Through his work, he attempts to weave narratives in which the relationship between observer and reproduction is in a constant state of destabilization
|We are rainmakers; we do not broker the rain|
Through his work, he attempts to weave narratives in which the relationship between observer and reproduction is in a constant state of destabilization. His intent is to release the viewer–observer from their quest for “true” comprehension and leave them free to try their hand at interpreting the information contained in the artwork unmediated, on their own. “The existence of the artwork appears as a plurality of meanings, sequences and coexistences within it,” explains Fotis Sagonas. An artist and an architect, he assesses that the two are sometimes at odds and sometimes cohesive. He believes that “our words betray us. Yes, but we also betray them,” as Godard puts it in Nana’s exchange with an older intellectual in Vivre Sa Vie. In his opinion, creative convention alters the nexus of connections between all things, endlessly leading us to trace new maps.
Central to his interdisciplinary inquiry is the establishment “of a personal act of art – which is in essence set up as a continuum. Explorations of questions on contemporary creation and the renewal-update of educational methods are also objectives I pursue.”
From Fotis Sagonas’s multidimensional body of work stands out the program for people with vision impairment and blindness for the Visitors Center of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center that he co-created. “Community projects are a vibrant field of artistic action, where artists and citizens together can highlight issues of concern to certain social groups. Today, there is a more pronounced shift in the function of art from a medium of personal expression to a more collective medium.”
Among his talents is also that of the set designer. What motivates him to work on a theatrical production is, primarily, the people behind it; “their vision and their kindness. Certainly, their desire for collaboration and their aspiration to reach a level of art that is higher than where they started from. Throughout the cooperation, collective immersion is required in order to approach the unexpected; that which can surprise us; that ‘other’,” he notes and, by way of example, mentions his latest set design work – on Sakis Serefas’s play “Viral Thess,” directed by Tasos Ratzos.
We ask if it is inspiration or hard work that defines an artist’s evolution. Fotis Sagonas is adamant: “Work, without a doubt. We are rainmakers. We do not broker the rain,” he exclaims. One thing that can slow him down, however, is the financial circumstances that affect each project’s funding.
He travels a lot and collaborates with people from around the globe. And these voyages and meetings convince him even more that in Greece, making art is not seen as a social necessity. In support of this thesis, he speaks about the Kunstakademie building in Düsseldorf. “It stands tall in the city center, creating the impression that society offers its very best to artists, placing them at its heart because society has understood why artists are necessary for its continuity. On the other hand, let us consider the facilities that host fine arts education in our country…” But it is not only Greek infrastructure that inspires his criticism. If he were to give something to Thessaloniki, it would be about our urban space and our relationship with it. “What comes to mind is Joseph Beuys’s ‘7000 Oak Trees’ project, all of which he planted together with the residents of Kassel in five years.”
Splitting his time between various cities and countries, he has realized that “coming in contact with people who work in different contexts is always an intense process that allows you to confront the sum of your understanding about the world and everything you pursue. It is inescapable that the urban environment as a variable coefficient will alter our behaviors, which in turn redefine tactics and modes of action – the identity of the flaneur-wanderer as a condition of multiplicity.”
In his opinion, the greatest gift that teaching at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Ioannina for the last three years has given him is the constant reframing and redefining of his body of knowledge. “I understand in different ways, through my attempts at disseminating information and discussing it. There is no other way. My priority is excitement – if at all possible to arouse it within an educational context.” The advice he likes giving to his students is “that the whole thing is more of a marathon and less of a race. Our obsessions are the material that we always carry with us and we are constantly trying to give meaning to in relation to the context at hand.” If he were to become a student again, he would once again choose to do the same studies, go down the same paths and routes, “but, importantly, I would meet the same people.”
Currently he is in Dortmund, working on two solo exhibitions for 2022 – one in Germany and one in Greece. He is also making preparations to exhibit a place of memory – a memorial – for the Holocaust of the Jews of Thessaloniki in collaboration with visual artist and curator Apostolos Palavrakis, in Germany as well. His future plans also include a collaborative project closely related to the city of Amsterdam.
Fotis Sagonas (b.1983) is an architect and visual artist. His works have been exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York, the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, etc. In 2012, he received a Fulbright Scholarship for Visual Arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York and in 2018, the ARTWORKS Stavros Niarchos Foundation Artist Fellowship Award. Since 2018, he has been teaching modules on spatial representation and introduction to architectural design at the Department of Architectural Engineering at the University of Ioannina.