more unreal, actually still. The real space, its colour, its structures will change in time but the screen will be there, in its stillness. In a light box we have projected the picture of the clock marking the time when we first entered the hospital: within the same space, however, the real clock, clicks regularly, giving the actual time.
Moreover, possible technical problems have been taken into account: pictures and light boxes comply with security regulations and their maintenance has been carefully planned.
Context, however, remains the most important factor. Since the hospital space will change while our works will remain permanently, we have thought of following the space rather than resisting it.
AD: There are also artificial features that pop up. Have you noticed how our work carries this kind of contamination?
CP: The red poster entirely remade, that appears on one of the screens is a contamination which in fact appears very often in your work.
AD: These artificial features are the very things that make the space a bit more real.
GP: In the Sant'Andrea project the coordinates are the most contaminated features, since they are dissembled and reassembled differently.
CP: Dissembling coordinates may cause distress and loss of direction, while the final effect of your work is one of great harmony.
GP: Yes, because then you reassemble the whole. There is in our work aesthetic delight. The hospital is put on show, but it remains real.
CP: The powerful aesthetic factor grants that the final perception is always attractive, never repelling.
GP: It is imperative that the meaning of the work comes across as non-aggressive. It is important to retain the metaphor of the screen which for us means time fixed. The idea comes from the videotape since when you make a video you develop an image along a time sequence and these luminous screens follow the same concept.
CP: As in music.
GP: Yes, as in music. Videotape and music, in fact, are both based on time.
AD: These light boxes, though, are also objects.
CP: This is very interesting. Objects make themselves felt, as Paul Klee used to say "the objects see me". The word "lifeless" is in fact used by those who can only see the surface of things; those who can see through know very well that nothing is static, that all things are alive and in constant motion, that there is meaning circulating inside the shapes of the "object", in the case of the Sant'Andrea inside the works of art.
GP: The screen is an object, but not just an object: it makes reality magic and unreal at the same time. It is obvious that the reality it shows is fictitious, but at the same time it is also more true than reality itself. In people's collective imagery an object such as a screen will never be perceived in the same way as a washing machine. The room we have chosen to fix our work in is made even more complex by the strong "presence" of other objects such as the coffee machine or the luminous sign-boards, you can't do much about spectacularity, or about visual power and immediacy. Thus your presence within the space must be of a different kind, softer and more thoughtful. Our project is based on the idea of breaking up the representation of space and then reassembling it: in the pictures on the screen there is a very important element, the only true one, which is the visual transcription of the real dimensions of the space. The photo is fiction and it shows a real architectural space on a screen, which is itself a fiction. The only true elements, again, are the dimensions written down and the clock that tells the time but is actually still.
AD: The pictures, which are artificial, refer to something which is true and concrete, that is the dimensions of space. The dimensions written down are a visual signal, as they are at the same time something written but also a true and concrete reference.
These luminous screens are spaced to follow the steps of the people moving across the real architectural space and they can be seen as analogies.
CP: Till you reach the point of view from where you can see the work as a whole.
GP: It is just like having two boxes: one is the space and the other is the image of the space. The idea of showing a space "rebuilt" has not the purpose of overemphasizing or of giving an existentialist interpretation of the place. It is an attempt to gain understanding, to become aware that there is more complexity to a hospital than you thought before you entered it.
AD: Our work is not about the problem of communication, it just borrows elements from the world of communication. Our concern is with how we perceive images, it is all about the problem of perception.
GP: In our work there are no ideological elements as, in actual fact, there is no much to say. The important thing is to be there: to talk, to understand, to be felt and to feel in our turn..
To be honest, we live with a very few certainties, therefore we had better begin by understanding. Ideologies develop along a line that unites present to past and future. We don't regard ourselves neither as heirs nor as forerunners.
AD: Where everything is fast and inexorable, the present is the only tangible thing.
GP: Working on the present makes you more honest with yourself, always.
AD: Earlier Giorgio said that there is little to say, meaning that there is a lot to understand and a little to state. The fact of working together makes it possible for us to create an open, non-egocentric world.
GP: It also makes it possible to shift our points of view, to bend our horizon, to see things from different angles and to understand mechanisms. If we mean to be honest with respect to contemporary western conditions of life, we cannot impose just one point of view.
CP: Another aspect of the project is the Mediterranean element.
GP: The Mediterranean area is far from homogeneous. The angle from which a Tunisian may look at it cannot be the same as that of an Italian.
CP: Have you found it difficult to accept that the project was not inside an institutional place?
AD: No, we welcome projects of this kind.
GP: Obviously, the problems you encounter in an art gallery, inside a white cube, are very different. If we ask ourselves what role can art have we cannot take a step back and avoid to take a stand. It is contemporary art that must be just there. But not arrogantly or aggressively. There is no need for provocation; besides, everything has already been done.
CP: The interesting thing about the Sant'Andrea is nobody is trying to put forward a form of art therapy.
GP: The idea was to think of works for a space having a specific function. For us the essential thing has been to follow this thought about space, to absorb its rhythm, and capture its image in order to then show it, just as television does, inside a white light box which does not want to be a mirror but to give a perception of space.
CP: Your work touches upon a perception problem, since people who'll walk across this space will look at these boxes and will realize that it is the very space they are in. In that moment, and that moment only, will they realize where they are.
GP: It would be interesting if the people who come in could perceive that there is in this place something wrong. That's the moment when the work of art starts working, as only then will they detach themselves from everything else. In that moment when they realize that something doesn't fit, they enter the realm of art. Up till then they were in the field of luminous signs and of space. Another aspect we considered is the issue of time. Normally spectators do not dedicate enough time to looking at the work of art and this applies especially to videos. This is why we have chosen the idea of the light box with the fixed image. We are too used to see art as we do adverts: as something that goes by quickly.
Simona Cresci, interview in Crudelia ,Rome, 2001
"Gravità Zero. Arte, technology and new spaces of the identity" Is the exposition 's title in which you were present until Iast september 27th,together with other 12 international and national artist, in S8Zero at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.
?] Visiting the exhibition you realize how much artist's today through their works lives a different identity and space condition, this last one reproduced differently from the traditional representations of the aesthetic researches. What Is your relationship with the space that surrounds you?
>The space is a relevant part of our work , since our works are projected for the space that will have to contain them. What we are interested in is how space is normally perceived, to know and understand the concept of space in our modem culture.
Three-sixty, an installation of three years ago ,do concentrate upon this aspect. The space to which this work refers is a surface to run through and not a space to live in,it is the space of a video game.
Similarly our studio has become a space impossible to live in, in the specific case of the installation Default Setting, done for the exhibition Gravity Zero, where the collection of all the signals taken from strategic video games, makes it actually useless as a work or reflection space.
?] Reality and fiction. Fascinating pair that charncterizes your research in which easily ~recognisable images are disguised by elaborate visions in a succession of color, lights, rounds. You play a lot on this ambiguity. What Is the most suitable technological means to express this ambiguity and how you use it?
We usually present the images on a video support, we like its fugacity as a medium.
We even obtain a large part of the images with a video camera that, afterwards, we compare or contaminate from reality with some media images (the same real), and totally constructed by the computer, we are interested in these ones because they particularly have a strong like likewooh impact.
?] What Is the starting point for your aesthetical research?
> The present.
?] Places, shapes, means have changed their contribute to the realisation of a piece of work, but the artist always remains the sensitive interpretation of every day living What aspects of reality that surrounds us, are you interested to represent in your art works?
> The most ambiguous and paradoxical aspects, that strangely are those that refer to diffused practices in our society.
?] Your works often express beauty in a totally personal vision, independent. How much does the playful aspect count in your poetics?
> it counts a Iot. We don't absolutely want to look serious because this would prevent us from being serious in what we do. The game interests us because it places us, in fact, in a structured condition with its own rules and conventions.
?] Do you think that references to video games allow the audience, daily used to comparing themselves to imaginary heroines of the modem media culture, a more simple identification with your works?
> What we are interested in, more than the spectator's identification with our works, Is that people can recognize the contest from where our images come from. For this reason the images we deal with are part of the collective imaginary.
?] Despite the use of apparently cold technological means, aseptic, your art works, most of the times, they send back to literary, historical, poetic quotations. How can you tie together these two characteristics apparently so far apart?
> Actually we have directly made literary quotations in the videos Bee simulator 2.0 (1998) and See Uc Me (1998); in both cases trough the insertion of sound-tracks. In the firsts one the simulation of the bee's behaviour is interrupted from the reading of Edmund Husserl's first lesson on phenomenology; in the second one the sound-track is a reelaboration of Roman Polanski, more exactly a reference to the tenant of the third floor. In all the other works these references are indirect or have a short mention,like in the video "The untouchable", however in response to your question, these two characteristic are only apparently apart.
?] What Is your attitude towards globalisation?
>When you are able to spread information with great speed and without geographic bounds, it's obvious that cultural models undergo a kind of ratification. Who manages information and the economic resources is normally the one who imposes his/her cultural model. On our part, it's absolutely not important to research or to save a national identity, but to give a measure of our present condition, that results to be true even for this ratification.
?] The consciousness of living in a society in which technology IS always more present in the contemporary aesthetic researches, Is at the basis of your works. Such a consequence Is producing what effects on the new way of making and perceiving art?
> The art of every epoch is conceived inside the technology present in that determined epoch, just think of the various instruments to produce art, or even of the technological discoveries that have signed a real cultural revolution as, for example, the coming of the printing technology. Art is for us, and always has been, a way to become conscious of the human condition: intention, this one, that will never see its end (art exists until when the human being exists), while a means can easily become obsolete. The video installation The master list of media (2000), reflects such thoughts, the work is made up of a list of communication means in disuse. What interests us is to insert the technology of our time, in a wider cultural and historical horizon.
Lorenzo Benedetti ,interview in catalogue Zero Graviy - Arte ,tecnologia e nuovi spazi dell’identità , PdE edizioni, Roma 2001
Lorenzo Benedetti: In one of your first works produced together, Three-sixty (1999), reality seems to be transformed into a videogame. What led you to this metaphor?
Dafni & Papadatos.: Skate-boarding permits a different relation with space, with objects, with oneself. Objects lose definition, recognizability, the qualities that derive from their normal use, and in some sense are combined in a “parallel” dimension in which it is possible to have a different experience of space. They are no longer self-sufficient entities that pose limits to identity. Space then becomes a place to be passed through and not inhabited.
The same experience is reproduced in the videogame. Through the simulation of reality, the ways of looking at the world and the ways of interacting with the physical space are multiplied. The artificial experience amplifies our perceptions. It is structured in such a way as to simulate, and potentially to substitute, reality. The image of the skater revolving round himself was a metaphor to design this new relation with space that leads to a tautological, self-referential identity, given that the objects that constitute the space lose their diversified quality.
In many of your works there is a superimposition between reality and fiction. Do you try to explore this relation through the use of the computer?
The ambiguity between reality and fiction exists, irrespective of the use of the computer. It is perceptible in the most disparate situations, as inside a brothel in Detroit (where theatricality and intimacy, public and private are fused together), or in the air-raid shelter of Real Time Fairgrounds (a place that, given its precarious function, becomes a kind of monument where the extraordinary and the ordinary co-exist) or in a sculpture in a public square (where the
work of art is seen by the skater revolving through 360° as an obstacle to be overcome). The conventions, through which not only our perceptions but also our “being” in the world are filtered, are pointed out by placing reality in relation with fiction. The computer permits images to be produced that are entirely artificial in construction, but that nonetheless have a strong impact of veris imilitude. They are images that can be compared or contaminated with images of other
source in an effective way, and this helps us in our task.
Why do you use the aesthetic of the videoclip and the videogame?
The videoclip and the videogame don’t interest us from the aesthetic point of view. What interests us is the contamination between different images, that need to be exploited on a large scale. It is important, however, to consider from what kind of storehouse of images one draws every time one uses an image. We don’t work on memory, because we think we have at our disposal only a fragment of time, i.e. the present. We try to observe reality by starting out from this point of view. Moreover, both the videogame and the videoclip seem in some way to train our eye for a different perception of reality, and to modify our experience.
This is the aspect that interests us, in other words, how the appearance, the “phenomenon” of a thing may become the substance of what it really is – Bee Simulator was concentrated on just this aspect. The videogame may be considered a metaphor for all the conventions and rules that influence our experience, including that of art.
One of your recent works, The Master List of Dead Media, is based on a list of obsolete technological devices. What is the relation between technology and your work?
In essence, it is the relation that has always existed between art and technology.
The brush of a painter and a piece of technological apparatus are both “prosthetic” objects, insofar as they are means of mediation. More than the exploration of the formal developments of the work through the new technologies, what interests us are the expressive possibilities of the medium, its ambiguity, which is very far removed from any kind of “messianic” discourse on the medium. The Master List of Dead Media was a way of tracing the co-ordinates of the technology of our time, which we simply use in a wider and more general horizon.
May the dimension of fiction that constantly appears in your works derive from the lack of real experiences, the lack of the direct experience of events by the young generations?
It’s true that our generation is the only one that has never experienced major wars, major revolutions. Any kind of experience of the past we have acquired through images. Indeed, history for us ends up by becoming part of the “media
landscape”. On the other hand, history is real. We suffer its consequences just the same, even if in a less dramatic and spectacular way. The problem is not to represent history or to work on the memory, but to accept that we work in contemporaneity. What we wish to stress is that a fictitious or a real situation may become an equally concrete condition.
What’s your project for the exhibition Zero Gravity?
Once again there will be a contamination between real places (our studio) and virtual places taken from videogames of strategy. The title of the work is Default Setting. It consists in two projections. What happens in the first will be co-ordinated with, and based on, the action that takes place in the second. Both, quite apart from the real or fictitious source of the
images projected, will have a formally homogeneous aspect. So there will be a kind of distortion and subsequent re-composition of the actual co-ordinates that each space separately has. We have worked on the idea of depriving the places of their conventions by starting out from the rules, the pre-assigned parameters that structure these two types of experience, the “settings”.
Stefano Chiodi , “Body count” (Ass.Cult. FUTURO, Rome, April 1999)
Mask Revolver. Boxinggloves. Dance shoes. Extensions, prostheses body reinforcements, istruments for work, pleasure and war which could all be gathered together in the "citius, altius, fortius" chapter of the great book of Western civilisation. To wear or use something, as has long been observed, is never a neutral gestu re. We always end up resembling what we make use of allowing ourselves to be moulded, assuming the mental shape that objects dictate to us. And so these objects turnfrom com pliant instruments into mediators and interpreters, into signs of identify and belonging. Anthropology couldpro- vide endless examples in thisfield. the artificial is too far inside even the most "natural" of human societies far this to surprise us. It seems, however, that our culture, at least in some of its more ephemeral developments, tends to exasperate the overbearing versatilify ofsigns and of bodily extensions which, subject as always to the dual dominion offashion and desire, claim the ancestral right of diversify and recognisability.. the useful and the beautiful, already united in the golden vision ofthe Enlightenment, move in perfect harmony in the practices of "aesthetic" surgery and in the most refined forms of marketing. And it is undoubtedly singular, and symptomatic, that this extreme development coincides with a technological climax that tends on one hand to disarticulate the unity of individuals, dissolving their bodies in the meonders of molecular biology (and then rebuilding them in o meta-human gallery of predetermined "types", reduced to formulas) and on the other hand to dissolve the same bodies in the most definitive of all prostheses, in that "virtual life", ubiquitous and free from pain, whose avant-garde smiles at us seductively or scrutinises us menacingly from video -game screens. In this strange condition, in which the height of the strength of biochemical and cybernetic laws is matched by the now evident impotence of traditional ethical responses, the body sees the negation of its own unrepeatable character, its own historical and psychological weight, its own enigmatic individuality, to pass - obviously covered in designer labels - into the perfect world of statistics ("truth is a number", as Komar & Melamid say).
This is the thematic background behind Body Count, the work by Alexia Dafni and Georgios Papadatos (or D&P as I will call them from now on for the sake of brevity) presented on this occasion, which is also their frst installation in a public space after a period devoted essentially to video. As often happens with artists in the nineties, D&P have "discovered" that they can work as a pair; and this is by no means obvious, for il presupposes an aesthetic conception directed towards the project, to wards the definition of a conceptual pattern, and in which the self-defnition of the work somehow goes beyond the more intimately individual sphere (interior intimo meo, as Augustine called it) and passes above all to the scale of a micro-community (the two artists) and prospectively ta that af the whole of society. Critical value and projectual modality are ideas which are by no means new in 2Oth-century art; but what characterises the most recent experiences, including that of D&P, is not so much the "oppositional' value attributed to creative activity as the detachment from any finalistic vision and the implicit acceptance of a historical horizon of which artistic experiment Is both one of the active agents and a conscious product. The awareness of the political value, in a broad sense, of any discourse and any production leads artists of our time to a reformulation of their operative and conceptual horizon, in which the "project" probably cannot be conceived outside the tension between identity (as construction> and difference
(as the thought of the other).
Body Count (which literally means a count of bodies, or of corpses) is an installation which uses a video projection, two monitors, music and sound effects. The spectator is faced with multiple points of view and centres of attention that continuously send out images and sounds that can be divided to three different types:
physical or sensorial extensions or prostheses (intention- ally limited to an everyday, immediately recognisable range), antique robots (including an i8th-century "artist"), and contemporary "virtual" characters (especially "Kyoko", the Japanese TV heroìne and cult fig- ure). A screen then shows a film of repeated attempts to come to terms with a strange, now-forgotten object known as a "pogo stick" - a stick with a spring for performing a succession of jumps. The "sound track" is formed of overlapping automatic messages (complete devoid of intonation), of sugary, seductive voices, and of the stereotyped sounds produced by musical robots.
Though the general tone is apparently detached, with the poIished connections between the images (a technique perfected bs D&P in their previous video works), this catalogue actually finishes by showing a spectral, unreal face, which rapidly becomes obsessive and disturbing. In other words, it is as if the objects, de- p rived of their usefulness, had moved away from the sphere of the immediately perceptible to reappear as enigmatic signs, as appendices that have devoured the body that wore them or carried them with it. The result of this self-devouring is ultimately the metaphorical product sought by D&P: a perfectly planned world in which deviation has disappeared, the suddengap in which action, if it exists at all, can only be repetition, compulsion, a bsence of real movement. A world which paradoxically serves a purpose that is invisible, or that no longer exists, stronger than death although "technically" dead. With cool, ironic control, D&P observe a lethal con - tradition between the accessibility of means (also in the field of art) and obscurity of ends, a contradiction that invades not only the practical, economic sphere but also threatens the very space of the Self its process of self-construction, its possibility of establishing itself as an individuaI.