Let all plastic flowers flourish

In the Archeological Museum of Heraclion Crete, you can see the Disk of Phaestos, one of the until now unsolved archeological mysteries,
Disk of Phaestos...
The Disk of Phaestos
since what is written on it has not yet been deciphered. In the center of the disk, where the "text" starts or ends, you can see the image of a flower engraved. Nobody knows if it symbolizes an idea, a being, an item or a phoneme. It has kept its secret for many thousands of years and is awaiting the day to flourish when it will be deciphered. For now, it's a plastic —from the Greek word connoting the action of creating, making or shaping something— form reminiscent of a schematized flower.

If this flower were not the central shape in the Disk of Phaestos, which would be the historical, aesthetic and conceptual - notional "value" of this form? At that time there were no art critics to find themselves in the very difficult situation of adjudicating on the value of the Disk of Phaestos. I assume that the craftsman who made did not considered it a work of art.

But Time and Conjuncture have played very bad games on art critics since the beginning of the 20th century, when the contestation of dogmatic and academic "passe partout" about Beauty and Art started.

For example, in the past year, art critics and artists in Greece have tried to settle whether the Dakis Joannou Collection' oeuvres that have been exhibited in Athens are works of art, and whether they have any value beyond that of the art market stock exchange.
Jeff Koons: Large Vase with Flowers
Large Vase with Flowers
. The most untenable argument that I heard concerned the probable destruction of younger artists, who will hasten to fall into line with the aesthetic proposition of this collection hoping that, sooner or later, one of their works will become part of it. It's rather trivial to say that the artist who, since his early youth, is already deprived of a vision and of subversive potentiality, the sooner he "dissappears" the better for all. If the top value of his personal values' scale is to quickly and easily reach a good position in the art market's stock exchange through a collection, then he does not deserve a place among the artists of our future. It would be better for him to find his place in the high society columns of the "life style" magazines as the painter in vogue.

As for the art critics, while fighting to escape from the tricks of Time and Conjuncture, from the kind of our culture and character, from our emotions, from our aesthetic prejudices and introversion, we are constrained to hastily evaluate and classify oeuvres and artists. In this way we do not provide ourselves the right of delusion and the freedom of viewing from a certain distance. As we cannot today expect avant-garde proposition from the artists of the sixties avant-garde only because they were pioneering 35 years ago, we cannot equate the artistic value of a work with its selling price, the fame of an artist with his future position in the pages of Art History, the young with the new, the impressive or simply "noisy" work with the one that is an authentic expression of its location and time, regardless if we understand it or not. Look at the Disk of Phaestos: does anybody reject it as bad because he does not understand its meaning?

Any suggestions? Yes, there is one: Let all plastic flowers fourish. Be patient. Those that are plastic (from the Greek word connoting the action of creating, making or shaping something) proposition with a value will flourish. Those that are not will remain lifeless decorative simulacra: they will never flourish. Do not forget that Time, by the end of our century, is running much faster than it ran in the sixties, when the avant-garde was flourishing....

Anna Hatziyannaki


© ART TOPOS, 1996
Last update: 21 Oct. 1996