The many faces of the swastika.Interview for the daily newspaper "ELEFTHEROTYPIA", 21/10/1994
Costis Georgiou is 38 years old, has studied painting and sculpture at the University of Fine Arts in Athens and scenography in Florence. So far he has presented 25 personal exhibitions and taken part in 35 group exhibitions; many of his works have been exposed in museums of modern art all over the world and bought by collectors in Greece and by several organizations.
For the past two years he has given up painting for a while and set to sculpture, building up a massive construction so repulsive and frightening, like a nightmare, that one relates it immediately to a thriller.
The nazi symbol of the revival of the Arian race ? the swastika ? in times of Hitler turned into a work of art with a size of (2.10x2.10)m and a weight of 120 Kgr in the hands of the painter and sculptor Costis Georgiou.
The swastika is just about to burst. A big crack has formed in the middle, revealing a monster coming from a wound inside; it is a monster with many colors, fluid, repulsive, clammy and as frightening as the fascist theory.
- Now, would you say this monster is dead with its innards lying fossilized at the heart of the swastika, or has it just been born?
- It is, I would say, at a rather latent situation, something between death and coming back to life. It is a sculpture of mixed techniques. The metal I have used most is stainless steel, a heavy, hard and cold material. I?ve also used other materials such as loam, polyester, wood and glass.
- This sculpture reveals the fascist theory in a frightening way. Would you say it is a work of a rather threatening aesthetic, since it brings out shivers of abhorrence and loathing?
- This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted it to provoke loathing, abhorrence, almost aversion. At the international Italian Festival of Todi where it was exposed, people reacted exactly like this. They couldn?t take their eyes off the monster on the swastika, in total disgust. Many of them also wondered how could I have ever conceived the idea of such a frightening work. Others might have thought what a pessimistic fellow, or even what a sick mind I could be to create this monster. But most of them, I believe, where captured by this sculpted disclosure of the fascist ideology and understood pretty well the intentions and the feelings of the artist.
- Tell us about how you were inspired on this sculpture.
- This work expresses my own greatest fears and hopefully not only mine. My intention of course was not to reproduce the well known nazi symbol, nor to simply remind everybody of the neo-nazi explosion all around Europe. My intention was to express the fascist approach and mentality which have surrounded our consumer lives today in all our activities and furthermore our personal fascist upbringing which inevitably takes place in a fascist environment. Everywhere and at every stage you come across pre-agreed and put-up games. We?re not talking here only about the neo-nazi occurrences in Germany. If you just look around you see countries who like to call themselves democracies taking fascist decisions. For instance, you see America each time somebody causes a problem sends out airplanes and gets done with it. They get in and out, when and where they please, dismissing governments harmful according to their opinion and generally speaking they decide over matters, like a good father. Everything today is determined by power. On the other hand, the less powerful, the "democrats" go deaf and chose to remain silent when such interventions are to their benefit , too; and of course by doing so, not only do they go along with such actions, but moreover with their silence they add to it, sometimes even content to clear their position by throwing around a few diplomatic answers. These people are all around us; people pulling strings, determining our destinies, little fascists. The main idea is to disgrace human dignity more and more each day and to create senseless and stupid consumer citizens, baring the illusion of being free and cultivated. Citizens encouraging a corrupted and effete civilization, based on creating and reproducing simple vehicles of a sick approach of reality. Pioneers and instructors assume the duty to pass on a "metropolitan" thinking which is nothing more than rubbish. They would actually sell their soul to devil for a car, or a manager?s career in some museum or gallery, or even for an article in some paper with the imprint of the expert and the judge on their part. I can sense, I can feel all this in the course of my life and my career. I can?t begin to describe all the improper to my ethics as an artist proposals, that have been addressed to me; how many immoral people hold key-positions and how many corrupted minds act as authentic transmitters of ideas and feelings. Now, this is what frightens me; and this fear generated the need to build up this sculpture. It didn?t just happen one day. I didn?t suddenly wake up and felt I had to prove I was in agony.
- Yet, you, too, play this game. You present your work very often in Greece and abroad and receive prizes from this very system you so strongly criticize and rumors say characteristically that you ?sell?. You are very productive, have had several personal and group exhibitions in your career in outstanding art halls and generally you are an established and very successful artist. Why do you express so much anger?
- Because sometimes I also worry about myself, too. I have a fear inside me that gets bigger and bigger. Don?t think that I?m complaining; I?m very satisfied with my work and believe that through my work I convey, if not anything else, a genuine deposit of personal feelings and fears. You see, many times an artist can be the icing on the cake; he produces an alibi for those who want to get away with their insensibility. You may think I?m getting a little melodramatic or pretend to be the sensitive one. It is true though, I?m really very frightened, I want to react. I get scared when I think of all the senseless people determining our destinies, acting as a world-police and as overseas troublemakers. I get petrified at the sight of the power they possess in doing so. And of course I get angry because I feel I?m in danger by living in this society, that you also are familiar with, and the worst of all is that I feel terribly alone in this fear.
The swastika with the open wound will be exposed to the public at an international exhibition in Tokyo next year. The sculptor doesn?t care whether he?s an expressionist or anything else. He simply paints, laying out his need to communicate without having the slightest idea which art style his works would be classified to.