Potential Project

“Voices of one Springtime” | Maro Michalakakos, Michael Michalakakos and Semeli Safou
Curator: Apostolis Artinos | 16.05 – 22.06.2024

«Φωνές μιας άνοιξης»


Language is tested in its sequences, in its genealogical aspects. A life destiny that supports its work. Concepts and images that come back in new forms yet still not distanced from their unconscious original emotions. Thus in the exhibition Voices of one Springtime Maro Michalakakos attempts to converse with the artistic work of her father, Michael Michalakakos, with the sunless setting of his romantic paintings and explore, in that shaded world, the extremities of her visual language.

The works of Michael Michalakakos have the aura of old painting, that of the famous Zappion exhibitions. The flat of this well-known antique dealer of Kolonaki is full of symbolist and romanticist paintings, by him and others. In his compositions the enduring typology of romantic imagery becomes the bearer of a strong allegory, the romantic worldview that manifests itself in the nebulae of his vision. Nature in his work surrenders to its peaks, to formal destinies that outline an apocalyptic horizon. This world is inhabited by breaths that never rest, abandoned likenesses and physical revelations. The fallen world of a lost horizon that still carries the traces and the memory of its loss. The romantic image is that of a lost figure, a figure in eclipse and an eclipse that constantly and persistently substantiates this loss, the mourning of its representation in its physical likenesses. A form, the romantic form, tried out as a foreign one—foreign as to the order of things. A formal excitation condemned to the mournful adherence to its rule, as its blindness, its undisclosed referentiality, dedicates its image to the most orphaned points of its lingual refuge. Nature, its breaths, its celestial dome, its melodrama, all this order of the world is inscribed in a vortex, a vortex of the self, as Blanchot says, but a self that has lost its centrifugal trajectory.

In this context of images, Maro Michalakakos comes to propose a work of dissent, a difference that cannot but be inscribed as such over this imagery again and again. A sculptural, rhizomatic installation that takes up the entire setting of her father’s images, revalidates it within herself, distorts it and deletes its lingual difference in the horizon of its reception. The inherited trace is always the trace of a distortion, a marginal disruption which reveals it as active over the span of its duration. It is the trace of a language propounded in its idiomatic stimulations. A pulsating trace, pulsating with life, which preserves its integrity not through formal stagnation but through the openness of its transmutation. It is no longer the work but the language of the work, the setting of the language, its field of action with its challenges and resistances, its promises and its untenable expressions. The legacy, whatever it is, survives not in the clarity of its trace but in its openness, in the event of its perpetual and innovative verification. This is the reality of creation, the palimpsest, a work that manifests itself not in the whiteness of a surface but through its multitude of signs and the constellation of its references. A script upon the script, an image through another image; the past becoming a work of the present, the retrieved preserved as a pledge. The creation, its originality, lies precisely in its weightless relation with its references, with a past not regrettably lost but retrieved in its new apparitions. Thus the beaks and talons of the birds in the work of Maro could well stem from those dreamy settings in the images of Michael, from the twittering of his forests, and all these playful allusions are presented in a carefree mood. For this is an abandoned gesture, an unconscious attraction, a low-key conciliation. The patterns on the velvet fabrics of Maro are also traces of images lost and found. They are what is left of the image, what survived its oblivion. Hence the mournful weight in her images, and the violence of their emergence, the scratched velvet, its destruction; again this gesture of the palimpsest, the scraping, a new image, a new entry, a new idiom that carries destruction in it, the gesture of destruction. In the installation of Maro Michalakakos a pair of 19th-century chairs from her father’s antique store are literally gutted out and rebuilt under a new condition. Their accord is, once again here, the same natural violence as it is depicted, less dramatically, in her father’s works. Roots and branches reconstitute this pair of objects into a new primordial scene. The images, after all, are never old; the images will always be new.

The exhibition concludes with a short film by Semeli Safou, the daughter of Maro Michalakakos, on the daily life in the home of her grandparents, Michael and Evangelia. A difference, one more difference introduced by Safou in her own language, along the trace of her own emotion. The feeling of the familiar, the rustle of its gestures, its peaks and its silences are experiences that can and cannot be conveyed. Any prominent meaning in them evaporates before the scorch of these familiar images. Nothing important is captured here, only this triteness of daily life, its squandered moments and their depiction around a table. Isn’t it there that our whole life is exhausted? And since time rolls on, at some point these images will find their true weight in the depths of the soul. What I am saying is that what remains, what always remains at the end, is emotion …

This text was written for the exhibition Voices of one Springtime by Maro Michalakakos, Michael Michalakakos and Semeli Safou, held at Potential Project.