A museum of one's own by Maria Maragkou
Artemis Potamianou loves contrasts as they arise in her ‘private’ games with time.
The time of history, as an ephemeral time, is present and self-evident in the dialogue via the works she exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete.
Within a small, say, frame, the images are many, attractive and special in their surrealism or their theatrical quality. At the back of the image (not the backdrop of the painting), for instance, Magritte’s figures are flying behind a group by the Chapmans, while the little Degas dancer is watching Duchamp playing chess like another Rodin’s thinker. Art lovers of a classical education will shudder at the hubris, those versed in the antics of contemporary art will be sufficiently aware of the hidden notion of the archive in relation to the artist’s personal parameters, and children—cleverer than any of us—will have a unique opportunity for an educational treasure hunt.
The works of Artemis Potamianou provide their viewer with interest, quality and poignancy, and underline the artist’s clear progress along the approach with which she awkwardly acquainted us in 2003, with her modified photos from famous museums and attractive tourist trails. In 2010, however, one’s willingness to revisit things within the ideological framework that Potamianou has been proposing these seven years is boosted also by the high-quality, dense discourse of her findings. If Delacroix meets Goya in the nocturnal landscape once ingeniously created by Van Gogh, this reflects the contemporary artist’s management of the desire to study and recreate an archive of images through the fervent wish to approach the “divine”, i.e. the masterpiece.
The museum masterpiece, the image of the masterpiece, the reproduction of the masterpiece, the use of the masterpiece as reproduction: painting, silkscreen, photograph or poster at the decorative whim of everyone who can enjoy in private surroundings what is kept in a public space and you queue up to see—or you never see but believe that you know because your grandmother has a copy of it in her sitting room.
On the one hand the worshipping aspect of the matter (even by phony means), on the other the ‘revenge’ of the ‘peasantry’, with the word peasantry in lots of quotation marks. That is—and this interpretation is mine, lest anyone else is accused of it—here is the dancer of Degas, an image I was trained to worship, although my education and my decorum-free times enable me also to stick my tongue at it. Of course I worship the authority of its creator, of course I bow before everything he produced (which I don’t want to reach, and indeed I could not even if I wanted it), but I reserve the right, in the context of my own religion—which is the freedom secured for me by art theory after modernism, and the possibilities of technology—to manage my cultural memory in any way I wish.
So what does the contemporary artist—or Artemis Potamianou, specifically—do as she manages intelligently her specific field of knowledge? She takes photos of the museum and the works, loads this material on the computer and processes it to isolate her selected images and set up her own museum area within the web.
In his text on Potamianou’s work, Sotiris Bahtsetzis cites the critical stance of Theodor Adorno towards excess visual information. “In the context of half-education the commercialised, objectified pragmatic contents of education survive at the expense of their truth content and their live relation to live subjects” (Theory of Half Education).
Herein lies, I think, Potamianou’s attitude towards this entire relationship with living objects and the creation of their second image, which she offers to us through a very special, personal reading of history. A twenty-first-century surrealism with the contemporary artist’s tools for appropriating museum images for a private collection which puts together a fantasy before becoming an inventive picture of our time.
Alas, the Museum is private, of course.