Nikolas Ventourakis is a visual artist living and working between Athens and London. His practice situates in the threshold between art and document, in the attempt to interrogate the status of the photographic image. A quest that unfolds in the crucial years of the digital revolution, when a crucial overlap between producers and viewers seems to have reset all previous critical discourses.
Central to Ventourakis’s visual work is a denial for a one-way resolution and an invitation to embrace an ambiguous imagery, where the photographic is not yet real, and the familiar is a projection of a mix of memory – stemming from both private and media experiences – with abstract thinking. Ventourakis’ fascination lies in our need for stories to be conclusive, which cannot but clash with the impossibility for apparent pictures to provide any evidence nor “objective truth”. This is why his work allows for bias and misinterpretation. Whatever the context – a gallery, a page or the screen of a computer – his photographic images seems to have no unanimous foundation and every viewer is left alone to fall in the missing blanks.
Ventourakis completed an MA in Fine Art (Photography) with Merit at Central Saint Martins School of Arts (2013) and is the recipient of the Deutsche Bank Award in Photography (2013). He was selected for Future Map (2013), Catlin Guide (2014) and Fresh Faced Wild Eyed (2014) in the Photographers Gallery as one of the top graduating artists in the UK. In 2015 he was a visiting artist at CalArts with a FULBRIGHT Artist Fellowship and was a fellow in New Museum’s IDEAS CITY. He was shortlisted for the MAC International and the Bar-Tur Award. Recently he has exhibited in FORMAT Festival, Derby; the NRW Forum, Düsseldorf and in the Mediter-ranean Biennale of Young Artists 18. Since 2017 he is the artistic director of the Lucy Art Residency, Kavala Greece.
“Central point in my work is an invitation to tear down commonplace classifications that have traditionally applied to all photographs and, despite their large use, have proved to be misleading far before the global democratization of the photographic images in terms of production and circulation. In my work, I embrace an imagery that might appear to have a documentary value just like abstract creations on which to project elements that are recognize and familiar to everyone. My interest lies on our need for stories to be complete and how easy it is to fall into misinterpretations and make assumptions when the information provided by the producer is just short of having a clear conclusion and the viewer has to fll in the missing blanks. Quite often those blanks are filled in using a conventional abstract knowledge of a situation. The next step is the realization that all the hints that could help resolute the narrative are missing and the viewer is asked to reconsider and question what it is that she or he really looks at.”
“Thematically speaking, in the last few years I have been preoccupied with the current social and political developments in Europe which are appropriated by media and, as a consequence, become available to a global public. The process includes trying to examine the situation I witness and I am affected by visually and practically, in a search for a deeper understanding of what is at stake for a citizen of western democracies in the 21st century.”
La Petit Mort Americaine
The series “La petite mort américaine” is part of wider research on the construction and sharing of narratives. “la petit mort américaine” confronts this hyper-reality of cliches and history. The short intense satisfaction, that remains inconclusive and has to be experienced again and again like an orgasm. That which makes the most sense, but is lost and longed for until its repetition. And these narratives when they fail to be realized, having existed more in a common subconscious, lead to the reaction when they are not fulfilled. An angry lush out fuelled by disappointment which is evident every time the failings of the American Dream lead to political and social movements like the ones that we experience now. Movements that we being completely enamored with the romanticism of “America” forgot to consider as real.
“America” has been described by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard as a society that exists as a simulation of ideas and as a self-realized modern utopia. One that its residents don’t have to analyze in order to distill its meaning. The cliches that a European outsider is confronted with are much more than cliches. It’s the creation of history by the minute and the participation in a common narrative.
“Instead of fighting the temptation to avoid the stereotypes I decided to embrace it and accept the cliches which for me created a space where everything meant only what is seemed to be. Yet, this was fallacious still in the sense that for the citizens of America, these were their real memories. These simulacra defined their timeline and their place within the existence of the continents as The America. The Burger, the Muscle car, the Cowboys, the coin-operated Phone, the motel Alarm Clock they all operate as signifiers and signified simultaneously.
The series is presented in a number of compositions (set up as tableaux that are compiled by a varying number of pictures – on the installation photo that I include in my submission one of the compositions is shown) that create an inner narrative. The sizes of the printed images include small prints (20x25cm) to oversized framed works and wall vinyl installations.
I hope to offer the audience conflicting outcomes in the underlying narratives: For example, the cowboys inherently provoke a reaction that includes the visions that we have of the South and the West of America, a conservative lifestyle, very much centered around the value of the man, where a person has to be self-sustained. Nevertheless, there are to be found homoerotic extensions and an underlying comment on that ideal of individuality, which is so embedded in the society but at the same time uniformity is to be encountered as it’s evident by the dress code that the depicted men are demonstrating.”
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