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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 February 2015
14 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM White Night tak Stefanos Tsivopoulos’ Athenian histories of ‘alternative currencies’ manifest pro-human values in Melbourne NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU Stefanos Tsivopoulos, an internationallyacclaimed mixed media artist, is taking part in this year’s White Night Melbourne event, and his project, a political statement entitled ‘History Zero’, couldn’t be timelier. His work continues to receive rave reviews for its unique form and narrative, as it questions the dominant economic system and intentionally covers a wide range of cultural and anthropological records. On a cusp of rupture and change for Greece and Europe as a whole, the narrative of ‘History Zero’ evolves beyond the usual moralising recriminations of corruption, clientele, consumerism and illusions of prosperity. “‘History Zero’ was initially commissioned, materialised and executed for the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 from the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports,” Stefanos Tsivopoulos tells Neos Kosmos. “It’s a special project for me because it’s been shown around in many different countries.” White Night is an even more engaging and exciting experience for Stefanos since he can see his work in the context of the festival, and in Melbourne, a city with a very strong and prominent Greek community. “‘History Zero’ is basically a film in three episodes that will be presented full scale, taking up the main art installation space,” he explains. Each episode is an 11-minute short film, which consists of moments from the lives of three completely different individuals living in Athens. “In ‘History Zero’ I’m mostly interested in this aspect of inter-connectivity and that all our actions do have meaning and affect each other’s lives,” he stresses. “We follow each one to prove even though people may never meet or physically interact, they make choices that relate without them being aware of it.” The three episode film is the first and main part of Stefanos’ work, set alongside an archive of text and images. For Tsivopoulos, it’s not really a monetary or fiscal crisis but a cultural, educational or habitual crisis. A change in our way of life might lead us out of the crisis and not necessarily the eurozone. To highlight his idea, he created a unique archive of what could substitute for the value of money. “The film questions the value of money through the story of an old, demented collector of contemporary art, an immigrant who collects scrap metal, and an artist who collects images,” Stefanos adds. “I depict that in the second part of the installation, an archive of ‘alternative currencies’, which I call a manifesto and which consists of 32 alternative currencies I collected through different periods of time from all around the world.” Through it, the value of money is contested. The challenge stemming from the Greek crisis was to create a body of work that wouldn’t be about the Greek crisis per se, but to question what a crisis is, where it is generated, even to ask whether there is a way to overcome it, by adopting a different perspective. “When we are talking about surplus value, we basically have to look into the human factor and the human condition,” he says. “Wall Street is using words like ‘trust’ and ‘hope’, words that are deeply entangled with our emotions, therefore in our economy we tend to think that there’s like a very mathematical projection of populations, but apparently that is not the essence.” Stefanos believes that there is a much more emotional scope than what we think. Projections of our fears, of our own aspirations, and even creativity, imagination. “I came to this deeper realisation during the period I was living in Athens when there was all this discussion about the new government that would assert power in 2012,” he tells. “I experienced the first uncertainty of the Athenian people and discussions about the Grexit, which instigated my wanting to attempt this project.” The appropriation of traces from the past and their transcription into a new narrative somewhere between documentary and fiction is a constant of Stefanos Tsivopoulos’ work. His methods have much in common with those of the historian, searching for material traces, however, Tsivopoulos does not merely aim at visually transcribing the past even though he seems to focus on history and memories in every one of his projects. “I come from a Mediterranean country and people there are kind of obsessed with history, and memories and time are of the essence,” he tells. “Everyone cares a lot about when, where, how and why things happened - people become emotionally involved. The past helps define our present and plan our future.” Tsivopoulos is therefore interested in the ‘imagined’ and mediated memory of the past as constituting the contemporary consciousness of the diaspora and the formation of subjectivity in a state of displacement and dislocation, without an ideally structured frame of reference. The film is considered by the artist to be a living archive of the future, recording the discontinuity, the ruptures and the complexity of the present economic regime and the contradictions of human experience within it, yet it establishes new spaces for the imagination and for memory in which three mutually exclusive states of mind take shape. “My aim is to expose the creativity that grows into people or communities, defining the idea of the exchange of goods or services and how far this can go - much further than money and currencies.” “People can also operate at microlevel, in a sense of communal functioning helping each other in a completely different way out of the mainstream monetary exchange stereotypical idea,” he adds. Stefanos’ archive represents real currencies, money from around the world entering an incredible imaginary world that could create a communal economy of a completely different scale. “This is the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on so far,” he admits. “I’m very happy about it even if I have been curating everything from a History 3: An artist wanders around the centre of Athens seeking inspiration for a new artwork in the confusing landscape of the city. He observes and records street scenes at random with his iPad.
14 February 2015
28 February 2015