Filled with earth we empty the sky, 2013-2015

Wooden double leaf sliding door, 80 x 240 cm

Nikolakopoulos' intention is to make a point about triumphal monuments by reversing the allusions: Gates as sovereignty symbols in the history of art – from the Roman arches and the Christian rood screens, to Durer’s Arch of Maximilian I and Rodin’s Gates of Hell – function as manifold references in a critical light.

The arch, despite its significance as a passageway and connecting point, is instead approached as a means of separation and enforcement. It is directly linked to colonialism, which acts as an “intellectual regulator”, potentially conveying the values of Western civilization, monotheism, law discipline and unhindered economic expansion.

The artwork, on the contrary, alludes to the unknown and the unsung, the broader political subject; the domestic and foreign barbarians, whose cultural characteristics are usually oppressed and create an “other”, which when not marginalized, is subject to exoticization.

The artwork refers indirectly to the contradictions and the process of power legalization through cultural instrumentalization. The representation that demonstrates the ruler’s clemency (clementia) on the Roman arches does not cancel out their instrumentalization as monuments of brute force and domination. The arch acts as a means of validity for the ruler who determines the social structure, governance and economic operations. The Beautiful Gate in the Christian Orthodox tradition, despite the spiritual nature it claims to have as a passage from the worldly to the mystical, it essentially acts as a means of gender discrimination and hierarchy. The Triumphal Arch of Emperor Maximilian I, 1515 by Albrecht Durer is a specimen of northern humanism - but also a propagandistic exploitation of printing by the sovereign. These examples within the vast references of the work are internalized and attribute in their turn an instrumental nature in the opposite, however, direction. It is an attempt to illustrate the bottom-up creative imagination.

The work’s key reference is the Gates of Hell (1880-1917) by Auguste Rodin, with motifs from the descriptions of Purgatory in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy and influenced by the style in Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil: The first monumental rendering of passions and a realistic, non-idealist description of the life of ordinary people. On the four sides of the sliding door one may see representations of the main themes – conflict, desire, nature and language, drawing on the claims made by the most perilous part of society in the course of time.

The order of the representations is structured as follows: Conflict on the front left side and language on the back; Desire on the front right side, and nature on the back. The style is affectedly barbaric with rigid, rough, unprocessed surfaces; with loans from the culture of woodcuts and a delirious aesthetics akin to the chaotic reality of the present day, it challenges the definition of the “Barbarian”.

The work also documents phrases, thoughts and literary fragments rejected by the mainstream discourse. The language, however, an element of enforcement in turn, gives way to a codification that cannot escape from its original grammar and syntax foundation. The invention of the codified font aims to transliterate without an explanatory purpose. It also alludes to the opulent and classified nature of the specific codes of the marginal – beyond the mainstream – languages (slang, guilds, thieves, etc.).