by Sotirios Bahtsetzis (Translated by Titika Saratsi)

“It appeared to me that the object was almost passionate or at least that it was able to experience a life of its own, to come out of the passiveness of its function in order to acquire a certain autonomy and, possibly, even the ability to avenge a subject who is overwhelmed by the certainty of one’s predominance.”1(Jean Baudrillard)

The object is, par excellence, the main password to this exhibition. The reason for the choice of such a perspective is simple, as it is focusing on the object that liberates us, according to Jean Baudrillard, from the dominant perspective of the subject. Focusing on the object’s qualities essentially involves detaching oneself from the dictates imposed by the subject; dictates, which urge us to feel obliged to share one’s -occasionally- overestimated problematic. If we consider all qualities related to the object, its symbolic value, its use, the possibility of its exchange, one sees that what is self-called “artistic” is actually the object itself. The article as a carrier of qualities, as a unity of the multiplicity of sensory data, the object as shaped mater, all constitute efforts of the object’s definition and while those categories can describe an entity of mere natural substance (a stone) or a functional object (an artifact), they are unable to conceive the work under the notion of its ideal form, that of the work of art. The fact that Martin Heidegger, the philosopher who suggested the most radical rupture in the philosophical thinking of the 20th century, considered the reversal from the analysis of Being to the “ontologization» of the artwork as an inevitable necessity, as far as the evolution of his philosophical system and the “questions” it posed are concerned, is possibly not a matter of pure coincidence. The work is not substantiated as a result of its infrastructure as a symbol (a symbol of what?) or as a reference to reality (whose reality?) but because of the fact that out of its interior something emerges and becomes visible to all, while it had previously remained invisible. The singularity of the artwork lies, according to Heidegger, in the very phenomenon of the self-emergence (of truth), a procedure certainly of ontological order. In the “ergon” (artwork) the truth of the being has been en-erg-ized”.2 The dictum is possibly the primary programmatic thesis of a century that replaced metaphysical systems by aesthetic ones and defined afresh the constitutional expressions of existence through the prism of art. Early in the 19th century, Soren Kierkegaard had already distinguished among three possibilities of human existence as aesthetical, ethical and religious. When someone describes himself as a refined esthete, one refers to a sort of life that occurs via the dipole: observation/ pleasure. While observing a candle burning in the candlestick placed on some table in the gloom, one can either feel happy or sad. The instant constitutes the point of reference of the observer; any bond with a continuous, everyday reality defeats him. Variatio delectat. The moral man, on the contrary, likes repetition. He is self-justified via the willingly selected, enduring bonds with his objects of desire (e.g. his job, his companion, his ideology). Kierkegaard identifies in the competition of those two types the major drama of human existence in modernity. Within the tendency created by those two attitudes in life the religious type is placed, as a Hegelian revocation of the difference. The truth of his faith constitutes his point of reference, which naturally creates a personal, subjective truth. “Subjectivity is truth”, writes the father of existential philosophies. In the continuators of Kierkegaard’s philosophical work the truth of the “being” is en-erg-ized in the artwork as pure subjectivity; it is a phenomenal paradox, which however constitutes the center of weight of every reference to the art of modernity. Such constitutional thesis renders the definition of “one” artistic subject impossible, since such a definition cannot be unique, whole and unalterable.3 As a result, one cannot discuss an artistic subject in the same way one refers to the political or historical agent. The existence of the artistic object does not necessarily presuppose also the existence of an artistic subject: the solitary artist, the pioneering artist and the impersonal artist (if we consider an established typology, as it is developed in the 20th century).4 How could one define such an artistic subject? For example, terms like “artist’, “creator” and “master-hand” emphasize, in different perspectives, the field of artistic production, while terms like “viewer”, “art-lover” and “audience” define the same process under the dimension of reception. If then, from the first, we set the question of the definition of the artistic subject, we come to realize that it leaves a number of points and ambiguities undefined, particularly in relation to a sort of existential typology, Kierkegaard style. So, the artist (as the lover par excellence), the art theoretician (as the tireless pleasure-seeker) or the collector (as the politician par excellence) includes (each end every of them on his field of action) all those constitutional forms of existence. Surely, in times of intense fanaticism the roles are reversed: the artist then becomes the politician, the collector the lover, and the theoretician becomes the pleasure -seeker. Yet such references, no matter how descriptive or understandable they arrive, they are unable to define the notion of an artistic subject in the same clarity that the object can be defined. The problematic of the artistic subject includes limitations and boundaries, as it is liable to the main Hegelian category of historicity. Artistic objects refer to the entirety of those procedures and forms of social practice, which form but are also formed, e.g., by ideological mechanisms.5 (That fact places the artistic at the position of the object par excellence). The reference to the institutions and the reasons that define the object as “artistic” (e.g. in history, in scientific discourse, in the market) is definitely important, as any scientifically defined function of signification is also equipped with the power apparatus as well as its supporting and delimitating ideologies. Yet, such a procedure of signification as far as the artistic object is concerned, is more interesting because of its nature which is not merely interpretational but also productive and creative (if one considers the possibilities of interpretation it offers), namely the possibilities of the evolution of the language itself – in its Lacanian dimension- as a supreme system of reference. Heidegger again, “ Any art, as a possibility of the arrival of the truth of the being as such, is essentially poetry”.6 In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the subject’s identity is always imperfect or deficient because of the absence of what Jacques Lacan calls o b j e t p e t i t a, - the eternally lost object of desire. Such lack in identity is also inscribed in the external symbolical order (the Symbolical) through the interaction with the linguistic structure. It is only thus that incoherent, coincidental and unstable subject becomes understandable. Nevertheless, Lacan emphasizes the fact that such an inscription is imperfect, as it is the structure of language itself that is also imperfect, because of the existence of one particular element –the Real- that evades the external symbolical order, while it can cover itself behind things, the “medication» of the psyche. The supposed unity of the subject is also unconditioned, according to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, through the heterogeneous connections that one continually makes with other social identities and groups-based on his desire- and forming “apparatuses” and assemblages and thus abolishing the notion of one’s uniformity and self-existence. Subjectivity here appears more as a variable becoming than as a stable and consistent identity. At the same time social reality in itself is received as a plexus of formations and environments/natural milieus, which result from such organic assemblages and simulate the variable of natural reality, as well as the complex subject. And, by suggesting the “war machine” as a perfect artwork, as the thing that brings about changes on the volatile world, the object enters through the back entrance. Accepting the hegemony of the artistic object against all others implies that one does not focus on the artifact itself but rather on the point system revealed through the objects, as well as on their references. The language on one side, and the materiality of the object on the other both remain the primary and ultimate points of reference, as they precisely form the conditions of communication, of viewing and of aesthetic pleasure. It is thus that the “phenomenality” of the object, particularly by means of its semantic standardization, acquires ontological value. That point is crucial for the definition of the relation between subject and object, as far as artistic practice is concerned. Edmund Husserl has once more referred to the constitutional dualism of both subject and object (the differentiation lies between the res cogitans, the thinking subject and the res extensa of the extensible thing, the material and presentable world) and by accepting the subjective starting-point attempts to answer the question from the perspective the cognitive theory: The object is always the object for me. Conscience is a thin membrane, around which the two aspects of the object revolve. As much as I constitute the object, I am also being constituted by it. Yet, is not such a perspective the main consideration of the artistic object and possibly of the artistic subject, if we accept that such a procedure exists? The artwork is the vengeance of the object on the subject. The subjects go out, they hang over the surface of the Object. They become outgoing Images.

Images out of us

“Eyes are the organic models of philosophy. Their enigma lies not only in the fact that they can see but in that they are able to watch their own selves seeing.”7 (Peter Sloterdijk)

If the fundamental problem of the image is, really, its relation to the prototype, by delimitating this relation in regard to the artwork, we can claim that the “image” according to Jacques Ranciθre’s brilliant dictum signifies essentially two things distinct. It is possibly a mere connection that produces a relation of similarity to the prototype: something that does not necessarily have to be a copy but a substitute of the original, the initial one. He also refers to the game of interventions and techniques, which produce what we call “Art”, namely it is about change, differentiation, dislocation of similarities.8 (A key word at this point is definitely the Aristotelian notion of imitation, which has “troubled” the thought of the cognitive philosophy on aesthetics theory for years). It is understandable that the changes in similarities, as they are projected through art, can invest various forms. Imagine, for example, how a simple theme, (e.g. the artist’s self-portrait) has created thousands of images throughout the historical development of art; different in regard to each prototype and distinct amongst themselves, as far as the fashion of signification, the iconographic connotations, content, perspective, style, expression, artistic medium- the enumeration of differences would continue with the introduction of more and more categories. Every new work moves between commentary and translation of an earlier one, and it is this very commentary or translation, which makes the artwork. Here lies the uniqueness of the artwork. It is not then all about a masochistic tendency of the critics and art historians to insist on inventing the finest nuances, the slightest transitions, the differentiated dislocations and historical developments amongst the artworks but it is an innate characteristic of the visual object itself. It is unique as fingerprints or the iris of the eyes of the viewers, who receive it by means of their sensors. A characteristic manifestation of the relation between image and viewer is the use of photography, which has created an immediate relation to reality. We accept what the photographic lens snaps (and the cinematic camera and then the video camera) as the absolute recording of the real. It is an erroneous acceptance (analogous to the Newtonian law of gravity which after Einstein’s theory has been proved inadequate and unable to describe the universe but however it still remains functional as far as our everyday practice is concerned). Photography obeys its own rules, independently of external reality. Already, since the moment that we realize that photography copies the renaissance model of perspective with the point of departure (namely, as if we gaze from one single point keeping only one eye open) we also consider our responsibilities regarding a –now- established condition of lack of discrimination between reality and construction. (It is possibly not necessary to proceed with the analogous theoretical discussion, as far as the changes brought about by the digital print and administration of the image as virtual/potential, purely inventible out of nil, in regard to the understanding, as well as the acceptance of what is called reality, in order to realize the range of the construction). As Ranciθre concludes, photography in its essence, which had once been accused of promoting its soulless mechanistic images against the colourful body of painting by means of mechanical reproduction techniques 9, is now witnessing how the roles are reversed. Contrary to the devices of contemporary painting (which, as an earlier technique of visual image- making, can afford the luxury to confront itself and to employ “borrowed” iconography as it is now needless to function as a condition for the creation of optical illusions or convince the audience about its conceptual character), photography (and, in extension, the videotaped image) appears as the wondering of reality, it is now “the emanation of the body, skin cut off from the surface”.10 So, the theoretical debate about the expressions of similarity as a constitutional condition of the artwork, namely the similarity either as a substitute of the prototype or as change, differentiation, and dislocation of the characteristics of the initial is rekindled. Since 1980, art historian Douglas Crimp, relates contemporary photography to the notion of “presence”. A photograph, which, possibly in a direct way, refers to a prototype while at the same time remains so ethereal, almost absent as it does not offer the viewer some sort of substitute of the prototype, is considered by Crimp as an indicatory case for the aesthetic condition of post- modernity. We trust the photographic (or cinematic) image, not because we are still victims of a major conspiracy (of a conspiracy emanated from television and its produce), in the domain of which the doctrine “photographic image equals truth” applies, but because we actually accept such a constitutional lie as we acknowledge the vulnerable nature of a “compromised truth”, which we all confess. Contemporary photographs are always “re”-presentations, already viewed, constitutional dιjΰ -vus. “Their images are embezzled, confiscated, appropriated, stolen”.11 They are convincing as long as they are such. When Roland Barthes refers to the punctum of photographs, to that peculiar, subjective, sensitive point of reference, which attracts our attention as the photo’s psyche, he develops precisely the modern thesis of reference to the photographic image. Photography concerns us not as an intermediated copy of reality, but as its symptom (in the psychoanalytical notion of the term). “A punctum is everything together: a scratch, a tiny hole, a small spot, a miniature incision – but also a throw of dices. The punctum of a photograph is the element accidental, which stirs me up (but also bruises and hurts me)”.12 In the new status quo of aesthetic autonomy, which emerges in the early years of modernity, a particular relation between object and image is formed. The image is no longer an encoded imprint of a thought or sentiment. It is no longer transcription or duplicate; the image is in itself the mode in which things speak or remain mute, the way in which objects are linked to us. We may live in the age of simulacra but such simulations cannot be considered as virtual/potential copies of reality (as Baudrillard maintains) but as subjective “becomings’ and “assemblage” according to the terminology of Deleuze and Guattari. In that sense, performance and happenings constitute possibly the, par excellence, “assemblage”. Visual artists (namely those humans who are endowed with the ability to illustrate and formulate mater) use their own bodies as a flexible material and are literally “exposed” to the audience during a performance or a happening. They do not act a certain role (as in the theatre, in which there are texts, direction, performance and a definite code), they do not create the illusion of another existence, but formulate it instantaneously (performance, in terms of procedure, is ontologically very close to drawing). Naturally, as performance as artistic medium has moved into a kind of strategic formation of identity (within the context of the culture of performativity), it actually constitutes an essay on subjectivation itself. The fact that often performance refers thematically to the engendered difference of the sexes, to the allegedly taken for granted social or “natural” roles, namely the major theme of the investigation of the subject’s indefinability within the framework of given social practices, is not accidental. The creation of a momentary existence during a performance or action is perhaps the point at which making images involves creating subjects. One of the recent developments after 1980, which have differentiated our relation to images, as well as to objects has been the -almost hegemonic-acknowledgement of the installation. Installations transform the artist into a collector of objects, an archivist and a “decorator», by providing the possibility to create autonomous worlds, worlds that are being constituted by objects and their carefully selected testimonies, in regard to their “latent” utility. In installations, objects do not usually come from purely aesthetic contexts, they either relate, as tools, the use of the world afresh or refer, as images, to the structures and production ideologies of the image.13 The fact that in installations the investment of space with objects, painting, sculpture, photography and video is received as the creation of a “topos”, as the creation of an image in situ, yet of an image outside the frame, of an image that, at the same time, integrates its frame- is vital.14 A major characteristic is the integration into the naturally or architecturally structured space, in which they are presented within the context, - frequently but not necessarily- of an exhibition, and their connection to the field of the reception of the viewer’s activity, the conditions of viewing (which include his movement within space) and also with the characteristic contextual traits, the connotations (e.g. the social and institutional framework) of their exhibition space. The arrival of the installation is then defined as an outcome of the renegotiation of the complex relation among artwork-place-artist, with the aim “to bring the viewer into the image”.15 The viewer arrives and wanders in the installation space; he/she examines both space and objects, by following the artist’s dictates and through the space-time reformation of optical, kinetic, and acoustic impressions a certain scenario within time-space focuses on a specific time “succession” of impressions. That particular situation, the event as a “formation of experience” constitutes also the “work”.16 Such kind of narrative, time sequence through the formulation of space, thus simulates the perceptual ability of the contemporary “tele”-viewer in order that one a series of cinematic images; namely the ability of the viewer to conceive the represented cinematic space as a cohesive and linearly equated experience. It is not self-evident; it is based on a historical “apprenticeship” of the eye according to the debates of the technological revolutions and the aesthetic avant- gardes connected to them. It is a true fact that the use of the cinematic look precedes every other function of our eyes; all our impressions are intermediated a priori. According to Paul Virilio, the advent of the cinematic language defines the visual (and not only that) status quo of our times. “ I place the beginning of Hollywood in the First World War”, Anita Loos used to say. “ The cinematic city (Cinecita/Hollywood…) of the military-industrial age succeeds the city-theatre of the ancient city-state.”17 It is thus that the installation (being a practice and a dispositiv)18 is indicative, almost paradigmatic, as far as the redefinition of the relation between subject and image is concerned. In an installation, the nature of the pre-mentioned dialectic relation between objects and viewer is different than in the “real” world. It is always discontinued, fragmented, reorganized, according to the occasional aesthetic suggestion. That relation precisely defines also the constitutional power/weakness of the installation, as the installation art “reveals exactly the metaphorical and unstable nature of the images themselves’.19 Contrary to the philosophy of image-lust, as it is being promoted by the advocates of the masses-reasonable enough as images have a tremendous influence on them- stands the aesthetics of space as a “fragment of experience”, as it is being projected through the unsteady images of installations. The way in which man experiences his relation with everyday life through “things” returns as a parody, a dream, a substitute. By maintaining that distance, art from everyday life, which only needs substitutes of images (television, advertising) because of half-ignorance and conformism, resets, essentially this time, the question of our relation to the world.

Contemporary and a-topical

“If place can be defined as relational, historical and referring to identity, then the place that cannot be defined as relational, historical and referring to identity would be a non-place. The hypothesis supported here is that super-modernity produces non-places.”20 (Marc Auge)

Contemporary artistic production should be considered as the ever-lasting creation of those “non-places”, granted that the contemporary world is being defined as synchronic and a-topical. In the new reordering, defined by geographical proximity and synchronic presence (the internet is possibly the emblematic representation of the new order of things) artists are called to be positioned, to take “places”. One of the most interesting recent developments is the dislocation of the artistic production from reference to functional framework and, at the same time, the creative ambition of the artist to apply on all sorts of objects the pure intention of an artistic quest, aiming at the re-attributing of significance to objects themselves. (When Duchamp as a young artist, for instance, sends Fountain to the Independents of New York under a pseudonym, ( he also participates in the Independents’ Salon as a member of the critical committee) he overthrows the conventional notion of the artistic object and at the same time questions the institutions, which determine taste). Artists then do not encode objects and actions anew but, reservedly, they allow themselves to be encoded by them. (Again, it is all about a strategy of appropriation of reality and, surely, a reintroduction of the constitutional question about what an artistic object actually is). It is true that, in the years of post-modernity (the late ’60s), one of the main characteristics of contemporary art has been the negotiation of the artwork with the framework of its exhibition and with its characteristic contexts (mainly the institutional framework). Such a negotiation re-establishes a new content, conceptually dislocating the artwork from its substance as an object and by transforming it gradually into a site of function, use and reference. The latter implies that the given conditions of the framework become an inextricable part of is semantic dislocation. The exhibition context may include the form of space or the institutional environment (museum, art gallery, urban space), of its social undertones (private or public, high or idiomatic style), its associations to historical traditions, economic factors and strategies of commercialization of every artist and every foundation.21Yet, the main quality of contemporary visual art production is located not only at the reintroduction of the framework (as criticism of institutions) but at the formation of a new relation to its objects themselves, as carriers of information, as functional tools and references of identity. The tendency of post-production, throughout which artists elaborate cultural products anew in order to compose new notions, is a characteristic trait of contemporary art.22 Already in the 1980s, art has started criticizing the notions of “authentic” production and autographic signature as evidence of creation, by promoting the conceptual instruments of copying, eclectivitistic selection, alteration, retrieval and appropriation of existing works. Such development may be considered indicative of the renaissance of the reader-viewer (which, according to Barthes’ well known phrase had to be bought with the loss of the writer-artist),23 as well as of the return of the Situationists’ dιtournement: the term refers to the use of artworks, which have already been produced, so that they can acquire new meaning and value; such aspiration is associated to their detachment from the crushing circulation of the terms of spectacle (communication of information, propaganda, advertising, immediate consumption of entertainment), namely the contemporary model of the socially prevailing lifestyle. We cannot be certain whether those were in reality Barthes’s prophecies and if Guy Debord’s wishes ever came true; what is unquestionable is that they established the theoretical framework for a number of contemporary art forms in which sampling and recycling prevail. Certainly, even in such art forms, the signature of the artist is preserved, contrary to the utopist dictates on the intercommunity of property of the artwork, as, for example, in the experimentations of Fluxus (in the 1960s) or the Suprematists (in the 1920s). “ Curb & eliminate your ego entirely (if you can), do not sign anything, - do not attribute anything to yourself – depersonalize yourself! That is, in true Fluxus collective spirit! Deeuropanize yourself!), George Maciunas writes in the 1960s.24 Nowadays something like that would appear romantic, even utopian! That is so, not because the contemporary artist does not wish to abolish himself but because he can no longer do it, he cannot afford the luxury to act so. His personality is one of his tools).25 The flexible cultural worker constitutes a point of reference for every artist either within or without the metropolitan centers that determine the trends of the cultural market. The flexibility of contemporary art, as far as the utilization of an enormous volume of points and objects is concerned, coming not solely from the imaginary museum of the history of art but also from the daily increasing universe of images, texts and mentalities, is compatible with the mobility of the artist as an international producer. At any rate, the difference between center and periphery, for some people, has long since stopped to exist. Paul Virilio writes, “ As, then there is no end of History, we find ourselves at the end of geography. And the LOCAL is the external, the periphery, not to say the great suburbs of the world. An overall de-localization, which affects the nature of identity, not only of the national but also the social as it redoubts not the national state but the city, the geopolitics of nations. But that LOCAL CITY is now already only a QUARTER, a municipal division like any other, of the invisible GLOBAL AFTER- CITY, the center of which lies everywhere and the periphery nowhere…”26 Another characteristic trait of the contemporary visual art production lies in its negotiation of- the already breaking in Virilio’s “prophecy”- phenomenon of multicultural globalization of the artwork, either content or circulation- wise. A global culture with common content, imposed by a predominant, hegemonic civilization that levels every particularity and cultural difference by assimilating homogenously elements of the civilizations of the world and by “globalizing” national economies, is what characterizes the contemporary period of cultural globalization.27 As its produce, multiculturalism concerns primarily questions of identity, which mainly focus on the sociological and demographic difference but also on difference as a philosophical category (particularly when referring to art).28 But how can art follow the dictates of the respect to alterity, when western thought abides by the logic of the Identical, of the prevalence of substance and identity?29 The demand but also the risk of contemporary times (particularly the dictate for art, which comes from an “encentered” cultural space, like Greece) is the pursuit and the recognition of the crisis of the “identity of the other”, of the “barbarian”, of the “alien”, under the consideration that overall equality exists only through the recognition of the “unequal” particularity and individuality.30 According to Deleuze and Guattari, one of the characteristics of the art of modernity, common with the art of the “barbarians” and Gothic art, lies in the fact that modern art is exceptionally nomadic.31 (Nomadic, is the constitutional Other). Already since 1987, the writers of one of the most significant philosophical analysis, at least for its great influence on artists, define the main characteristic of contemporary art, namely its mobility. Artists, as nomads, select journeys, move from junction points to new ones, while maintaining constant interlinks and preparing at the same time periodical detachments from both local and temporal points of reference. They thus redefine both time and space as fields of personal experience, which many times become an object of negotiation within their artwork itself. The modern artist lives and acts in spaces of personal utopias and strategies against the- originated from the contemporary global road-roller- homogenization (through such procedure every difference, personal historicity and, as a result, subjectivity is shaken and normalized). It may seem paradoxical, but the ability of the contemporary artist to articulate un-hegemonic, “major” discourse, to resist the uniformity of conformism, is offered only to those who participate in the cultural becoming, while maintaining a critical attitude towards it. The spirit of globalized cosmopolitism and internationality now constitutes an overwhelming constitutional convention of all art. What is more, the neo-liberal discovery of the alien, of the different is equally problematic, for it appears as if it wished to keep a promise for even more spectacle, even if the audience (mainly the investing art audience) discover that finally, neither the art of the former soviet countries (1980), nor African art (1990), nor the art of southeast Asia (2000) constitute the Atlantis of Avant-Gardes.(Avant-Gardes are never discovered, they are always self-invented, they are essentially created in contradistinction to the already existing). In a number of cases, such works as well as the respective exhibitions, which “discover” the difference, refer naοve, superficial, soothing and mainly “politically correct” art, which normalizes difference, entraps culture into consumable, stereotypical images as long as the multicultural market controls, directs and “corrupts” the cultures it has been supposedly committed to project. Any formulation of a different approach has to take that condition precisely under consideration. It is within that context that Antonio Negri’s and Michael Hardt’s popular theory appears to move, in investigating the relation between biopolitics and individualization during the process of the contemporary “globalized” transition from the systems of power which are based on the city-state into a headless, supernatural classification, which themselves call Empire. They both maintain that the earlier consideration of the world as a static system of powers between the ruling classes and the proletariat, as well as between periphery and hegemonic nuclei can no longer exist; they do not accept the notion of central authority as a source of power but paradoxically that the founding power of the empire, the power that has caused it to emerge into light and which authorizes its numerous control networks, is not but the “crowds” themselves, divided into linguistic and working categories. The empire is a society of spectacle, which is phenomenally nourished by the pursuit of “happiness”. Yet, in reality, it is based on the mobilization of desires that are often associated with the fear of failure, of exclusion and loneliness and, this is how it controls its members and conditions itself. On investigating the way, in which non -representational democracy (through the “crowd” category, as defined by Spinoza), Paolo Virno underlines that the sentiment of “not feeling anywhere at home” forces the crowd to invest in intellect. Potentially, the contemporary artistic scene is described with that term precisely, with the need of a peripheral, hybridist, and contemporary crowd to “invest”. Both stylistic and ideological hybrids in the domain of artistic production constitute the symptoms of such mobility. Those groups conspire against the “multi-headed monster” of the globalized, capitalistic economy (and respectively the system of art which is being bought, promoted and collected) by employing the same structures that support it: synchrony and a-topicity.32 That contemporary, internationally motivated artistic scene, when it is limited to its local dimension (in Greece this time) either in order to disturb it, or communicate its work, must take into consideration the inherent pathologies of every topos. In this case, the point of reference of the artistic production is the coincidental character of greek culture: in constitutional illegitimacy and unreliability, the limiting family/familiarity domination, in the complex of communalism/conformism, the worship of ancestry and religious fundamentalism, in the mentality of an anarchical mercantilism.33 Such innate pathologies of the Greek society should not be considered as structural or sedulous. Their transcendence and transubstantiation might constitute a target for art: the highest political praxis! It is interesting how such shortcomings can be transformed into gifts, when filtered through the sharp gaze of the artists. Possibly, the most characteristic example of negotiation by mainly younger artists is the intense employment of the performance and actions, not only in the institutionally secured space but also and particularly in public space. They are intense political actions: while re-signifying critically the identity of urban space and the use of public environment, they also critically form categories of conscience and behavior. Art should “entertain”!

Selected in the out-most

Collecting is a form of practical memory and, under the common manifestations of proximity, the most concise. And the minutest act of political contemplation, even in a junk shop creates, in some way, an epoch.”34 (Walter Benjamin)

The “serious”, “autonomous” art is produced in our time mainly with the aim to constitute a collection article, as artworks today do not evidently constitute inextricable parts of an ancient temple, a medieval church or a baroque palace but are created from the very first for the isolated, autonomous space of both public and private collections. Essentially, with the emergence of modernity, the “museum”, which is morphologically the ideal white cube and, functionally, the absolute archives (a microcosm of the universe), is the common constituent of the artworks of each and every period. As a closed and distinct space, it performs the rupture between the world of objects/evidence of historical continuity and identity (every museum starts either as national representation or as private challenge) and the world of random objects that are not worth preserving. One of the most vital questions that emerge in every effort to define the mechanisms, which form a collection, is how the criteria of evaluation, which allow the integration of an artwork, are exactly defined. In the age of modernity, the criteria of evaluation have acquired a more subjective character, compared to earlier generations, in which taste and the rule of the “beautiful” – solidly, constitutionally and canonistically, depending on the period, have defined also the criteria of selection. If one considers the attention paid today to the “interesting”, “important” and “original”, it is challenging to try and define which exactly the rationales that determine the new criteria are. As historian Boris Groys reports, today we should find the criteria of evaluation, according to which artworks are selected and preserved, not outside but within the collection itself and define those criteria immanently, according to the inherent logic of collecting. “Innovation”, “modernity” is the moving force in the production of “contemporary” artworks, while at the same time it is exactly such “prohibition of repetition” that constitutionally defines also the ideological as well as the practical logic in collecting.35 Innovation is then the common topos of the collection as well as the artwork (that, naturally, does not necessarily presuppose that artworks, which copy earlier styles, themes and techniques are not accepted- as long as they communicate somehow to their audience that such reference to earlier styles, themes and techniques has been their original intention , as it is precisely such reference that is innovative- a strategy widely communicated in the context of postmodernist aesthetics). The advocacy of the doctrine of modernity, according to Groys, by any collection of historical aspirations as well as of the art integrated in it, is possible, precisely because museums are the great defenders of that Hegelian form of linear historicity, namely the succession of an artwork by another and of their simultaneous presentation in a cabinet de curiositι, in a Wunderkammer, which is no longer the property of the collector but of history itself. It is here that the paradox is essentially traced, as the collection in modernity, governed by the dogma of innovation and of subjectivity, is always founded on the axiom of the preservation of the old and historical continuity. But such fundamental principle of continuity should always appear to be involved in a procedure of refutation; it is vital to appear to be caught in a state of basic and constitutional amnesia, as producers (both artists and curators), as if we had been completely unaware of the historical conditions within which the art of earlier periods, to which we refer, had been created; the over-advertised renowned artistic “freedom” is due precisely to that. The empty white cube of the collection, of museums and archives essentially incarnates such constitutional artistic freedom. It is the point of departure, point nil, which continuously establishes the artistic avant-garde, while historicizing it at the same time. “The image of a white, ideal space presents the archetypal image of 20th century art more than any painting.”36 The entire development of art and its institutions, since the beginning of modernity, is undoubtedly based on the reciprocal relation-within and without the “museum”, within and without the white cube. Mainly the artists of historical avant-gardes (1920-1930) but also of neo-avant-gardes (1960-1970) have defied the power of museums. Yet, the artists’ protest had not been mainly focused against the institutional framework but against the conditions, which formed the “exclusive” right of the museum authority to select artists, to publicize works, and establish either historically. The only way artists could infract such canonistic conditions of hegemony was to use collections as the Trojan horse and impose their own rules on museums. “Avant-gardes sought not to be mere objects of collection but to collect on their own will”.37 It is true that, already in the early years of the 20th century artists had begun to appropriate strategies traditionally associated with the practice of curators (with Marcel Duchamp’s work leading the way); furthermore, the question of the presentation of artworks had been the constant point of interest particularly for the neo-avant-gardist artists of the 1960s.38 Even conceptual, interactive or relational/co-relational works (if we are to follow a schematic and over-simplified genealogical evolution of the “de-materialization” of the contemporary artwork), constantly woe with the sacred domain of the muses, even if they turn against any effort of limitation of their “freedom” and, what is more, it is a battle against the institutions, which guarantee the convention of their freedom itself. So, it is not only objects, but, as an example, also the documentation of an action that looks forward to the acceptance or even its “paradigmatic” exclusion from a collection, archives or some form of public presentation, so that if one wishes to articulate public critical discourse, out and beyond the framework set by the established institutional system of one’s time, one should express it in distinction to the latter. (what is mentioned above is naturally an open attack against any form of essentialistic consideration of artistic creation, which is focused only on personality, talent and birth from nil. Duchamp has put it clearly. (Imagine the greatest artist in the world in the African jungle, a total stranger to all: oxymoron!).39 What is mentioned earlier- namely that works of art set as an ulterior target to play a role in some collection- confirms somehow the particularity of artistic production as compared to other forms. Artworks are by definition articles of collection, as they are “preserved”, therefore according to that logic, not “consumed”. A more widely accepted cultural and social convention prevents their destruction, even if, for instance, some Japanese collector wished to deliver himself to fire after death, according to the respective custom, with his favorite Van Gogh painting in his arms. One may hold proprietary titles of a piece of land, sell it or build houses on it, but the actual “land” is never his. That does not naturally signify that artworks cease to be articles of speculative sales, purchases and investments- that quality is a rather general symptom of the post-capitalistic society of modernity, which essentially invests in anything. It is logical for certain single objects to have the lion’s share in the stock -exchanges of surplus value production. Let us not forget that the wealth of the world is based on the resales of shares and other stock-market values, which take place today in a rate of capital transactions every 24 hours. Such virtual economy that hovers as a “bubble” over our heads is our supportive wealth. The particular economy of collecting, namely the ideal integration of an artwork into a memory archives legitimizes not solely the collective quality but, somehow, constitutes an emblematic representation of contemporary man himself. We live in artificial, imaginary memory domains, in which contemporary “cosmocrats” ( as sociologists Ridderstrale and Nordstrom define men who travel around the world, consuming and reproducing its “points” and genealogically succeed the “bureaucrats”, who had inherited in their turn the predominance of “aristocrats”).40 Andre Malraux had already spoken of that virtual museum, a memory archives, in which, with the help of the technologies of documentation (e.g. photography), pieces of information are stored and private as well as group memorial collections are formed.41 Meanwhile, with the employment of new media, we have all become collectors and articles of collection (to the degree that we produce creatively). Personal computers, video cameras, online services, which offer everyone the possibility to create one’s private, individual, digital museum: images, sounds, words, motion, all in the form of digital files, ready to circulate. There are naturally significant differentiations and hierarchies: the collectors of works of art (limitedin number), the collectors of points (more), the collectors of shows (all, without exception). The personal need to collect, constitutes also the constitutional convention that defines the existence and function of files, namely the fact that while a file archives may constitute or frequently refer to some public space, in objective historicity, as the par excellence administrator of memory and discourse producer, it is actually the place, in which both private and personal exist, together with the innermost pieces of information, as Jacques Derrida has shown.42 It is evident that the procedure of collecting forms an anthropological constituent, which as a double reflector records not only social, but also private space. If we consider that, according to Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille it is surplus and not rarity, the constant need to spend (and the parallel permanent necessity to cover the need) which constitutes the force apparatus for the evolution of life and human societies,43 then the notion of the formation of a collection can be also considered through another perspective which essentially completes the pre-mentioned. Every collection is characterized by the element of expenditure, mainly of an absurd kind, in conflict with personal benefit and the narrow rules of financial profit (since those luxury articles are not purchased merely for profit). Already, the payment of a big sum of money for the acquisition of an artwork is also an act of liberation, which offers, to the purchasing subject (as a way of modern sacrifice) appreciation and great social esteem, while it establishes the visual artwork as a cultural object (an establishment which always remains on a symbolic level). According to Groys, the domain of the “modern» collection, the major and only, in his opinion, work of modernity, is understandable as the neutral space of inertia. Every acquisition seeks to overmaster disintegration and preserve world order.44 After a large circle, we then return to the point from which we originally started, to the relation between subject and object. If the artwork is the revenge of the object on the subject as it revokes one’s constitutional uncertainty, then the subject is the expiation of the artwork in relation to the object, as it records its triviality. The artwork becomes what substitutes the relation between object and subject, by remaining always in an ontological condition between the two. It is permanently characterized by the fact that it is impossible for us to imagine it sufficiently, while it constitutes our object of desire, the one lost, and the one we eternally try to recover. We are asked to reconsider the constitutional disproportion, by having artistic action itself as a point of reference, as according to Maurice Merleau-Ponty words, it should be applied on it, “The philosopher is recognized by the fact that he possesses an inclination for clarity and a sense of ambiguity in an inseparable mode. Ambiguity, which is called ambivalence, when he is due to endure it. In the greatest of philosophers it becomes the theme, contributing to the foundation of uncertainties instead of threatening them. It is that movement, which actually and incessantly sways him from knowledge to ignorance and from ignorance back to awareness and a form of serenity in the gulf of that motion that make him a philosopher”.45 The main certainty offered by the work of art is that art is moral (and perhaps the only which is possible) and it is through such certainty that it has the power to re-position us once more, into the world and into reality. If we paraphrase Kierkegaard, we might maintain that one can personally take pleasure in aesthetics or aesthetically take pleasure in one’s personality, but in either case one egoistically enjoys whatever he is partly offered by reality.46 It is the artist who dialectically abolishes the difference by enjoying, on aesthetic terms, his own personality but in such way that his pleasure is also a pleasure of aesthetics as catholic and genuine value. It is such loyalty to the personal fact, the “subjective reliability”, namely not to compromise what has conquered you as a “procedure of truth” (Badiou), “ your own desire” (Lacan) - that is what’s “moral” in art.

References 1Jean Baudrillard, Passwords, Greek translation by Vassilis Tomanas, Athens, 2002, p. 13, 2 Martin Heidegger, Holzwege, Frankfurt, 1950, p.25, 3 Paraphrasing the words of Alain Badiou, one can claim that there is not only one subject but there are as many subjectivities as truths, and as many subjective types as the processes (facts) of truth. In this way, the artwork as absolutely “ non-objective” constitutes the field of the definition of subjectivity. See Alain Badiou, Morality, An essay on the awareness of Evil, translated by Vlassis Skolidis, Kostas Bobas, Athens, 1998, p.38, 4 Nikos Daskalothanassis, The artist as a historical subject from the 19th to the 21st century, Athens, 2004. 5 Loui Altouser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus, in Theses, translated by Xenofon Giataganas, Athens,1999, p.p. 69-121, 6 Martin Heidegger, Holzwege, Frankfurt, 1950, p.59, 7 Peter Sloterdijk, Kritik der zynischen Vernunft, Frankfurt 1987, p. 145, 8 Jacques Rancière, Politik der Bilder, Berlin, 2005, p.p. 13-16, 9 Jacques Rancière, Politik der Bilder, Berlin, 2005, p.16, 10 Douglas Crimp, The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism, in Doherty Thomas, curator, Postmodernism. A Reader, Hertfordshire, 1993, p.117, 11 Roland Barthes, La Chambre Claire (Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography), translated by Yannis Kritikos, Athens, 1983, p. 43, 12 Judith Butler’s well-known position about the social construction of the “natural” differentiation between the physical and social gender (sex/gender) deals once more with the issue of identity, in relation to the models of symbolic regimes. Butler assumes that the “feministic” subject, as well as its patriarchic opposite is the result of the same structures of power. Based on this consideration, she refers to the constructibility of identity and makes her significant remark that one can gain access to the physical gender only by means of social symbolizations. The question is then posed, if the very notion of “physical” difference between male and female is not only a quality attributed a posteriori. The “being” of men and women constitutes a discontinued series of performative actions and body directions. For Butler, the materiality of the body itself is produced through the intellectual/cognitive status-quos ( in political as well as legal discourse) which constitute both sex and race. See, Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter. On the discursive limits of sex, Rutledge, New York, 1993 and Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power, Theories in Subjection, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1997, 13 I deliberately avoid the use of the term ready-made, as well as of the term objet trouvé in order to describe such objects, as they constitute historically established notions related to a particular aesthetic, ideology and artistic practice. 14 The historical transition of traditional artistic practices, such as frame painting and sculpture in autonomous environments has been a historical artistic demand, already expressed in the manifestos of the Italian futurists, “to bring the viewer into the artwork. The transition of the representation space from the frame into natural space, which is established in Constructivist art, has introduced, already since 1915, the category of “real space” into the parameters of the visual and plastic work. At the same time, the “intermediality” of social production (namely the employment of different media of expression), suggested by Dadaists and Surrealists, has bridged various forms, which were traditionally separated by classifications that were analogous to the artistic medium (painting, sculpture, architecture). 15 The need to reintegrate the subjective position of the viewer into the structure of the visual artwork itself has been marked by art critic Brian O’ Doherty in his classic series of articles “Inside the White Cube”. See, Brian O’ Doherty, Inside the White Tube. The Ideology of the Gallery Space, Berkeley, 1999, 16 Such formation of experience in the art of post-modernity has been observed, already in 1968, by the 17 Paul Virilio, War and Cinema, translated by Titika Dimitroulia, Athens 2001, p.75, 18 The term dispositiv may be translated as structures of artistic communication, or as apparatus of visual artwork production, 19 Jacques Rancière , Politik der Bilder, Berlin 2005, p.35, 20 Marc Augé, Non-places : Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, London, 1995, 21 Mainly art installations and their produce can refer, not only in terms of theme (in analogy to the traditional media of painting or sculpture) but also in terms of form to all those themes, which are synopsized in the term, “institutional critique”. 22 Nicolas Bourriaud, Postproduction. Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World, New York, 2000, 23 Roland Barthes, La mort de l’auteur, in Bruissement de la langue, paris, 1984, p.67, 24 George Maciunas, in Thomas Kellen, Fluxus, Basel 1994, p.14, 25 Even the system of relational aesthetics ( esthétique relationnelle) and analogous strategies, which consider works of art as the condensation and intensification of the relations which are being developed between men by employing semiotic systems are no longer occupied with the extent to which such practices undermine the artist’s role and the institutional system of artistic evaluation, by projecting an open, participation model of communication with the artwork, in which use replaces viewing, fact, monument. Even forms of art in proximity to the traditional system of image creation ( as frame painting) are liable, because of their self-reference, to dealing with demands of discursive re-examination and re-verbalization of the conditions of the artist’s and viewer’s functions. 26 Paul Virilio, The information Bomb, translated by Vassilis Tomanas , Athens 2000, p.p. 19-20, 27 “ Multiculturalism” is the symptom of all those geographical, sociopolitical, cultural and theoretical dislocations and, at least, as it is employed in sociology or anthropology , refers to a contemporary phenomenon which concerns the co-existence of communities of different cultures and cultural traditions , the geographical co-habitation in urbanized areas , as well as the co-existence of different national communities within the context of big states. As far as civilization is concerned, multiculturalism refers to cultural pluralism, emanated from such social conditions, by promoting – at the happiest of cases- respect and equal treatment of all cultures, as well as tolerance to difference. See, Nikolaos Vernicos, Sophia Daskalopoulou, Multiculturalism: the dimensions of cultural identity, Athens, 2002. 28 Polyna Kosmadaki, The notion of multiculturalism in contemporary art, unpublished announcement, 2nd Conference of Art History, A.S.K.T., 26.11.2005. 29 Emmanuel Levinas was the thinker who, by revising that way of thinking , showed that in a new consideration of philosophy, everything should be founded on the opening to the Other, on the dethronement of the re-contemplating subject. Naturally, globalized culture and the formal recognition of the existence of difference does not necessarily suggest the overall acceptance of the Other. “ Having or not having awareness of the system, in its name, we are told today that morality is the “recognition of the other” ( against racism that rejects the other) or the “morality of differences” ( against the substantiocentric nationalism, which desires the exclusion of immigrants or sexism, which denies the female-being) or “cultural pluralism” ( against the imposition of a unified model of behavior and conceptuality”. Alain Badiou’s views are absolute, yet they help us conceive the distortions suffered by contemporary art , in the name of its globalization. Alain Badiou , Morality. An essay on the Understanding of Evil, translated by Vlassis Skolidis, Kostas Bobas, Athens, 1998, p.31, 30 See, Nikos Demertzis, Thanos Lipovats, Envy and Vindictiveness. Passions of the Psyche and closed society, Athens, 2006, p.141, 31 Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism & Schizophrenia, London, 1992 (1987), p. 492, 32 For example the neologism, glocalization ( made from the words global/local) refers to the way in which economic structures of exchange between local societies are created. It constitutes an alternative model, as it goes past the directional policies of hegemonic instruments, for example of national governments and super-national firms. At the same time it defines the way in which certain artistic groups as both producers and consumers are interlinked (for example, between cities). 33 Thanos Lipovatz, Issues in Political Psychology, Athens 1991,p.p. 236-282, 34 Walter Benjamin, Das Passagen Werk.Gessamelte Schriften,Volume V1, Frankfurt, 1991, p.271, 35 Boris Groys, Logik der Sammlung, Munich 1997, p.31, 36 Brian O’ Doherty, Inside the White Cube. The Ideology of the Gallery Space, Berkeley, 1999, p. 14, 37 Boris Groys, Logik der Sammlung, Munich 1997, p.55, 38 The art of institutional critique and context art, as well as installation art and its produce are possibly the most approved examples of such dislocation from the artist/creator to the artist/ archivist, critic, showman. See, Elpida Karaba, Curating. Views on curating practices. Athens, 2005, p.25, 39 The conditions, which govern the institutionalization of art today are as tough as the conditions of the globalized market; either we wish it or not, we are always a part of it. (According to Alain Badiou, the ultimate form of contemporary artistic action is possible today only as loss and is synopsized in the words, “I is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognizes as existent”. Alain Badiou, Fifteen Theses on contemporary art, www.lacan.com/issue 22..htm. 40 Jonas Ridderstrale, Kjell a Nordström, Karaoke Capitalism, management for Mankind, Stockholm, 2003, p.26, 41 André Malraux, Psychologie de l’art: Le Musée imaginaire, Geneva, 1947, 42 Jacques Derrida, The notion of archives, translated by Kostis Papayorgis, Athens, 1996, 43 Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, translated by Lena Liberopoulou, Athens 1985, 44 Boris Groys,Logik der Sammlung, Munich, 1997, p.44, 45 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, In Praise of Philosophy, translated by Kiki Kapsambeli, Athens, 2005, p.p. 32-33, 46 Soren Kierkegaard , A Corruptor’s Diary, translated by Dimitris Beskos, Athens, 2006, p.14