Born in Crete, Greece in 1975, Dimitris Tataris studied Painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1994-2001) under Dimitris Mytaras and Printmaking under Yorghos Milios. In 2002 he was awarded a grant by the Greek State Scholarships Foundation and continued his studies at Middlesex University, London. He lives and works in Athens.
A Day in Hell •
In God We Trust •
An Act of Power
“The image is a fact”, notes Wittgenstein in his “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”. Writing around the same time, Georges Braque urges us in his “Le jour et la nuit” notebooks: “Let us forget things, and consider only the relationship between them”.
The fact presented by Dimitris Tataris in his installation with the designation FRAGILE – a first comprehensive series of drawings and constructions with video and sound, as part of his broader research into the mutated spaces of the “domestic circus”* – can be summed up in one inevitable question: What is an animal in a cage? A living being or an object? And taking it further: Who is really the quarry? The animal or we? What is hidden behind the latticed grid that separates beings from their natural space, and hence from their nature? “I keep no birds gaoled in cages (one cage that was my mother’s is rotting away in the storeroom) yet sometimes I am awakened by a soft twitter”, writes the poet E.H. Gonatas.
Whether it be a twitter, a cry or guilt, the way of looking at the relationship imposed by the cage (from the outside in, from the inside out, from the inside in) immediately brings us face-to-face with our image. What I see is me.
By focusing on man’s cruel and distorted relationship with animals and nature through various forms and acts of violence, subjugation and entrapment, Tataris attempts a hint that reaches into the dark core of human despair: our existence is at the mercy of the needs dictated by the fear of death. Conceit and arrogance. Tedium and insecurity. Nausea. Power and dominance. Existence is imperfect, and that’s all there is to it. Or is it? Not quite, because at the same time existence is free, and owes the responsibility for this freedom to its will to exist.
The suffocating barrier around the fragile ark (the snail/Babel tower, the goat with a muzzle/cage at the frayed ends of the domestic nothing, the triptych with the heaps of wood in the desolate whiteness) sets the boundaries of the habitual tragedy.
Tataris knows well how to draw and how to approach the relations between things. The blend of elements and his view of the relations, from which he arrives at the image he constructs, is determined by the raw material of his visual language. The detailed drawing, the precise lines, the elaborate processing, the multiple layers of the narrative and their removal, the inventive compositions, the opening out on the surface and in space, the exhaustive manual work, repetition, the fragment, the attraction of the informel, in conjunction with the entirely handmade construction or with the use of video and sound, make up the alphabet of his personal idiom.
Although basically a draughtsman (with obvious references to the detailed and complex drawings of his favourite artists such as Robyn O’Neil, Toba Khedori and Paul Noble, but also to the bleak, disquieting, illusionary images of artists like Jake and Dinos Chapman or Matthew Barney), Tataris does not stop at the painted surface; he becomes drastically active in space, interpreting his artistic act as a free generation of associations, correlations and interactions with the spatial condition. His constructions – in a way, the plastic equivalent of his drawings in space – convince us about the synergy and the convergence as to the exploration and the expansion of the boundaries.
“Artworks derive from the world of things”, writes Adorno in his “Aesthetic Theory”; “[…] there is nothing in them that did not also belong to this world and nothing that could be wrenched away from this world at less than the price of its death”.
FRAGILE is defined by the fragments-traces of things. The image of a ‘cute’, ‘familiar’ (yet distorted, harsh, derelict) and hence fragile world takes shape as the dark metaphor of a disturbance; as a sign of the disaster.
The muted sounds in the background exacerbate the confusion. A bird condenses the question. And a voice from the unconscious.
Some of the dreams I see I like to recount. This is what I dreamed yesterday. A hermit cuts a flower and asks the pupils around him: “Do you see anything in this act?” One says it was love for flowers and identification with them; another one says it was the non-conscious which tends towards non-useful moves; and yet another one says it was a lapse in holiness. The hermit goes to the stem and ties the flower back on it with a piece of string, saying: “It was an act of power”. And then remained speechless unto death, according to my dream, says the poet Nikos Karouzos.