Τhe Αrtist and his Μasterpiece


The status of photography as art was questioned for much of its historical course. To a much lesser degree did photography doubt art or itself. Yiorgos Depollas, a renowned photographic joker, in the series Inlook (2003), on the occasion of the international exhibition Outlook, which took place in Athens that same year, castigated one aspect of contemporary art: themes of an anecdotal nature with a pompous presentation commented the often insipid way photography adopted idioms of the broader art domain. Through some satirical “installations”, he also alluded to the way radical changes of the sixties gave way to a simplified enlargement of the art phenomenon, which sometimes leads to conceptual inanities and spineless art projects. In his latest oeuvre, bearing the sarcastic title The Artist and his Masterpiece (2010-14), Depollas is photographed next to debris (baza in Greek), illegal constructions, large objects placed in the middle of nowhere, and driven by photography’s verisimilitude, he sets up fake documents, and poses looking serious next to his supposed works. The anonymous actions, the tragic carelessness in handling Greek public property are hereby converted into spurious works. The showy coloured clothing alludes to artistic idiosyncrasy, whereas the localities trenchantly declare the abundance of masterpieces, even in desolate places where rubbish dumps are disregarded. He also touches upon the current mania of being self-photographed, the need for one to live all the more interrelated to his image, thus attracting attention. The nonexistent movement surebatism is brought into play in order to point out scathingly the difference between the oeuvre with the tautological title “Two bathtubs, side by side” and its new version to which a damaged washing machine has been added (with his own hands). How close has the distance become between seriousness and pomposity? How far has art digressed from art? How much truth is sometimes hidden in “fake documents?”

Recently, on a visit to a museum of contemporary art, this actual scene took place: between two works, two contemporary installations, on the floor lay a blue Wettex sucking up some undesirable moisture, as a glance at the suspended ceiling evinced. A couple of visitors questioned aloud if the Wettex was part of the work, and if so, of the left or the right one? Did contemporary art finally manage to reduce the distance between real life and creative expression? Between masterpieces and baza? Or did it make the course, albeit unintentionally, rougher, an extended suspension between essence and arbitrariness, intellectuality and farce, attempting to justify practically anything with texts full of nebulous ambiguities? Are we at the age when that, besides political and public life, almost anything can intrude dynamically into art? The answer is perhaps hidden in the yet unwritten manifesto of surebatism.

Hercules Papaioannou

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