Georgia Kotretsos: 4 Cents: On Show for 500 Years (2018)

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The site-specific installation «4 Cents: On Show for 500 Years» was commissioned to artist Georgia Kotretsos and was added to the Foundation’s collection in 2018

The site-specific installation 4 Cents: On Show For 500 Years (2018) by Georgia Kotretsos (b.1978) addresses global environmental issues such as plastic waste and sea pollution. With the use of liquid glass and resin technique, Kotretsos converts real plastic bags into compact objects, which then pass through a process of copper-galvanoplasty, paint and polishing. The black objects in the shape of used plastic bags are then placed on the rocky beach of the hotel as well as into the sea, thus creating a peculiar monument of time passing and an inconspicuous museum of human recklessness and opportunism. About eight million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans each year, while according to Greenpeace 96% of the garbage in the Mediterranean Sea is plastic. The plastic bags used by the Greeks to transport goods and waste constitute half of the waste in the waters of Greece.

Georgia Kotretsos is a visual artist, a researcher, a visual arts professor and a “professional spectator” based in Athens, Greece. She holds an MFA Degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the USA and a BFA Degree from the Durban Institute of Technology, in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa. Through her work she critiques the conformity of seeing by studying, proposing and practicing liberating and anarchic approaches of looking at art, in an effort to sustain that the act of looking is always site-specific and that spectatorial emancipation constitutes the source of knowledge. Through her research-based practice, she encourages speculative approaches on what knowledge is and how it can be produced. An important point of reference for her overall work is institutional critique, i.e. the interconnection of actors of the art world with the mechanisms of dissemination and reception of art (for instance private or public museums and collections). She is also particularly interested in socially engaged art practices, although her position on this issue is rather social acceptance and not the widespread strategy of advocating change.

4 Cents: On Show for 500 Years addresses environmental issues, which are part of our everyday life. The ‘4 cents’ refer to the so called ‘environmental fee’ charged per plastic bag, while ‘500 years’ is how long it takes for plastic to decompose even if sea pollution was stopped today. The artist refers to world campaigns against the use of plastic, which will ensure that this ‘archetypal form’ of late modernity will exist for the coming eighty years; while by the end of the centenary it will have officially exited our lives. In 1960 plastic made a dynamic entrance when invented by the Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin and quickly established itself in the then commercial world. Today, Sweden ranks third among the most environmentally friendly countries. While this trivial object is now demonized, its future ‘heroic exit’ from our lives is seen as a promise for social improvement.

Kotretsos asks us to reconsider such notions as personal memory and care in the context of a ‘social contract’ which promotes the impenetrable, impersonal and ephemeral. What does it mean if, given the ongoing pollution, the marine ‘museum of the future’ will consist of waste that does not belong to anyone but to all of us? Since objects alone are not capable of conveying meaning, acquiring a specific meaning lies primarily in the social relationships in which objects participate. Kotretsos is triggered by this trivial object to explore our relationship with our material culture in general and the place of sculpture (which is often referred to in the commonplace) today.

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