Dionisis Christofilogiannis' tribute installation dedicated to Charalampos Goumas, within the confines of his workshop adjacent to the Iera Odos (Sacred Way) —an homage to the Greek ceramist
an interview by Carmen Line Hust
The Army of Goumas (2023) is a tribute installation by Dionisis Christofilogiannis (b. 1973), dedicated to Charalampos Goumas (b. 1950), within the confines of his workshop adjacent to the Iera Odos (Sacred Way) —an homage to the Greek ceramist. The installation weaves together the artistic narrative with 50 bull heads, crafted a decade ago by Goumas, infusing Christofilogiannis' creation with nuanced significance. Goumas, guided into the realm of pottery by his Sifnos-residing grandfather, himself a seasoned potter, intertwines neoclassical influences into his technique, subtly echoing the physiognomy found in the sculptures of Ernesto Ziller (1837-1923).
We've had a talk to Christofilogiannis about how The Army of Goumas serves as a symbolic representation of the anthropocene era, reflecting the martial nature of human existence and its environmental consequences.
Can you share the genesis of "The Army of Goumas" installation and the inspiration behind using 50 ceramic bull heads as a central theme?
The inception of "The Army of Goumas" was an unexpected journey that began with my encounter with Charalampos Goumas in his workshop. All started few months ago. After receiving an invitation from the curator Dimitris Trikas, to participate in this exhibition, I had considered working on 2-3 pieces. While exploring the area of Elaionas during the summer, I opened the door to the Ceramics Workshop in Elaionas, a place I had always wanted to visit. That's how I had my first meeting with Charalampos Goumas in his workshop on Pluto’s Street 10, just a few meters from the exhibition. A vast garden filled with hundreds of ceramics and a workshop with numerous kilns and countless molds awaited me! It was a treasure! I was overwhelmed. I went to say hello and ended up sitting for 3 hours. I left with thoughts. Anxiety. I fell in love. I witnessed the 50-year history of a Greek ceramist in the historical site of Elaionas, where years ago all ceramists would gather clay from the hills to create the ceramics we now admire. Next to the Sacred Road that would be constantly cemented with stages, stations, and luxury hotels! I returned running, telling him that I wanted to create a piece in his honor... "The Army of Goumas" spontaneously came to mind. It was the only title that truly captured the intensity of my thoughts and feelings. An army that sweeps everything away... an army of many bull heads that had been hanging on the workshop's railings for about ten years. An order from a French collector who never came to pick them up. A collection of ceramic heads with a wonderful patina of time, incredible beauty, and power. The artwork-installation had taken shape in my mind! I told him I wanted to buy them all and create this installation in your honor. He said they cost a significant amount... I gathered my courage... as they seemed like too much for an unfunded project... and spontaneously and with genuine trust, he let me buy them at half the price, gradually! I ran to Costas Xynidakis, a friend and incredible craftsman-ironworker at the PANMETALLIKI workshop, who with a lot of enthusiasm and hard work, made the bases for the army. My dream became a reality... without even knowing its future... without even having a second thought... like a lover, blind’
In your work, you explore the concept of "Anthropocene" through the martial nature of human existence and its impact on the environment. How does "The Army of Goumas" convey this concept, and what message do you aim to communicate about the human journey and its impact on nature and culture?
"The Army of Goumas" serves as a symbolic representation of the "Anthropocene," reflecting the martial nature of human existence and its environmental consequences. The journey from nature to technological civilization is depicted along the Sacred Way (Iera Odos), with the stratigraphy of Eleusis and Elaionas illustrating the evolution of human geography. The discarded materials symbolize "discarded" populations, emphasizing the contrast between abstract cultural approaches and the inherent fertility of the earth. These populations, with short stays and no rooted connection to the place, reflect the contrast between the abstract and objective approach to culture and the inherent fertility of the earth Through this, the artwork engages with the global condition of the Anthropocene, addressing history, nature, and culture comprehensively.
The Anthropocene, as a global condition encompassing all parameters that shaped human existence, encounters this work in the way it addresses history, nature, and culture. Through the creation of the "Army of Goumas," he expresses a comprehensive understanding of the human journey, using art as a means to depict and reconstruct our history and heritage. Overall, the work responds to time and place in a way that is emotional, poignant, and intriguing.
Your personal note emphasizes love, respect, and passion, describing a dedicated journey to create something in honor of another artist. How do these emotions influence your artistic process, and what significance do they hold in the context of "The Army of Goumas"?
Love, respect, tradition, and history are fundamental elements that drive my artistic process. In the case of "The Army of Goumas," the note reflects the personal dimension of the work. The story of running behind the opportunity to create in honor of Charalampos Goumas underscores the dedication and creative expression needed to counterbalance the challenges of modern society. The title itself, "The Army of Goumas," signifies the intensity and power embedded in the work, capturing the emotional and passionate essence of the artistic journey.
Charalampos Goumas is not just a creator in your work but a natural and spiritual "ancestor" of art and tradition. How does his presence influence the narrative of the installation, and what does it signify in terms of the continuity of art and heritage?
Charalampos Goumas is a central figure in the narrative of "The Army of Goumas," not only as a creator but also as a spiritual "ancestor" of art and tradition. The expressiveness of the work serves as a dedication to the continuity of art and the heritage that precedes us. Goumas's presence is a symbol of the timeless connection between past, present, and future, creating a work of art that bridges generations and emphasizes the importance of preserving and continuing artistic traditions.
As stated by curator D. Trikas, the work is a reference point in the technology and history of Elaionas, honoring human presence and activity through the reuse of labor and materials. How do you see "The Army of Goumas" contributing to the historical and artistic landscape of Elaionas, and what role does it play in acknowledging the significance of the ceramic industry in the region?
"The Army of Goumas" not only holds autonomous strong artistic value but also serves as a vital reference point in the technology and history of Elaionas. By reusing labor and materials from the region, the installation becomes an homage to the significant ceramic industry that once thrived in Elaionas. It acknowledges the historical importance of human presence and activity in the region, contributing to the cultural landscape. In doing so, the artwork becomes a tangible link between the past and the present, honoring the heritage of Elaionas through the transformative power of art.
ELEONAS ’23 | CHTHONIC AND ANTHROPOCENE
29/09/2023 - 03/12/2023
Curated by Dimitris Trikas
The art exhibition Eleonas ’23 – Chthonic and Anthropocene hosts the works of 48 artists, accompanied by a rich public program, performances, and other activities. It focuses on the Chthonic element and the Anthropocene era, exploring their conflict and dialogue within the Eleonas area, which serves as both the field of study and the point of reference.
The exhibition, encompassing artworks, speeches, and project activities, aims to highlight the critical and complex situations arising from the ongoing dialogue and conflict between Nature and Man. These polarities dominate the region due to the profound human imprint, and the exhibition delves into the relationship between the past and the present, and vice versa. Eleonas, once renowned during Peisistratus, evolved over time due to human choices, transforming from fertile agricultural land into barren wasteland by the 1960s, a consequence of anarchic industrialization.
The Chthonic and Archeological aspects are showcased with the fertility of the soil and the ritual dimension of the Iera Odos path of mysteries. Simultaneously, the Anthropocene era is depicted through human activity’s reflection in the political and economic development of the region. This chronological journey reveals the destructive consequences on nature and the landscape, left by the human footprint. It raises the critical question regarding the present and the future of the region, and beyond: “What should we do now?”
This article about the instalation "The Army of Goumas" by Dionisis Christofilogiannis is part of the ARTICULATE promote programme. Read similar articles from the programme below.