In the last forty years Manolis Baboussis has been working predominantly with photography. He has covered an itinerary and attained a language which explores issues around memory, institutions, incarceration, the environment, accumulation and loss. His works have consistently been a specific material and tool for social, political and cultural critique.
In this new work he employs different media—objects/ephemeral constructions in a precarious balance, texts, photos and video—and urges us to see the real world in another way full of humour, the assemblage of the various monuments and memories, the name and the lawless, the titles and the wolves, the parody and the transient, the despair, the reality, the utopia as impasses and hope.
He proposes an installation structured into series whose core theme is the non-oblivion of institutions. He promotes as monuments the things that are never said. He suggests that we incorporate into contemporary life and historical conscience what all of us know but is never mentioned.
Baboussis brings together the city’s sights on a large, 6m drawing, the Mnemiopolis or Monument City, and on a large, colourful scale model with assembled objects Illuminated by a video projection of the “guide to the city sights”. The Emperor has no clothes on.
At the same time he fills the exhibition space with monuments of different sizes—the monument to the exiled, the monument to selfies, the monument to the centenary of the 1917 Revolution—and finally with an installation of hundreds of photographs.
In an age dominated by exploitation, hypocrisy and cynical transactions, when the crisis of an entire country is promoted as a spectacle, as an opportunity for all kinds of grave robbers, Baboussis puts his photos of the Rio Carnival, the empty seats of the Greek Parliament and the bouzouki nightclubs of the ’80s into a dialogue with the other memorabilia of democracy.
Dramatisations of the objects
by Apostolis Artinos
The object does not exist! What exists is its perception, its constant and persistent textualisation. A dialectic resistance that collides against its solid materiality. An otherness which, although formalised, continues to resist any attempt at understanding it. In the horizon of these metonymies, the Thing, the materiality of the Thing, is exhausted at its forms, its transmutations, at the event of a total absence-presence. The point where it is revealed is also where it is concealed. And again in this revelatory place of concealment there is nothing substitute about it, nothing that conceals something else and appears instead of it; there is only this form of the Other. The laws of the natural, the norms of authority, scientific discourse and the artwork keep incessantly shaping this question of origin. They are all manifestations of Logos that dictate the language, its differences, but also the trace of its unique signatures.
In times of crisis the forms also take on their decline, their vulgar side. On the one hand an inflation of forms available for consumption—for instance, the architecture of post-modernism; on the other, an inverse acceleration that preserves its meaning, acting as a form of pure violence. Surplus values that do not distinguish any differences and are not dialectically consumed, but only aggravate the position of their spot. Autistic obsessions that objectify the language and strip it of all temptation, originatory or teleological. The forms thus emerge as stagnant, stereotypical, insecure. A setting of non-historical objects of the highest immanence, on which one does not trace an angst of the Real, as it was lately articulated by modernism, but only the false promise of its realisation. The nerveless politics of our time, and an unthinkable terrorism whose poisonous action gets diffused throughout the planet, attest to new forms of the Political but also of the Aesthetic. The system in crisis internalises its power and exacerbates the absolute nature of its character. Even the reactions it triggers end up inscribed in the field of its own metaphysics. We are in the aesthetic of the ‘same’, of the enclosed spot. The Outside exists but no one has access to it, or no one is completely Outside. We are all caught in the trajectory of a systemic sequence in progress, even in its crises—indeed, especially in them.
The exhibition of Manolis Baboussis is a critical reflection upon the environment of the crisis and is structured around two beleaguered fields. On the one hand, the autistic stagnation of authority and its institutions—administrative, academic, artistic—as shown in a series of drawings of museums and academic facilities in his imaginary city; on the other, an over-accumulation of objects-signs which, despite their pluralism, cannot hide their dead-end multiplicity and multiplication capacity in their cosmic sphere. Objects placed here in their atopia, their non-availability, their spherical enclosure. The spheres of Baboussis are this dramaturgy of the same, of delineation and exclusion, of the exclusion of the Other, of his exile. A sculptural reference to the island of exile before a photograph of the parliament. This scene establishes—always inadvertently—a new symbolic order, the faint trace of its objects’ difference. A suspended narrative which ultimately alludes to no origin, to no hereafter.
The artistic gesture of Baboussis shifts things into the version of a materiality which Giorgio Agamben calls a “parodic object”. A distortive function that presents the object at its noblest but also at its humblest form. The parodic object is an inaccessible object, an object that becomes true at its unfulfilled verbal expression and hence an impossible object, an object never objectified but constantly subjectified. It is not offered but rendered, and the more it is rendered the more it eludes, the more it continues on its distant trajectory. In the context of this distancing, the object of reference—some authority, a building, a decorative or utility object, even an aesthetic language—is translated into the peculiar, non-representable object of the poetic function. A divisive function that also takes over the linguistic core of Baboussis’ work—photographic, visual, poetic—to expose language as a weakness, as a field for applying the inapplicable, the unspoken, what constantly changes course and remains elusive at all its moments of exposure. What escapes from the object is also what preserves it, what imprints it onto the sphere of the intelligible. It is upon this fundamental reversal of the form, its dramatised side, that Baboussis elaborates his critical discourse—to be precise, his dis-enchantment with the state of things.
A language thus succours the language, but not also a para-linguistic phenomenon that exacerbates the duplications of things and renders the perceptible possible only in its aesthetic experience. There is a mourning here; a mourning that does not animate the latent object but the experience of its metonymies. For language names things, but only with the impossible name of its unique reformatory experience. Thus while the objects in the scene of Baboussis are recognised in their signs and referential roots, it is nevertheless his playful script that dictates them in the horizon of their loss, the horizon of an untenable topography, the topography of zero.