«In hate I participate wherever I go – on ships, on aeroplanes, in stores – but most of all when I find myself on a bus»
Νikos Karouzos, A Spell called aloud
Fear, says Dostoevski in The Possessed, is like a rock hanging over our head which may never fall on us. I often find myself trying to look for equivelant images such as that of a patridge posing among dirty after-dinner dishes. However, until I am confident I can both fully comprehend and categorize a Still Life, I cannot say whether I am impressed or affected in any way by this whole category of works.
When I look directly at a painting of fruit, dishes and glasses the first aesthetic pleasure is replaced by a sense of imminent fear when the absence of any kind of movement is perceived. This kind of image does not need to state the obvious – the vanity and lingering feeling of fright and loss. One who senses the forthcoming end of the world, breaks at the sight of a depicted empty plate, immobilised, still and unaffected by time. It is like an intruding picture invading our minds and memories.
I am not quite sure what exactly reality is, nevertheless, I can claim that it is connected with the present and captured by art. It may be via this very precise stillness that art enables us to distance ourselves from the depicted moment, allowing us to separate the image from our personal fears. We can then return to our ordinary lives to enjoy a real dinner and wash the dishes feeling grateful and cherishing the moment.
The dance instructor Vladimir Gelvan tells his students that the art of dance is the art of balance. The first and most unfulfilled human desire is to defy the laws of gravity. Dancers belong to the very few who succeed in doing so, even if momentarily. It is the audience who remain seated, idle and inactive, while demanding the performers to exceed themselves. However, in our daily life and routine we should consider ourselves lucky if at some point we manage to achieve this sense of balance in some small way; the lightness of a dancer`s movement as we find ourselves engrossed in the limitations and boundaries defined by our own furniture. Even our movements have pre-defined steps: 1. Walk down the hall 2. Greet 3. Sit on a chair 4. Retrace our steps to the elevator 5. Exit the elevator on the ground floor.
The above mentioned example includes at least five idle stages as opposed to dancing where the beauty lies in the sense of balance during the flow of movements and the graceful speed via which the dancer moves from one point to another. This is the closest we can get to actually achieving the sense of flying and, therefore, this continuity of movement is in itself our realization of our active interaction with the environment.
Babies tend to have this innate ability. In their effort to walk, they stumble and fall, but always manage to find imaginative ways to approach and reach their target. At some moment comes the stage of a wrong movement, an error, a fall and someone comes to their aid, helping them to correctly, less clumsily. This is the stage where, like Still Life, realization occurs. The realization between right and wrong, between here and now. It becomes the turning point at which we have acquire both the knowledge and the experience that activate the sense of fear when facing dilemmas or making choices from that point on.
In dealing with their present, the ancient Greeks obviosly had a different perception altogether; they had no definition for the word „here“ in their vocabulary, not at least in the way we define it.
In my research to find an equivelant phrase or words for „Now you are Here“, I came up with the following two choices, that of „ὧδε“, which I comprehend as ‘from this point onwards’, and „ἐνθάδε“, which I comprehend as from ‘this point downwards’. There was no word or definition for the word „here“ in ancient Greek thinking.
At this point I found myself interpreting these two ancient Greek words in the functionality of music and noise. In noise where we find a state of complete imbalance, a sense of insecurity is created by not being able to anticipate what follows next –from this point downwards- . In contrast, music has a starting point as well as a constant flow that creates a state of euphoria. The cultivated receptors –audience–, are often the ones who strive to replace the fear they sense with pleasure in their attempt to comprehend what they feel and spatially define the boundaries within which the noise is heardand unfolds itself.
Continuity is perceived by common sense which could be interpreted as «common intelligence». However, it is not practically tangible as it is so instantaneous and undergoes such constant redefinition that it becomes abstract. Artifacts comprise the reflections of one such field.
While looking at such reflections we find ourselves identifying something common, personal, something self- evident and, if we are lucky, something grand.
These works function as memory banks which become more enriched each time somebody happens to appreciate what they have experienced. Paul Klee notes that what often astounds us is never something grand, and I have to agree. It is almost always something familiar. He who acknowledges continuity in an artwork has succeeded in creating the self-evident in what would otherwise simply be an abstraction. When this desired stage is achieved, interaction can occur without the adverse impact of stillness or any form of destruction taking place.
With one such connection interactive works dare, after the era of static but overwhelming entertainment, to draw our attention towards ourselves and the cities we have built, in pursuit of the self-evident in motion, communication and attitude.
The author would like to thank Dimitris Kuniakis and Isabelle Papadoya for editing the english text.
1. “Imagine”—hestoppedbeforeme—“imagineastoneasbigasagreathouse;ithangsandyouare under it; if it falls on you, on your head, will it hurt you?”
“A stone as big as a house? Of course it would be fearful.”
“I speak not of the fear. Will it hurt?”
“A stone as big as a mountain, weighing millions of tons? Of course it wouldn’t hurt.”
“But really stand there and while it hangs you will fear very much that it will hurt. The most learned man, the greatest doctor, all, all will be very much frightened. Every one will know that it won’t hurt, and every one will be afraid that it will hurt.” Fyodor Michailovich Dostoevsky, The Possessed, (first published in 1872), Forgoten Books 2008, p.107.