CM: History rather fixes the boundaries of things and situations. To arrive at the truth, however, the historian is often required to pass through falsehood. When Harris Kondosphyris visited Sifnos Island, he found that the locals created a romantic picture of the history of the island and themselves, which is forms part of traditon, but was nevertheless untrue without any foundation. They claimed and insisted that Sifnos had a long and uninterrupted history of ceramic tradition with roots in antiquity. His love and concern for the famous Sifniot pottery, prompted Kondosphyris to conduct an investigation based on the remarkable 'Sifniaka' periodical. There he discovered the true story of Sifnos - that the island's culture and economy peaked during the period of the Greek Enlightenment.
In the beginning of the 17th century Sifnos Island became an important commercial center of the Cyclades. At that time, a dynamic personality emerged - the wealthy merchant and Commissioner of Sifnos Vassilios Logothetis (1587-1659), who affected and elevated the political, financial, religious and intellectual course of the island. He supported the economic progress of Sifnos to become a financial center of the Cyclades with a leading role in the fields of local authority, land cultivation, shipping, and commerce. Significant was his contribution in the island's cultural life, by financing and founding the monastery for monks of Panagia Vrissiani (f. 1642), which became a great monastic and religious center. Logothetis was very devout and persuaded his fellow citizens to build places of worship; which partly explains why there are some 365 churches on the island!
Logothetis was to become rich. He was known to purchase from Maltese pirates both loot and prisoners. He filled the ships with goods (pottery, leather, and textiles) and sent them everywhere in the Mediterranean, as far as Marseilles and Morocco. The deeper his involvement with trade the more he realized the necessity to develop diplomacy. This discovery inspired him to develop a bureaucratic network with leaders of the Mediterranean - the Pope, the Doge, the Sultan, and the Kings. By improving schools he raised the educational level of Sifnos resulting in the spread of Siphnian representatives across the Mediterranean. The influence of Logothetis was powerful in all fields - education, politics and trade. Logothetis is chiefly responsible for the flourishing of Sifniot pottery from the 17th century onwards, by urging Sifnians to take advantage their excellent stocks in clay and produce excellent pottery, with which to trade abroad. Logothetis was the model of the benefactor of the time.
Kondosphyris set himself the challenge to create an artwork in the honor of Logothetis. If lieu of a portrait of Logothetis either physiognomic or literary, Kondosphyris turned to period portraiture and began to create an arbitrary portrait of a bearded type with a suit and tie. With reference to the traditional habit in bygone days of loading waste in metal buckets, Kondosphyris represented Logothetis in an upright position holding a bucket loaded with the remains of history, just like the artist himself found the truth by looking in the remnants.
Kondosphyris set up The Kiln of History in 2001 in the active ceramic workshop of Antonis Atsonios at Vathy of Sifnos. At the heart of the kiln, where the clay was fired, he set up vertically the imaginary portrait of Logothetis scrapped on a mirror, his silhouette formed by sunlight from the back, as if illuminating the history of the Aegean. Between Logtheti's portrait and the viewer was an underground gap that was the point that supplied the kiln with fire. Thus the viewer witnessed history with the necessary spatial and temporal distance from the truth. On this surface's inviolability, separating the viewer from Logothetis, the artist placed horizontally mirror scrapped with the form of Sifnos and colored yellow-red to evoke a stump alight. At the exhibition's opening he lit real flames to reflect on the mirrors and extinguished them with water, thus symbolizing the alteration and restoration of history.
The Kiln of History refers to an unknown but valuable part of Aegean history, which survived through the historical chronicles published by Simos Simeonidis in 'Sifniaka', commented upon by Haris Kondosphyris with his installation at Vathy of Sifnos and finally found protection at The American College of Greece. In its present form the figure of Logothetis is on the wall-piece, and joins the floor-piece that represents Sifnos. The surfaces of the work continue to emit light, artificially in this instance. The viewers are reflected on the installation's mirrors thus becoming part of the - now indelible - Aegean secretive truth.
[Megakles Rogakos 04/2008]
ELENI FYLAKTOU / HARRIS KONTOSPHYRIS / MANOS KORNELAKIS Inflector: Harris Kondosphyris 2003 Futura Editions, Athens [Greek]
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Silent Dialogues: Multimedia Portraits throughout Time 2008 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens