Stelios Karamanolis - Great Moments In History
29.05.12 - 07.07.12
We are living in an apolitical age of forgetting, one in which there is a prevalent
belief that “the past has nothing of interest to teach us. Ours, we insist, is a new world; its risks and opportunities are without precedent.”
Tony Judt, “The World We Have Lost”
History cannot simply be conceived in terms of past events, narratives and occurrences but also and primarily, as it relates to the present. The way we accumulate history unquestionably shapes the way we understand reality. But whose History are we talking about? What does it mean to us? How is it formed? Through which processes does it become official? And why does it matter?
As Christopher Blake argues, if at worst no two historians can agree on what really happened, at best, agreement in one generation fails to survive the next. Understanding the absences and gaps with which history has been narrated and departing from a certain historical skepticism based on the idealist metaphysical account of knowledge as a process towards the Absolute, Stelios Karamanolis (b.1977) is driven almost by impulse to explore and map different historical scenarios. Yet, his intention is far more than to confront us with shreds of images from the recent past. First and foremost, Karamanolis is concerned with challenging the way historical events express themselves in images today. How do we experience and perceive them? How do images influence the so-called collective memory of a nation? What images are eventually presented and which are ultimately withheld?
“Grace” is a double royal portrait, deriving from two very similar actual photographs published simultaneously in the press. One illustrates the royal family presenting their offspring to society and the next shows the royals occupying the very same positions while posing this time with their dog. Repetition is one of the fundamental standards by which history is created and the artist uses it both to comment on the process of historical canonization and to draw attention to the intellectual content of the work. In reaction to the excessively hasty and superficial consumption of images today, the viewer has no option than to pay attention. We are obliged to observe and reread. In association with current socio-political expectations, Karamanolis creates a subversive kind of parody of power and forces us to both remember and examine the way history is told.
“Last Flight to Hell” is the first of a series of paper-stencil prints inspired by titles of B-movies from the late eighties. Provocative and sharp, they tell no story of victors and defeat but aim to create counter narratives that recognize the inclusion of suppressed histories, presenting us with an odd blend of subjective historical accounts and strong emotion.
Finally, “Battlefield” is a series of 3D digitally rendered photographs presented as stills of a bizarre war video-game. In the artist’s version of the game, all the details that would help one identify the landscapes have been removed and all human presence has been erased. Uncannily familiar, they could be both places deriving from a childhood memory and scenes from a movie or game. Yet, they are little more than sceneries; invented sites of potential battlefields that could be anywhere in the world. Are they shots from the past, the present or the future? In one picture, a non-realistic war structure, like a huge spiked, fence-like air-defense mechanism enhances the war scenario. Is this a lethal barrier or an amusement park? The fence appears equally alarming and absurd. Witty, yet in total accordance with the absurdity of war itself.