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The Aesthetics of Waste: Investigating the role of the ephemeral in the development of the avant-garde in Western Europe and Greece and its relationship to trauma

Papadopoulos, Theokritos (2013) The Aesthetics of Waste: Investigating the role of the ephemeral in the development of the avant-garde in Western Europe and Greece and its relationship to trauma. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Papadopoulos, Theokritos

This research project, driven by my on-going practice, seeks to identify the role of non-traditional materials such as ephemera, debris, waste and historical archive footage in order to produce art installations for investigating trauma, especially in moments of social crisis.

My art practice is informed by Sigmund Freud’s notion of the ‘death drive’ in his book Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Freud’s story about his grandson’s fort-da game provided the context in my research for examining the use of ephemeral everyday materials and historical archive footage within this psychoanalytical interpretation.

Freud’s concept of the death drive provided my enquiry with a reflective methodology for addressing my own installation practice. I was able to combine this with reflection upon traumatic situations in Greek history, especially the Greek Civil War. As a result of completing the above procedure, I realised the importance of everyday ephemeral materials and archive footage in the creation of an object or installation to which artists attach their subjectivity in moments when society is in crisis.

In my own installations using historical archives from Greek Civil War, through the method of cut and paste, I have tried to create new images reusing photographic archives laden with historical, social and political meaning. This action was my subjective way to deal with collective trauma and loss, to create my own version of Freud’s fort-da game by turning installations into a theatrical space in which this action was presented and communicated with the viewers.

In addressing research through practice, connections between trauma, the use of heterogeneous materials and the development of the avant-garde movement, particularly in Greece, have become paramount. Despite the research undertaken by Greek academics on the Greek Civil War (1944–1949), little is known about the importance of this period in relation to the development of avant-garde in Greece. My research concludes that the study of the history of the Greek avant-garde provides a new understanding of the development of collage, assemblage and the use of found objects after the Second World War by Greek artists. During my investigation, I realised that these techniques were first used by exiled artists in 1948 during the Greek Civil War, and later developed in the mid-1950s by Greek artists to become one of their main methods of producing art. During this period, Greek artists began to produce works that reflected a fragmentary vision in contrast to the hitherto classic aesthetics of the whole. Ostensibly, this was a reflection of the impossibility of a whole that war had created; the relationship of the individual within society had crumbled as civil war raged and society’s values, which had been based on the Orthodox Christian tradition, disintegrated. The use of found objects by Greek artists during this period
expressed transgression as a way to deal with the main concerns of Greek culture.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

The full text of this thesis has been restricted due to copyright constraints. If you wish to view this document, please contact UAL Research Online.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: Greek avant-garde; Greek civil war (1944–1949); Freud, Sigmund; death drive; fort-da; psychoanalysis
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: October 2013
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2014 15:55
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 09:21
Item ID: 6470
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/6470

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