Michalis Papadakis


Workshop on the subject
organized by the
Chamber of Visual Arts of Greece (EETE)
Thessaloniki, 7 October


Proposal for the Cultural Policy of the

National Museums of Contemporary Art (EMST)


In the short time I have here, I will just outline the main conclusion I have drawn from my 13-year term on the Board of the EMST of Athens as representative of the EETE.

Museums of Contemporary Art have a qualitative difference from all other museums.

They are not Museums of Collections.

Because they are contemporary in perpetuity, they have to deal with the everyday produced Art, which they have to watch, study and evaluate.[1]

On the contrary, the EMSTs’ constitutional law directs them to be museums of collections of art, "belonging to the history of art", "in a pioneering character", etc.

And even in this case, as in my own that I ask for "continuous study and evaluation", the law indirectly sets the requirement for criteria to be formulated. Criteria, for instance, which make a “sack of charcoal” or anything else to be first of all a work of Art, and secondly a "historical work of contemporary art"[2].

Criteria, but OBJECTIVE ONES.

Objective, not as constructed conventional truths.

Nor as majority views.

Objective criteria can only be those set by the Object itself. By its nature and its history.

Those who do not recognize objective criteria, criteria emanating from the nature of the Object, do not recognize Art as an Object in itself, with properties independent of subjective taste, and consequently do not recognize history of Art as a causal movement but only as a temporal sequence of events. By doing so they do not recognize the existence of science, as well.

Science without Object does not exist.

This is the EMSTs’ problem:

A problem of identity.

How is it possible to build a scientific foundation for Contemporary Art, as the administrators of our museums are boasting, when they are not concerned with the nature of their Object at all? When they actually deny its existence?

In their texts, however, you will not find anything relevant. Instead you will find many subjective assertions about social, moral or political concepts. You will find anecdotal reports about people and artists and many anecdotal references to social environments, all of which are presented as evidence of evaluation.

As is the case with the social history that is taught.

The official position taught in social history is that it is "subjective interpretations of events" or otherwise "applied political correctness". There is of course the psychological interpretation of the facts as well.

The fact that social history is a continuation of natural history and at the same time a part of it, that is to say, "the relationship of Man to Nature" in perpetuity, is inconvenient, because in this case they would have to do with laws and norms of causal relationships and criteria.

It is this general category of problems, to which the specific problem of the EMSTs belongs.

Despite the little time I have at my disposal, I will try to explain what I mean by Object, Objects Nature and Criteria, as an initial contribution to a discussion of the nature of Art – an imagined discussion.

The nature of Art is such that it, too, expresses that social history is the continuation of natural history.

The artwork addresses the intellect, and not the "soul", as some say, nor does it express the "soul". It is not made to satisfy any other need outside of the needs of the intellect.

It addresses the intellect.

The intellect needs it. Not to express itself or for Man to "manage his free time".

The intellect needs the work of Art in order to conceive new concepts of Objects.

"The mind first makes representations of Objects and then concepts about them."

This view of Hegel and science is not only about human intellect.

Each living entity has sensory instruments and therefore a center of processing stimuli from the outside world.

Sensory organs would be useless if the outside world is not the primary, but the "soul".

They would be useless if Nature had not developed along with them the ability to combine stimuli and to transform them into representations of Objects outside and independently of beings. This physical capacity is called Imagination.

That is how important the capacity of Imagination is for the representation[3].

And Imagination - as we know - is cultivated by Art for its own sake and is its main weapon. That is to say, Art as well is based on a natural ability (power), which it cultivates for its own sake.

In social history, seen macroscopically, Art appears at a time when substantial material conditions have been developed.

Art appears with rock paintings and various artefacts from a variety of materials, some 100,000 years ago in Africa - before sapiens migrated to other continents.

In the one and a half million years of cultivating imagination and representations of concepts through the production of tools that had preceded, Man had learned also a great deal about the qualities of the rocks and of many other materials. He had also learned to produce colors, to produce of decorative objects, signs, markings, etc.

This development, as is self-evident, was accompanied by a corresponding increase in population, division of labor as well as cohesion rules and customs.

The increase in the range of human activity was magnified at the same time as his ability to meet the needs he himself produced.

The important thing here is that Man had already reached the point of basing his existence exclusively on the tool, his productive means.

"He saw the world through the spectacles of the tool."

A straight, a curve, a bow, a circle, etc., which Man knew very well from his tools, were not just shapes useful for his tools. They were values!

Values, on which the effectiveness of his toolswas based and continues to be based. Their truth.

Through these shapes/values he also saw the succession of the seasons as a circle, the horizon as a line, the distances that connect points - both on Earth and in the sky - as straights, etc., etc.

In this very historical phase, with the breadth and depth of his activities confronting him with new things, Man was moved to make representations of new Objects and relationships in order to conceive their concepts. Of course, these representations are, at first, made with the shapes of the tool's values. There are examples of such prehistoric representations, and we can see this repeated in the early paintings of infants.

The expanding world of Man, both towards the macrocosm and the microcosm, creates a problem in the mind, because it is not satisfied with the measurable representations of the tool, their precision, their pure shapes and the controlled functions. And that is not a coincidence. As certainty (knowledge) progresses and widens, the world of uncertainty (ignorance) grows (becomes conscious). "The only thing I know is that I know nothing."    

The world of uncertainty is the Object of Art.

The search for new fundamental meanings is that what freed the representation from the purpose of utility[4] and the representational means from the precision of the tool's values.

Freehand drawing becomes the expressive medium of the new representation, the aesthetic representation of the work of Art.

The representation of the tool's values, however, does not disappear.

Its logic remains.

In freehand drawing, the logic of the structure of the tool's representations and the Imagination meet again and form a new Whole of the World, where the unmeasurable dominates.

Art loves irrational numbers.

Nature also loves irrational numbers. That is why they are infinitely more than the rational ones.

In the Aesthetic Representation of the work of Art the representation of the tool’s logic meets with the representation of the unmeasurable nature of the depicted Object. These two claim to compose the representation of the Substance of the new concept.

It is no coincidence that the mathematicians symbolize the Golden Ratio with the Greek letter phi (Φ), in honor of Phidias, who did not apply it only to the architectural part of the Acropolis, but also to the representations in works of Art.

It is no accident that Van Gogh wrote to his brother: "I paint the infinite." This was not madness speaking. As it is not accidental that, about ten years ago, the mathematical department of the University of Mexico found that van Gogh's depictions of vortexes corresponded to the mathematical representation of vortexes in fluid dynamics, which was discovered in the late 1950s!

It is no accident that Tsarouchis in his last recorded interview (archive of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation ERT) rated his work as "a constant search for the relationship of the figure with the background". The relationship of the definite with the indefinite Whole.

Documenta 14, which itself states as its purpose: "Art can be the place of political emancipation and democratic transformation", by including the Tsarouchi Foundation in its exhibition environment in Athens clearly distorted the meaning of his work in order to fit it into its (the Documenta’s) purposes. Do our "theorists" do the same?

Theoreticians of Fractals, from the late 1980s onwards, continue to discover representations of their theories (repeating motifs on different scales) in works of Art, even in the farthest Past.

And these are just a few examples.

The origin of the Aesthetic Representation in the shapes of the values of the Tool, the foundation of the "Humanization of Man", gives Art its historical and social nature and makes it a necessary factor for the evolution of Man.

In this way, Art discovers and creates the concepts of important subjects that philosophy and science then undertake to investigate.

As a consequence of the above, Art becomes an Object, which also produces the criteria by which it can be judged.


By pointing out the problem, we lay the foundations for its solution.

My proposal, therefore, is for the EMSTs to acquire the scientific character/identity that they never had.

The only way for the EMSTs to meet the requirements of their mission - though this is not at all convenient - is to base their actions on a continuous study of the new manifestations of their Object and its History.



[1] We have proposed that the EMSTs should create an electronic platform where the artistic creations in Greece, for the use of the scholars, are being registered continuously and that it is linked to all the electronic platforms of the Contemporary Art Museums around the world.

[2] If it is scientifically ethical - which is not - to declare a modern artwork as historical, pioneering, before history.

[3] I say 'representation' and not 'image', because, for example, our eyes see movement but the camera immobile.

[4] Thus, the myth of our "theorists" sprouted that Art does not deal with useful things but with things of the soul, expression of subjectivity, subjective taste and other such nonsense














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