Dafni Barbageorgopoulou « ZZOT »

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Goldrausch Künstlerinnenprojekt art IT, Berlin 2012, 36 pages, ill., 22.8 x 16.5 cm, Softcover, English/German, ISBN 978-3-941318-38-0

Dafni Barbageorgopoulou’s Art

In every larger railway station there is a shop

with “International Press”. However, which

newspapers are international? The Englishlanguage

ones? Many people living in Berlin

are not able to read the popular Berlin Der

Tagesspiegel. The numerous international

artists who are in town for a scholarship or

who have settled here often speak no German

at all, or very little, even after years of living

here. This is due to the lack of opportunity

to practice. There are usually so many people

at larger events in Berlin who do not understand

German that one tends to automatically

speak English.

Those who have

a newspaper in

front of them

but are not able

to decipher the

text still read it

as an “image”:

as a more or less

abstract ensemble

of headlines, text

blocks, pictures,

and graphic

elements. Those who are not familiar with

semaphore in the international maritime

signal flag system will admire the colourful,

diverse colours and geometric patterns as a

purely aesthetic phenomenon, without knowing

what messages are being exchanged.

The signal system equivalent of the sequence

of letters “ZZOT”, for example, means more

or less “Attention! Watch out!”, a message

that newspaper headlines also seek to convey.

In the series ZZOT from 2012, Dafni Barbageorgopoulou

employs the exposed metal

printing plates used to print the pages of the

ZZOT series, 2012, maritime signal flag system,

aluminium newspaper offset plates, 110 x 320 cm

Tagesspiegel. The plates have been cut or

mounted over one another and turned into

wall reliefs. The geometric shapes are based

on the semaphore motif “ZZOT”. There are

also variations in which single plates have

been leant aslant on a newspaper stand. The

artist simultaneously superimposes two

information systems that quasi interfere and

intersect with one another.

Dafni Barbageorgopoulou has always been

interested in abstract patterns and ornaments.

However she does not follow the

trend towards “new abstraction” 1 and she is

not a “formalist”, 2 like many contemporary

artists who simply

recompose

the vocabulary

of figurative

Modernism. The

formal elements

incorporated

into her works

that fill entire

walls, spraypainted

on rolls

of bast weave,

hand-stitched,

or folded as floor

sculptures comprised of two-dimensional

shapes, originate from very different contexts.

The large installation Bright Pointed

Arch from 2010 is characteristic of the

artist’s approach. Structures such as Gothic

church windows, floor plans of skyscrapers

in Singapore, patterns for items of clothing,

and plans for models of spaceships provide

the source for the formal vocabulary, which

has been incorporated into a floor assembly

made up of wooden elements. The installation

also includes a roll of bast weave mounted

on the wall, hand-stitched for the most

part with red and white rhombuses. The way

they are presented is reminiscent of fabric

sold by the metre and the pattern evokes the

ornamental elements in Indian clothing.

To us, the diverse range of forms with which

cultures unfamiliar to us decorate their

clothes and objects are equally as “abstract”

as the construction plans for airplanes or

spaceships are for laypeople. Abstract does

not describe something non-figurative but

everything whose meaning we don’t understand.

In our globalized world too, there is

scarcely anything that is as universally readable

as the pictogrammes in international

airports. How do we read a newspaper in a

language we are not familiar with? How do

we deal with visual forms that we encounter

every where where we are not “at home”, and

which have their specific meaning, their

practical value in these places, which we

perceive, however, without any knowledge

of the “context”?

Dafni Barbageorgopoulou’s art brings together

“abstract” shapes and patterns, which

she takes from the different contexts, in

spatial and also physically experienceable

ensembles. Instead of specifying the original

meanings as “references”, the forms and

symbols used are linked together in a hybrid

way and are subsequently given the potential

for new codification. In this way, Barbageorgopoulou’s

art can be compared to the approach

described by Claude Levi-Strauss as

“bricolage”, or the reorganisation of symbols

and events to form new structures. Dafni

Barbageorgopoulou belongs to the group of

contemporary artists who have made it their

task to piece together our world, which is

becoming increasingly more complex at least

on a formal level, quasi in the form of a radically

reduced model. Her installations are

like spaceships of the mind and it is certainly

no coincidence that they are inspired by

models of spaceships that can be assembled

at home.

1 Sven Drühl (ed.), Neue Abstraktion, Special topic

in Kunstforum International, issue 206/2010.

2 Formalismus. Moderne Kunst, heute, Exh. cat.

Kunstverein in Hamburg 2004.

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