‘Selfless’ art from the heart

Georgia Sagri is a 25-year-old performance artist whose most recent work was held at the Hellenic American Union in February, in the context of the exhibition «Lost in Translation.» Titled «The Culture of the Gift,» Sagri’s performance consisted of living in the union’s space during opening hours and waiting for the public to offer as a gift anything they saw fit, «from food, to an object, to conversation,» she says. «In fact, it all went rather well. People responded to me, they brought me water and food, or small gifts, or simply hung out. Sometimes, in turn, I gave the gifts to someone else.» What did the audience have to say? They read a small note I had written about the performance and were interested in what I was trying to achieve, which was none other than striking a mutual relationship. And presents are a form of communication, perhaps the most selfless form. Is it the artist’s responsibility to communicate with the public? It is one responsibility. The most important thing, in my opinion, is not to underestimate the public by believing that they will not understand a work of art or an action. This is not the first time you have gone on display in public. I first did this performance in Britain a while ago. In 1999 I enclosed myself in a plexiglass cube outside the Athens Polytechnic during the November 17 anniversary. In 2001 I put all my personal belongings in a shop window in Kolonaki. I lived in there for a few days and then put all my things into bags and gave them to passers-by. Is your urge to give so great that it may be misconstrued by some? If, in a work of art, showing yourself off is your main purpose, you forget the essentials. If you want to be seen on television, by your aunt in Kalamata, you’ve lost the game. What counts is how interested you are in what you are doing. Of course, as an artist you know that you will have to coexist with people who see a work of art as a piece of marketing and who don’t give a damn about your opinions. Must they? Yes. Otherwise, the only people to see your work would be yourself and other artist friends, and not the broader public. That’s how the game is played. Why do you prefer performance art? Because it cannot be commercialized, it is intangible. When it is over, there may be nothing left except a memory in the mind of someone who experienced it or a leaflet announcing it. Performance art is a universal language. Do you see yourself as a citizen of the world? I am interested in my work reaching out to as many people as possible. The national identity of artists today is of less importance than the manner in which they handle their experiences. What are your plans for the future? Come and see, at Gazon Rouge on April 23, at the opening of an exhibition titled «Confessions.» Gazon Rouge, 15 Victoros Ougo, tel 210.524.8077.

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