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Depicting an Agora with Magritte and Hockney

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Depicting an Agora with Magritte and Hockney

Frixos Petrou

Project

AGORA: a Greek word, originally referred to the public assembly space in ancient Greek cities. It was the centre of athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life, while also a spot for merchants to sell their goods. More recently, ‘agora’ refers only to markets and commerce. This project sets out from an understanding of these contradictions.

AGORA proposes to rethink the library as a public monument for collective knowledge – a modern agora – by imagining different paradigms of learning. Learning, not as consuming bytes of information but rather through discussion and collaborative critical analysis.

The library is projected as an architectural device for the transformation of society. To make a project is to take a position; AGORA is a frame for the subjects of the metropolitan archipelago to meet, negotiate and rediscover themselves as a collective entity, offering them opportunities for debate or concentrated reading free from digital and commercial implications: the embodied condition is the key to knowledge, not the internet or a double mocha latte.

 Interview

Who influences you graphically?

In terms of graphics I would say I’m mostly influenced by the work of Dogma and Office KGDVS. However I also try to look at other students’ work, both from my university and on online websites. This is because often drawings and images have to be made quickly, so the work of other students gives me ideas on how to make quite powerful images with little time.

What dictated your choice of paintings and characters within the various images?

This was according to what I was trying to show in each image. For example, I collaged grass from Hockney and plants from Rousseau in order to portray the courtyards in a slightly naive and playful way to contrast with the ‘seriousness’ of the architecture. The characters were chosen mainly in order to portray how this project is a frame that fits various subjects under its roof: you have for example a ‘metropolitan indian’ style performance from the film ‘Lavorare con Lentezza,’ observed by a serene figure from Magritte. This is to convey the idea of negotiation and discussion, since it is a library project focusing on discussion.

How do you believe the use of these characters influence your images?

The characters really influenced the way these images were produced. This is because at the same time I was testing out views in Rhino, I was searching for appropriate characters for each setting, and then I took a base render out of Rhino and into Photoshop. This is slightly unusual, since normally the view is created and then I would look for people but I was really trying to avoid the ‘skalgubbar effect.’

How were the characters paired up in terms of contrast of epochs?

The mix-match of characters from various time periods was done in a playful manner, again to show how the spaces favour negotiation rather than homogeneity.

To what extent might the eradication of the characters from their natural habitat and into another dimension defy their role and characteristics?

This is a classic situationist idea, ‘detournement,’ that by removing something from its original context you can appropriate it for your own purposes (which can be both similar or completely different or even opposed to the original purposes). This stands mostly for the use of Hockney’s characters, I think, because they have been removed from their original middle/upper class domestic settings and collaged into a public library alongside much less ‘prosperous’ figures.

What would have been the effect of introducing characters which date back to ancient Greece when the Agora was at its epitome?  

Good question! I did in fact think about this, and I think there would be an interesting miss-match and opposition between the characters and their era and the project. However I decided against this because I did not want to focus on the notion of an agora as something inherently greek, similar concepts have evolved in many places just under different titles. Also, since I am half greek myself I was trying to be sensitive so that the project would not be read as some sort of kitsch fascination with Greece’s history, it only starts off from an etymological approach to the word ‘agora,’ and how this has come to have only commercial meanings rather than its original as a space of discussion and public life and politics.

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