CULTURE

Icons of a hybrid world

Majestic royal crowns depicted in a hyperrealist, artificial way and divested of their elegance, or excerpts from films by some of the greatest Japanese filmmakers juxtaposed next to pornographic films produced in modern-day Japan: Mixing high and low, or popular, culture is a predominant theme in the recent work of artist Dimitris Antonitsis currently being presented in three different galleries in Athens. «Philosophobia,» «Super Vision» and «Some Prefer Nettles» – the latter presented together with «Pure Beauty» – are the titles of this three-part solo exhibition, which put together three different bodies of work that share a concern with showing the «other» side to aspects of reality and which touch on various social issues. In «Super Vision,» large photographs of royal crowns digitally printed on canvas (bubble-jets on acrylic canvas) address issues related to power and convention. The crown of Farah Diba, empress of Iran, the diadem of Queen Amalia of Greece, the crown ordered by Louis XVIII, and the Russian Imperial Crown are each depicted suspended in a Photoshop-colored background. Divested of their weight and blown up in a rather glossy, advertisement-like aesthetic, the crowns begin to look self-important, at times almost ridiculous if not a bit gaudy. They also appear unreal, a simulacral product of computer animation rather than precious, awe-inspiring objects or commanding symbols of power. The images demystify royalty but also expose the shallowness and conceit behind various forms of power. By using a glossy, computer-made, artificial aesthetic, they also seem to question contemporary forms of domination and seem to suggest that information technology or advertisements of today can be just as dominating a presence as certain forms of royalty were in the past. A social and cultural subtext also colors «Some Prefer Nettles» (the title is taken from a Japanese proverb referring to the subjectivity of taste) and «Pure Beauty,» an ensemble which consists of, respectively, a video and number of digital prints on silk banners. The video unravels on three adjacent monitors. The central screen shows a soothing, abstract landscape with floating bubbles that either reflect the surroundings or contain human figures. The bubbles suddenly erupt to reveal their contents in each of the adjacent monitors. Scenes from films such as Kurosawa’s «Ran» or Murakami’s «Tokyo Decadence» unfold on the right-hand screen in stark contrast with the sadomasochistic pornographic film scenes that are presented on the adjacent screen. The work addresses issues of sexuality and desire in contemporary Japan, but also explores how contemporary Japanese society assimilates Western influences and cultural values into its own tradition. In «Philosophobia,» the allusions to social issues appear to be less pronounced. The viewer is presented with a series of blurred images (they are photographs digitally printed on «yamato» Japanese paper) in which color creates a Zen-like atmosphere. Although not readily apparent, Antonitsis plays with the idea of the hybrid as an aspect of our contemporary culture. He also points to what hides behind surface appearances. He does so by combining media, techniques and aesthetics that belong to different traditions and using them in a way that transforms their nature into something different from what it appears to be. The material on which the photographs are printed is Japanese paper made from natural materials. Antonitsis has processed it to produce a plastic coating, thus changing its original quality. He also creates images that seem to have a watercolor, Zen-like quality – the kinds of images that are usually drawn on this paper – but which, instead of being actual watercolors, are digitally processed images. Through his hybridized images, Antonitsis intends to confuse the boundaries between the hand-made and the machine-made and, by metaphor, to suggest that our cultural and social identities are made by diverse and often contrasting components that are brought together into something new. The work of Dimitris Antonitsis aims at sensitizing the viewer to the hybridized aspects of contemporary reality and to the realization that truth and appearance do not always coincide. A publication on Antonitsis’s recent works is expected to come out soon. Art critic at Artforum and professor at New York University David Rimanelli, curator and art historian Georges Armaos and philosopher Theophilos Tramboulis are the authors. «Super Vision,» at the Millefiori Art Space (29 Haritos, 210.723.9558), «Philosophobia» at Lab art Projects (6 Miaouli, 210.331.8044) and «Pure Beauty» and «Some Prefer Nettles» at the Batayianni gallery (20-22 Aghion Anargyron, 210.322.1675). Through May 7, by appointment.