The New Avant-Garde has a sense of totality

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

By Foteini Vergidou.

Antonis Kalagkatsis – Out of Body Experience (2016) with Nadia Paraskevoudi / Courtesy of the artist

The avant-garde first appeared as a movement in the 19th and early 20th century from artists including Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Robert Florey, Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandra Ekster, and many more, pushing the boundaries of art beyond our comfort zone, promoting radical art reformations and revolutionising the way we are looking at art.

Alexandra Ekster – Sketch / Collection of Lobanov-Rostovsky

Avant-garde is beyond the notion of art as we know it, because artists aim to destabilize the viewer from the usual way they look at an artwork. In other words, avant-garde art doesn’t just explore alternative and experimental ways of expression; it aims to shift our perspective on the concept of art itself.

The reason why most people don’t actually like avant-garde art is

because it doesn’t look like art yet.

Alfred Stieglitz photograph of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, 1917. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

El Lissitzky’s iconic project “PROUN” can be perceived as his three-dimensional way of theorizing about the world. The works in PROUN have more than one possible orientation for the viewer to see. The markings on his compositions suggest that the viewer can see them not only in the round, but they can also see them rotating through space, implying a study that is based on a concept of a 3D environment rather than its representation in static form.

El Lissitzky – PROUN 93 (1923)

Now, more than 100 years later, artists continue to push the boundaries on the way we are looking at art, transforming ideas into a more radical vocabulary, using lines of code. Tracking technology, mixed realities, real-time motion-capture algorithms, generative artworks and cyber art projects have made their appearance in profound media festivals, galleries, international art fairs even in permanent collections of museums.

Björk – Stonemilker (2015) by Andrew Thomas Huang, premiered at MoMA PS1

More artists are using mixed reality practices, creating virtual environments, where real people are dynamically integrated into them. These hybrid environments develop our perspective from looking at a screen to experiencing the artwork with all our senses.

Thus, mixed realities, from augmented reality, that involves overlaying digital artefacts on real-world objects, to virtual reality, which is a complete digital environment that occludes the users view, make the leap from the internalisation of an artist’s expression of an experience to our experiencing it first hand.

Claudia Hart, The Flower Matrix (2017) / Courtesy of the artist and TRANSFER Gallery

No doubt, mixed reality artworks are not new to the international art scene, with artists such as Jon Rafman, Claudia Hart and Giulia Bowinkel & Friedemann Banz amongst many others, staging VR and AR installations everywhere from the Royal Academy of Arts to MoMA PS1.

Banz & Bowinkel – Mercury (2017) / Courtesy of the artists

In Greece, artists dealing with mixed realities have just started being more present in exhibitions and galleries, creating a much promising way for this artistic expression to immerse in the local art scene. More and more Greek artists get their hands into VR and AR, such as Nefeli Dimitriadi and her 2016 VR show at Ileana Tounda Gallery, Theo Triantafyllidis participating in this year’s 6th Athens Biennial and Loukia Alavanou who was commissioned last year by the Onassis Cultural Centre to create her first VR artwork “New Horizons – Pilot”.

Antonis Kalagkatsis is a visual artist and programmer based in Athens, who works with various media, like interactive video installations, web-based applications, moving image compositions, computer generated environments and VR. The artist has been exploring the possibilities of virtual reality as a medium, starting from a headset prototype in 2015 to his 2017 VR installation titled Picnoleptic Flashbacks.

Antonis Kalagkatsis – Picnoleptic Flashbacks (2017) / Courtesy of the artist

Watch the teaser video here:

In Picnoleptic Flashbacks the physical space of a gallery is transformed into a rave setting, delivering the ambience that people encounter in clubs. Kalagkatsis designed a computer-generated version of lights, smoke and strobe effects, attempting to capture the theatricality of clubbing and to simulate the sensory experience of a rave.

The work was designed according to the KEIV gallery, where it was exhibited, using 3D software and photogrammetry technique to create a 3D geometry of the space.

Antonis Kalagkatsis – Picnoleptic Flashbacks (2017) / Courtesy of the artist

Rather than replicating the actual space of the gallery, the work focuses on uncovering the subtle nature of a rave’s echo, transforming the physical space into a disembodied version of a club, using club culture and its elements to create new memories for the viewer.

These “rave mnemonics” use an imaginary, transgressive space and its affective representations on the viewer to propose a conceptual shift on the notion of rave.

Antonis Kalagkatsis Picnoleptic Flashbacks (2017) / Courtesy of the artist

An important part of the project that enhanced the viewer’s experience was sound, produced by the artist’s collaborator Xyn Cabal. The artist would also like to thank Akis Sinos for his help on the concept development.

Picnoleptic Flashback was presented in the exhibition “When the rave is done” at KEIV, curated by Constantine Lianos. Antonis Kalagkatsis has participated in exhibitions in Athens, Berlin, Belgrade and Vienna amongst others.

Visit the artist’s website here:


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