What is awaited
Video and Sculpture in the work of Katerina Apostolidou.
Katerina Apostolidou has been creating personal work on the domain of sculpture for a number of years. Despite the discretion which characterizes her position within modern greek affairs, her work has systematically appeared within the context of major exhibitions in Greece as well as internationally; in each and every event it has left the feeling of an unfailing presence and a disarming directness. Since the early beginning, her work has developed a particular relation with space; it remains in the memory of the viewer within time in a manner which is not the result of some monumental dimension, imposing volume or virtual impressiveness. On the contrary, the way in which she has delimited the vacuum and has systematically created something of a flexible framework or gate, an aperture or porthole which opens itself into the space of reality bears an immediate effect on the viewer’s impression. All of a sudden, it appears that at the point where one stands there is something persisting behind a rather anonymous and unprocessed image on which what lies before our eyes exists and which the artwork underlines as if it had engulfed another dimension; it is through that dimension that someone or something passes and reaches far beyond the plausibility of the three conventional dimensions. Through a function allied to the one which is paradigmatically expressed by the Mebius ring, Apostolidou’s work seems to open an asymmetrical passage which although as it is returns to itself becomes hermetically sealed on one hand, on the other it is eternally unfolding itself as it passes into another dimension of the world, synchronically and simultaneously. It is by means of such function that the sculptural artworks of Katerina Apostolidou have led the viewer to the point where he reflects on the space of presence and conceptually returns to the possibility of its emergence, at the point where he wonders on the manner something appears not before one’s eyes but beyond what is immediately visible.
It is the rupture between what is visible and conceivable in the world of representations which constitutes Katerina Apostolidou’s genuine work as well as the work of sculpture of more ancient years. It is the viewer’s or the artist’s very sense and the power of space between both which produce and inhabit the rupture, conceive and construct it differently each time, in a series of formations, metamorphoses and reformations which sculpture registers or provokes on the completion of its operation. The artist’s work namely leads the viewer to face the way in which the feeling he experiences before the artwork is activated and before what it represents and not the work within one, in the form of reality. In its essence such sense continues to operate conceptually after one has seen the work and is developing within us as a perpetual question mark- whether what we have actually seen is a construction of our mind, if it concerns psychological reception procedures of conscious or unconscious forms and images or if it is rather associated to a real function of something as well as of the relations it develops within three-dimensional space beyond us. Furthermore, the relation between sculpture and the world of the divine or the world of the dead is not historically accidental, precisely as far as the questions it awakens and activates are concerned; to what extent the images we see or the forms we recognize within the work or through it constitute objective data of reality or psychological constructions of the viewer, whether they are phantoms or persons, images or representations, reappearances or memories. To what extent the artwork activates the opposite other side of the world and if as Leon Battista Alberti said, ‘it brings the dead back into life” or if it merely activates memory and the reminiscence within us without having immediate access to any other side of the world or aspect of things.
Since the time of the most radical period of modern art, although those questions have systematically penetrated the work of most major artists not only they do not appear find an answer in sculpture but they are rarely asked in a way which transcends some iconographical dimension – neither illustrated in painting, as it is the case with a number of surrealistic expressions. What is most interesting in our time is that a series of such questions which both painting and sculpture have posed with difficulty in a literal fashion -or of which they have even been forced to abandon the image in order to enter the space of an abstract, encoded reality, photography as well as the motion picture have managed to approach them much more drastically and immediately.
Never the less, even on that level, the fictional element often overbalanced the dimension of fantasy which never stops neither at the image nor at the form but develops an open association between both. Few are the cases in contemporary art in which the channel between image and form remains open and elected, leaving both viewer and artist together, bare against the forces of the world and exposed to the threat that what actually and really exists there and what one imagines, are one and the same. From Brancusi and Duchamp to Eva Hesse and Bruce Newman one can maintain that the challenge of art is focused on the boundaries of the minimal and virtual of another mental and psychological space and comes to insinuate or even project forms which float between this and the other world of feeling and conception, of present and remembrance, of anonymous materiality and personal immaterialization of space, of within and outside, of movement and pause between the artwork and the impression it stirs in the viewer. In such art, from which Apostolidou’s art originates, the function of the framework which opens and closes space all simultaneously and the dyadic existence of the crease which both covers and reveals itself at the same time, pose the vital question of presence and of its appearance. It is only through such procedure that the organic instant emerges when on the surface of both artwork and world, when both absence and lack of image set the issue of absence or lack of reality or referentiality; that very instant appears to be fundamental in Apostolidou’s new work. Beside the discourse on the minimum of reality there emerges also the fear of absence which swallows you as vacuum and as threat of a world’s detail which is either smaller and is magnified suddenly before us, or it is bigger or on a scale different from our own and is moving against us leaving the possibility that it might either swallow us, detach us from our herein presence, absorb us elsewhere or gulp us down in a bite, open and evident. Such condition which Apostolidou’s sculpture had morphologically or even formalistically fulfilled as the continuation of a form of post-minimalism, emerges today in order to elaborate with new works and mainly in techniques and procedures which arrive afresh in the last five years.
Video art, which has been employed to such major extent by the younger generation because of the documentation power of the reportage which it allows or the realistic narrativity it contains, arrives through Apostolidou’s work in order to function as an unexpected sense of space beyond time or narrative, beyond realism or representational procedure. The rearrangement of space, where time and space met and which in other times sculpture shaped architecturally, remains pending today. The locus of the work is most of the timesfenceless, un-contextualized, unfounded, tentative, hovering, hosted, alienated, disoriented, decoded and elliptic. Time and space are either absent as artistic and conceptual constructions or as conventional as television or the plausibility of the spectacle. What is intensely surprising in Apostolidou’s new work is the immediacy in which time stops as a fraction at an instant or possibly a duration unit which is called sequence in the cinema( namely and literally a piece, a division of a series, a fulfilled procedure of take, a cinematic unit of visual instant or duration etc). Space, which up to the present moment has appeared in her work as a conceptual limit of the framework as well of the surrounding space becomes again a framework which opens and closes time and space at the same time, at an instant and an image, a motion and a pause, a repetition of absence and an obsession of presence. It becomes both diaphragm and framework, camera lens and take, gaze and feeling, image and reception, surface and covering of depth, level and motion which surpasses it, a thing and a challenge, a screen and a projection which do not function either mechanically or hierarchically as it is usually the case, one within the other but oppositely, each appears able to penetrate and come out of the other, to disconnect and distantiate itself, to become autonomous and self -existent in relation to the other.
At the point where spectacle is potentially revealed, at that primary image which relates nothing, of which one is unaware if it is found there or elsewhere, if it pretends something or just is something, at the first scene or projection one can observe time and space that are found within one , lurking. One can observe space, which is found within time, opening and threatening against him, penetrating him and dislocating him. One can see both the time and space of reality as it is exists outside or far from us in the world, which is moving and living beyond representation, to be able to annihilate, destroy, devour or swallow each and everyone of us in a single, imperceptible gesture.
In Apostolidou’s work, the entrance to the platonic cave which has become the world of the image and TV ratings, ceases to exist as a temple of ideas in order to become the dragon’s den rather which every child, every nation, every mythology and every human subconscious have cultivated in the form of a primary fear of death, as a threat of castration, dread of the monster, as an appearance of the suppressed intimate life, as significance of what one is unaware of or unwilling to express or write. Both time and space in the work of Katerina Apostolidou are simultaneously magical and demystifying. If the artist’s work is both spectacular and immediate, it also unlocks Pandora ’s Box in equal immediacy, liberating all the threats and anxieties it contains and which both mind and soul of the viewer and the artist share and listen to together. The framework of the image and the space of projection counterbalance each other and stand as a bi-directional motion of a fictional gate which opens before us bearing together with the aperture of space also the fear of the other side and of what might jump before us. Like the fable which initiates catharsis through fear, like the monster which frames the chaotic and unknown and shapes the infinite, like the scripture which never has the time to become both form and content but merely a fragmented aspect of one thing or another, like the gesture which exists as in the cinema, as both fraction, sequence, unit, without ever knowing exactly within which continuity, which story, which writing, which time and space, it is thus that the video emerges in Apostolidou’s work. The artist employs video in order to conceive such doubts, such ambivalence and ambiguity of things, their imminent relapse and transformation into something else which is frightening, fearsome and threatening. The video between the time and space of projection becomes that fraction where everything is possible even if nothing takes place. In a single movement, a minimal gesture like a slight undulation, like an imperceptible high-voltage discharge, like a yawn or twinkling of the eye, its turning or the entire space suffices in order to remind us of the fact that time and space are here with us; that they are one with us and with the space we occupy but also one with the hypothesis or the insinuation that the existence of a third alternative is not always excluded as Aristotelian logic has taught us. A simple movement can make us remember that perhaps sculpture and art bring back , through the video and the passing of an image, that allusion and dimension we essentially wish to exclude, and transform the surface on which such insinuation appears into a space beyond representation, into a space of life and immediate reality.
In her video and projections new work, by drawing and charting an intrinsic time which capsizes the conventions of space and place, Apostolidou urges us to remember the origins of sculpture. She reminds us that initially, the ancient burial dimensions of the sculptural work enclose into a conspicuous image or object the potential passage into other worlds and deposits the keys of that passage at the institutional administration of fear by ritual or religion. From the ancient tomb to Pandora’s Box and from the modern domain of spectacle to the TV apparatus, the conspicuous place and the delimitation of the image, the closure of meaning and the administration of presence-all constitute the continuation of the power of fear over man. Katerina Apostolidou is contributing today with discretion, yet steadily, to the revision of the function of the role of both artwork and sculpture. She is cutting the rupture open or rather the instant when the other side of the world misses its points of reference into our surrounding space. Both rupture and instant pave the channel so that organic dangers can threaten the power exercised over us by any administration of fear, any authority which issues and delimitates the points of reference of presence or absence. As that fear emerges in the work, it is the work itself, the presence of the work and the viewer outside the viewing and out of the viewing’s space, of its plausibility and its conventions. That fear emerges and marks its absence within immediate reality, in order to open both the presence of memory and the reminiscence of any other surprise or affright at the same time through the experience of life or art which urges the reader to know and decipher both himself and the instant by means of a polysemantic and composite complex, which no one can administrate on our behalf and which is composed, like the artwork, of instants and ruptures of experience and feeling.
On Katerina Apostolidou’s work, the presence of a rhetoric construction is disaffirming, through the function of the artwork, the dimensions of both presence and absence. That presence breaks the limits of the referentiality of things and familiarizes us with the polysemy of time and the obsession of the experiences, which constitute it; the construction offers another dimension to the notion of presence and a texture that is no more concerned with issues of life and death on a primary level. It is not the fear of death which threatens us in the form of a moray eel but the administration of life within the limits of an aquarium, as an image behind the glass. The limitation of reality to symbolic objects which include death and absence as semantic and interpretive functions by means of which any monosemantic and authoritative reality exercises power over us is the glass surface and the limit Apostolidou’s work is breaking. It is thus that glass aquarium or amusement park and television apparatus, writing and note-book, glass and paper, the turning of the camera and the motion of the eye are parts which constitute in common and at the same time the work which emerges, so as to disarm the monosemantic and one-dimensional apparatus of fear. Either television or mediatic threat of communication, childish or philosophical, metaphysical or fictional, fear of death or dread of castration, psychological or sociological, conscious or unconscious, it is the fear which the menace and catharsis of the artwork are both giving and taking: to offer something well measured from the world of the other and take something from us, namely the relation to ourselves through the emergence and the disappearance of both presence and meaning. In Apostolidou’s work such give- and -take and the failure of the limits of both presence and absence through the instamatic and partial appearance and disappearance of things, creates in most modest and comprehensive means a composite, disarming procedure which functions directly and effectively. Against the ambivalent and bi-directional presence of fear it is bequeathing as the viewer’s locus what awaits, what follows, what might happen in the following moment, after the moment of viewing.
Without any trace of fatalism, beyond any sense of destiny, what awaits is the minute to come, the following instant, the part which follows and which is not to be found in the film or the apparatus of representation but in the viewer who undertakes the role which reverses the instant of fear and the space of
confinement and transforms them into motion and thought. What is pending is what liberates you from what is there, and the fear which precedes the work. The work is about to happen as an instant when artist and viewer become both the man who ceases to face his shadow with fear, who can now look ahead. What the archaic kouros performed by moving one step ahead and by standing on his feet, is what Apostolidou’s work achieves
through the gaze which comes out of the video and the image in order to stand in space beyond the time of the viewing. The work both as an outer limit and horizon of conscience becomes the place which allows the viewer beyond the immediate function of presence, a cause of existence which is awaits beuond the given time, an instant which escapes time and opens to life and experience as what is awaited.
Artistic Director of the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art