CM: Andreas Varotsos, creator of the 2004 Olympic Games Torch talks to Simela Pantzartzi of Athens News Agency.
SP - What was your inspiration for creating the 2004 Olympic Games Torch?
AV - The Torch, even though it is an object with small dimensions, is de facto charged with many meanings which primarily relate to world culture. Moreover, it had to contain all those elements which characterise modern Greek culture. My objective was to find the cultural stratification necessary in this case which would lead me a design proposal representing modern Greece.
SP - Which element of the Torch, in your opinion, highlights its ‘Greekness’?
AV - Apart from the formalist and semantic reference to the olive leaves, my objective was to stress an element of Greek culture which was born on this land and which has influenced world culture, which is none other than harmony. You know, the harmony between man’s activities and nature has been forgotten as a concept. I believe these values should be appreciated again today.
SP - A harmony which is highlighted by its design, the pleasant meld of modern Greece with tradition. In truth, were you ever tempted to design a torch which strongly reminds one of antiquity?
AV - You know, whenever modern culture, and in particular western culture, was in some crisis it either looked to the orient or to its own deeper roots, which is ancient Greek culture. That is how outlooks such as Neoclassicism arose. However, I believe that it is wrong to copy our forefathers. On the contrary, we ought to imitate them in substance, observing their stance towards the act of creation. I am more interested in the behaviour of the ancient Greeks, which led to something real, regardless of the formalistic results. Today we are obliged as a culture to search for our true cultural essence, which should be part of our finding our place in history.
SP - In the end, what do you believe the Greek Torch symbolises?
AV - I think that the Torch symbolises the immense effort of all Greek designers, like me, as well as architects and artists to build up a modern Greek outlook which springs from the ‘very core’ of Greek culture, with the aim of offering something to the international community as active members of that community.
SP - Shall we turn to its technical characteristics?
AV - Its technical characteristics have a direct relationship with formalism. The flame had to come out from the middle; it had to be the harmonious result of the osmosis of the two materials of which it is comprised: wood and metal. We industrial designers always have two elements to struggle with in creative terms: the harmonious union of functionality with formalistic perfection. Moreover, the fact that our object will be produced by industry is a factor which determines many parameters in the design.
SP - Did the fact that it will be the first Torch to travel to all five continents require some additional technical considerations in its manufacture?
AV - The Torch will be exposed to climate conditions ranging from –6?C to +45?C and that was an additional challenge. However, what is important is that it will be the first Torch to travel to all five continents, a fact which gives it a magical dimension, which makes you think that perhaps the path will open up for modern Greece to generate culture, to acquire the position it deserves among the five continents.
SP - For how long can the specific Torch remain lit?
AV - Technically speaking, 20 minutes. However, I hope that the message carried by the Torch, a message of peace, love and solidarity among peoples, will remain alight for ever.
SP - An olive leaf design crafted out of wood and magnesium was unveiled as the torch for the 2004 Athens Olympics on Wednesday. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge and chief 2004 organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki presented the torch.
AV - The three views of the Athens 2004 Torch show the mix of materials in an abstract representation of an olive leaf.