Reflections on Cultural Complexity



This title originated from talks on the work of Kostis Velonis, Jimmie Durham and Danny Matthys.

Artists are not merely dealing with symbols, signs and shapes. Their material also includes unsettling cultural references ranging from the phantasmagoric understanding of a culture by its conqueror to the subcultural artifacts understood by from the original population, from a story lost in history to the wounds of collective traumas. Complexity is a characterization rooted in the incomplete understanding of intertwined forces. Can art help to unravel this?

Velonis makes a parallelism on monuments of love, the stone theater built in 161 by Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife and the song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl for Peggy Seeger, who later became his wife. In Dead Deer Durham starts with the cliche expectations white people have about Indian crafts, he then transforms these cliches into a powerful interaction with the material. In Himmelfahrt on the other hand, a piece of wood alludes at a tiny bit of Christian transcendence.  In Vivre d'Abord Matthys recuperates photos from the interwar German naturist movement which would have been suppressed by the Nazis.

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