CULTURE

Pairing text and images with humor

How do images translate into words and words into images? Artist Dimitris Kozaris seems continually preoccupied with this question, not so much because he is looking for an answer as because he enjoys showing the rich and subtle interplay between word and image. «Short Tales of the Black Forest,» his latest one-man show currently on at the Alpha Delta Gallery, is, like much of his previous work, a playful take on the relationship between visual representation and language and, by extension, the image and its meaning. Resembling architectural models, his works create paradoxical pairings between words and images. Instead of creating an image that directly depicts a word, Kozaris revels in illogical associations. For example, connecting bridges that are encompassed in a melon-shaped structure are called «Melon Bridges» and a pile of wooden model houses with round holes on their surface are named «Cheeses and Houses.» Kozaris plays with words and images in a way that overturns our conventional understanding of an object or the meaning of a word. This is a method that he traces back to Russian formalist literary theory and particularly to the views of Victor Shklovsky. Indeed, one can perhaps find a connection between the work of Kozaris and the notion of «defamiliarization» expounded by the Russian formalist. Contrary to his predecessor, who thought that the purpose of art is to make the unknown known, Shklovsky believed that the purpose of art is to force us to notice, to make forms difficult and to increase the length and process of perception, something that can partly be obtained by making the familiar seem strange. In poetry, which was the field he was mainly concerned with, devices toward that effect involved wordplay, deliberately roughened rhythm or figures of speech. Like other Russian formalists, he believed that art was a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object and that what mattered was not what lay outside the object but its own structure. In certain ways, Kozaris puts the same emphasis on the structure of a work. Playful titles that point out the visual incongruities force the viewer to have a second look and to try to untangle the various parts of the artwork. Mid-caps slipped 0.88 percent and small-caps lost 1.80 percent.