PROPOSAL of Stavros Kotsireas Installation and Artwork by the Art Historians and Curators Annita Apostolaki and Anastasia Manioudaki for the 58th VENICE BIENNALE taking place May-Nov 2019

Proposal case put forward by the two Art Historians and Curators Annita Apostolaki and Anastasia Manioudaki to the Ministry of Culture in Greece for the selection of the artist who will represent the country at the 58th Venice Biennale

The whole world is a scene / And all men and women are just actors / They have their entrances and their exits / And every man in his time plays many roles - William Shakespeare.1

We live in a highly transitioning era in which the demand for a redefinition of political scenery and a review of social values acquires a sense of urgency in all the lengths and widths of the planet. The upheavals and the rise of the far-right in most of the countries of the "civilized" Western world show a serious challenge to the principles on which it was built. In the era of post-truth and "alternative facts",2 are there any timeless truths from which we can hold on, to navigate to the uncertain waters of the present, with some certainty about the future?

Stavros Kotsiréas finds these values in great personalities of letters, arts, and politics: not only in the dialectic method of Socrates, which shaped the research spirit of Western thought but also on the Way of Confucius and the values that inspired Eastern culture political and social life. These are later traced to texts that examine the private and public life of man, such great writers and poets of the past as William Shakespeare and Constantine Cavafy’s, as well as today's political thinkers such as Noam Chomsky.

They are also found in the example given by Mahatma Gandhi and Malala Yiousafshai, two people who struggled and still struggle for fundamental rights in oppressive and/or obscuring regimes. As in the races that fought Martin Luther King and Simon de Beauvoir in democratic societies for true equality among all tribal groups - fights that seem to be up to date in the era of movements Black Lives Matter and Me Too. From the social activity artists were not absent and who, throughout Art History, used their medium, art, to leave a loud message on political and social issues, as Pablo Picasso with his painting “Guernica”. The answer, therefore, to the pressing issues of the present is for Kotsiréas, both in the fine arts and philosophical intellect, as well as in social activism, culture generally does not derive from luxury but from a basic component of everyday life.

At this historical moment, the creator invites the audience to chat with the great personalities of the past and the present, most of which are interwoven with our collective unconscious, and to put his thoughts in a 11-meter-long table made from wood and bronze, with the visitor's position remaining empty and waiting for his participation.

The fourteen personalities3 are placed opposite each other at the table and communicate beyond their boundaries space and time. Each chair has objects that are directly related to these personalities: Shakespeare's masks and costume, pallet and other Picasso creation items, piano keys and scores from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, etc., carefully placed in each one’s chair. Beyond their symbolic use, they form the basis for the artwork that is behind each personality.

In today's era of semiology, the symbols chosen by the artist reveal the role that all of them, deliberately or unintentionally, played in the great theatre of life, as Shakespeare says. This practice, the use of the 'idols',4 is not unknown in the art historical period. Examples are found in the portraits of Renaissance painting, where the person depicted is accompanied by objects that reveal symbolic aspects of his personality, but also to the great religious compositions, where saints are recognized by the instrument of their martyrdom. The expression of the same perception is also found in modern art. In Vincent van, Gogh's idyllic diptych with his chair and Paul Gaugin’s roommate chair, the temperaments of the two artists are revealed in the eyes of the viewer through the objects.

In the field of literature, such transformations are given to the homonymous work of Ovidiu’s. The Latin poet quotes myths where common mortals turn into the eternal symbols of the gods - those that follow them and characterize them. Here we learn about the history of Apollo and Daphne, as well as that of Artemis and Aktaion, in which the unfortunate hunter took the form of a deer. The same animal that later, as we read in "Iphigenia in Avlidi", sent the goddess to save the young girl.

In his own "Metamorphoses", Kotsiréas transforms the essence of the historical figures and the objects he has chosen into paintings and sculptural compositions, which are meant as a whole with their source of inspiration. The work is directly related to the evolution of the artist's practice: in his most recent work, "Silent Nature & Juxtapositions," he presented paintings along with the objects on which those paintings relied on. Excavating his remembrances, the artist selects those that awaken his memories and transforms them into the footprint they have left in his personal history, as the art historian and former director of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of The Hague have noticed, Dr. Chris Rehorst. 5

In front of each place on the table is an embossed bronze sphere, which receives a beam of light from above, declaring the spirituality of human nature. Each sphere is embossed with extracts from the works or quotes associated with each personality. Historical reality is not embellished and the female issue is presented in realistic terms: with just three women among the co-workers, the artist records and draws attention to the injustice of history, away from the imperatives of political correctness.

The role of public participation is of particular importance in this installation. The spectator's chair has on the table in front of him/her a glass sphere with an opening cut in which the artist invites him to share his concerns in his own language and perhaps suggest solutions to the deadlocks of the time. In this way, he has the opportunity to engage with the personalities of the artwork in a peculiar spiritual feast. The table, after all, is an integral part of Greek culture: from the time of Plato's "Symposium" to the present day, it is considered the most appropriate way to exchange views or even philosophical ideas.

Thus, at the end of the 58th Venice Biennial, a collective pool of thoughts will have been created in the Greek pavilion. It is essentially a mapping of the sentiments and needs of a wide range of people from around the world who will participate in and attend the international exhibition. At this present time, Stavros Kotsiréas, with his proposal "Metamorphoses", wants to activate the audience visiting the Venice Biennale, to make it think and take a position in the historical period we are in, how it wants to shape the future.

Annita Apostolaki, Art Historian, Curator
Anastasia Manioudaki, Art Historian, Member of the EEIT

1. As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII.
2. A term used by the United States President associates to cover clear inaccuracies.
3. The following are presented: Socrates, Confucius, Homer, Constantine Cavafy, William Shakespeare, Martin Luther King, Simon de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi, Malala Yousafshawi, Anna Frank, Noam Chomsky, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
4. A term of money for the declarations of the ancient Greek cities depicted in their coins.
5. "Kotsiréas reorganizes his realistic composition into the painting form of the Still Life. This reorganization is essentially a metamorphosis: unlike in the history of the Still Life, this transformation is made clearer by the fact that in the work of Kotsiréas, the source (the composition of the objects) is not destroyed but remains intact and is allowed to coexist with the inspired painting. "Silent Nature, Stavros Kotsireas, Melina Cultural Center, Athens 2010, pg21.