George Michelakakis, Visual Artist in ‘the Time of Death’


  • George Vassilacopoulos La Trobe University
  • Toula Nicolacopoulos


Ever since the association of “ways of seeing” visual images (Berger, 1972) with multiple interpretive processes bringing into play viewers’ own knowledge and beliefs, explorations of the figure of the artist as image-maker take place within discourses that seek to determine the role of the artist’s intentions, whether actual or ascribed, in the viewer’s interpretation of the meaning of an artwork with or without the aid of an “informed eye” (cf. Maes, 2010). Yet without returning to the idea that artworks contain inherent meaning, to something discoverable independently of particular artist/viewer relations to the artwork, the figure of the visual artist also has the potential to lead us back into a consideration of the fundamentals of a subject-world relation. In such a project one presupposes a certain under¬standing of the relationship of the artist, the artwork and viewer to their world and, in particular, to their historical era, an understanding that takes this relationship to be mutually informing in productive ways. In this paper and its sequel, “George Michelakakis, Art as Re-collecting Goya’s The Third of May”, we aim to explore this relationship by considering the meaning and significance for contemporary visual culture of a certain phenomenon broadly associated with the modern Western European historical trajectory which, having previously oriented itself in relation to a visionary future, now finds itself in the grips of what, borrowing from Picasso, we will be referring to as “the time of death”. Having first emerged with the retreat of French Revolutionary ideals during the late eighteenth and early nine-teenth centuries, by the late twentieth century the time of death has estab¬lished itself as a world-shaping force. We aim to illustrate the impact of this phenomenon on visual culture through a discussion of the artistic practice of the Greek-Australian visual artist, George Michelakakis.