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Jannis Kounellis, 1974, 21'54''

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'I think my greatest aspiration (...) is to become a needle to sew everything up, but first to push my way in there, and sew all this history up again. I don’t want to delve into the past for archaeological pleasure (...) but because the past has a reality which conditions us deep down. Then if you bring it to the surface, it’s full of possibilities.'
In this tableau vivant, Kounellis is wearing a white Kouros mask, and is carrying a burning oil lamp. In classical antiquity, such masks were used to honour grieving relatives. Masks portraying dead persons were worn on special occasions to resurrect the ancestors and let them share in the festivities. In this work, Kounellis, wearing such a mask, is standing motionlessly against a wall. The mask seems here
o pay homage to the entire classical antiquity. Considering Kounellis’ words about his aspiration to 'sew all this history up again', the combination with the oil lamp becomes more plausible. The burning oil lamp is probably a double reference to technical innovation. Firstly, to the oil lamp being a great leap forward compared to the candle, and secondly, to it being a light source that dates back to the first technological revolution. The frozen performance fits in with Kounellis’ vision that you can make history rise to the surface by the juxtaposition of various phenomena from this history.
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  • Date: 1974
  • Length: 21'54''
  • Type: Video
  • Copyrights: All rights reserved (c) LIMA
  • Genre: performance (artwork genre)
  • Keywords: art