“The world is an arena, and we have come to fight in order to turn flesh into spirit.”
Nikos Kazantzakis, God’s Pauper: St Francis of Assisi


One of the greatest problems is this: there are people who believe in nothing but the insignificance of their ambitions; who regard art as an alibi for their dull narcissism and as an opportunity to dabble in the academized truisms of imported novelties; people who regard art works as products of the most impasse autism and who imagine them as separate from any polar or social context. In other words, separate from the history that has incubated them.
This situation, which dominates our minds and the souls of those who have given up, renders our small province – albeit with its cosmopolitan ambitions – even more provincial and fills the more sensitive souls not with melancholy (which can be creative, to an extent) but with sadness. However: “Sorrow is best treated with sorrow,” and in this case, the work of Katia Gerou and Kyriakos Katzourakis, bitter, violent, and tender at the same time, functions as catharsis against the dominant art of resignation and navel-gazing. I have been following their endeavors for years, and I have become witness to the small, silent but significant revolution they and their group have brought about in the Greek art world. What do they suggest as antidote against the tangible dead ends?
First of all, an increased awareness of human passions and human pain; then, a merging of the various art forms, in order to bring about not the so-called “gesamtkunstwerk” but a “real situation,” one that is more convincing in its polyphony and more invasive in the fortified dynamics of its means. On the other hand, all grand painting, dependent on the rising and falling of urban civilization, was directly linked to the invocation of a new form and the crystallization of a specific research.
It is often claimed, and not without an excessive air of self-importance, that there is nothing new to be said in art. This notion has been steadily proven wrong in the course of time, but this doesn’t really faze its supporters. Until a new, different human need arises, which will create a new, different artistic expression; one that will first conceive of and comprehend the new social condition and then express it, inspired by it. Otherwise, we would be living according to rules and conditions suited to television, which seemed to have been reflecting a particular type of person even before its historical appearance. I am employing this paradox to show that this flat way of thinking and the gravitation towards only appearances instead of the true essence of things shouldn’t be exclusively attributed to Homo teleopticus; it existed a long time before!

A few words about the work

Combining painting, theater, cinema, documentary-like research and theoretical recording, Kyriakos Katzourakis certainly cuts a unique figure in Greece. More so when we know that his painter’s viewpoint directly influences his cinematic works, creating the most groundbreaking proposals for a substantive video art –the hybrid between the static and the moving picture – and that the sense of theater space and the story board effect have a profound influence on his art compositions.
I would say that the political core of his work, imbued with the jewels of a living tradition that encompasses Velasquez and Tsarouchis, Moralis and Bacon, Kitaj and Theophilos, Koundouros and Tarkovsky, inevitably leads him to his present-day impressive output, when other artists have remained stuck in overused solutions either out of excessive confidence or excessive audacity.
For fifteen years now, Kyriakos Katzourakis, together with Katia Gerou as his model, muse, collaborator or protagonist, has been making a tremendous effort, reaching a momentous goal. From the polyptych and theater performance called “Temple” to the film “The Way to the West,” from “Sweet Memory” to the popular musical “Of the Street,” he has essentially been circling an issue that has been tormenting and at the same time releasing him: the man who is striving for a notion larger than he, and mainly for his humanness in a world plagued by violence and insanity, by the bestial imposition of the powerful and the despair of the weak. Back then, it was the defeated of the Civil War, the slandered, the betrayed and the executed heroes; now, it is all kinds of outcasts, the economic refugees, these pauper saints of a religion that lacks a god. And next to them stand we, complacent or troubled, vain or worried, the pieces of a bubbling magma which will one day solidify, and when it does, it will make history. How else could it be? Art and history, then, are the goals of the visual panorama, the films, and the theatrical improvisation “Of the Street,” all of them presented as a robust whole at “Patra – Cultural Capital 2006.” In the mind of the creator, all is a road; sometimes steep, other times straight, always rough and full of risk! How else could it be? In his Ascesis, Kazantzakis describes this struggle thus: “In the ephemerally living bodies, two are the fighting currents: a) the ascending one towards synthesis, life, immortality; b) the descending one towards dissolution, matter, death…” How else could it be?
I would say that in this struggle, Katzourakis is inviting his living and deceased friends and fellow travelers from the time of the “5 Young Greek Realists.” To the realism of that long-ago era he is adding poetic exaltation and metaphysical frisson, comprehending the darkness that permeates the “obvious” and the difficulty in entrapping the “real.” He is well aware of the stupidity of the flat representation, and he fears the art which is able to cause emotion quickly and easily, understanding that the essence of art – and all its difficulty – will always lie in the depth of things. How else could it be?
One final thing: In the work of Katia, Kyriakos, and the “Art Group,” it is not only the moving and the static picture that come together, or the theatrical and the artistic; there is primarily a creative conjugation between the erudite and the popular, the world of Karagkiozis and the world of Brecht in his Threepenny Opera. To me, this is of tremendous significance for our strait-laced and fairly ostensible art. It is a fact that the popular element is the foundation and a prerequisite for any avant-garde. Remember Genette, Beckett, Picasso or Matisse. Remember also Bouzianis and Kontoglou, the two radicals of Greek modernism. The first one speaks of a drama which the urbanites either ignore or want to ignore. The second one speaks of an ascetic and austere way of life, which offends the average taste as much as the leading people of his time. You see, anything that gives cause for puzzlement or frustration IS NOT welcome. What a pity, as it is the only thing that’s necessary: It brings us close to the unknown and the foreign, making them familiar to us; and it makes us confront our other, requisite, true self.

Manos Stefanidis

english writings

ελληνικα κειμενα