CHRISTOS PAPOULIAS, The assumption of the form

Christos Papoulias, The assumption of the form

Art magazine ARTI, vol. 15, 1993

We used to see contemporary works of art, when they concerned installations and constructions, as landscapes inside or outside architecture, where their situation created a second horizon of a world displayed. This world was deposited with utter and undisputed autonomy on top of our own familiar field of architecture. This new horizon of cerebral delight and sensation shifted concern from the simple pursuit of form to the benefit of a mental "installation" in the viewer' s perception. The mental landscapes confine themselves to abstraction as ontological function. Their relations to architectural space are governed by other principles which render dialog virtually impossible, at the point where the "artified" architecture becomes hegemonic, demanding for itself the horizon of morphological pursuits.

Today, the relations between the field of architecture and the field that defines the contemporary work of art have changed. They no longer depend upon occurrences that previously determined to some extend the framework of the dialog between the two arts. These successive rifts brought to the surface values more crucial to today' s world, making terms such as measure, rhythm, proportions of the parts, the golden mean, sound passé or subordinate. Of course, the above values, having an ontological and biological basis, seem impossible to surmount permanently. However, there is an effort, mainly by artists working with installations or constructions, to define these terms differently within the new context in which the contemporary work of art is produced. The acceptance in our time of the new horizon that prevailed after this breaking away and becoming autonomous - making the rifts more central (today we no longer refer to avant-garde) - we can now concern itself with the compilation of new principles of harmony, measure, rhythm, etc. We perceive these new principles as mental categories in a new order of reading the works which demand abstract functions. From this point on, we have no problem reconciling with the long-standing term: sculpture.

Of course, within the limitless freedom there are also works - mainly by younger people - in which the emphasis on mental movement often discredits the form, establishing the works only as flux. The Glass Bead Game offers infinite possibilities for successive definitions. In any case, what is reassuring is that our approach to the age-old term Sculpture, deriving in part from the current dialog between art and architecture, contains possibilities for acceptance of a continuation in tradition. Thus, what now makes us speak again of sculpture by contemporary artists is, perhaps, the need to revise certain traditional principles within the concept of the work of art.

Sculptor George Zongolopoulos enters the existing contemporary scene from the opposite direction. Conceptual categories for his work prove irrelevant; he appears on a raft to rescue the flotsam of sculptural form which he picks up while crossing the century in its pursuit. Born at the start of this century of great rifts with tradition, he carries inside him the memory cells of all that was rejected. Measure, harmony, rhythm are innate, as are nobility and ethics, when he makes sculpture. When the rifts occur in his work they do not clamor; the notion of sculpture is a great lady whom the sculptor's kind and gentle nature would find very hard to reject. Moreover, in relation to his contemporaries, Zongolopoulos has an ace up his sleeve - architecture. During the years of great hardship, in his unenlightened homeland where art as an occupation was tantamount to suicide, Zongolopoulos survived by working in architecture. Living between Paris and Athens, he adapted the iconographic character of his work to the demands of the times in such a way that it always remained current. His homeland neither understood nor honored him; on the contrary, it was harassing and vengeful. He was awarded first prizes in competitions for public projects that were never constructed, while monstrosities sprouted up in their place (i.e. Klafthmonos Square). This perhaps was because he did not frequent the corridors of the Ministries or the vestibules of the Municipalities. The National Gallery concerned itself with retrospectives of mediocre artists, while ignoring Zongolopoulos conspicuously. I personally believe that the State should have purchased from the sculptor the large construction that stands before the Greek Pavilion in this year's Venice Biennale, and given him the freedom to select the site in Athens where it would stand forever.

Guiding his raft steadily, Zongolopoulos followed without cease the intrigues (among other things) of his art and, in parallel, his architecture; just as he exercised his criticism on institutional structures. In 1991 I took part with others in the Architecture Biennale, in the same space where today Zongolopoulos is the sole exhibitor representing Greece. He was the only Greek artist found to have real interest in our proposal to create a new Greek Pavilion, and raze the existing pseudo-Byzantine insult in which no dialog with contemporary Greek art can take place. This is taking into consideration that the anachronistic Biennale Institution itself with the representation of National delegations has gone downhill. At the time this article is being written, the Biennale still remains to be seen - except for interior and exterior photographs of the space, so aptly named "Byzantine Urinal". An as everyone knows, a pavilion has no door.