CONCERNING ANGELS AND THE GAME OF DICE

Eighteen months after the first presentation of the project in Barcelona in June 2004, "Juego de Dados" will open in Porto Alegre on 1 December 2005. In these last months there have occurred two deaths which affect both myself and the project: that of my mother in Athens and of Jean Marie Lewigue, one of the eight "Dados artists" in Paris. But our energy as artists continues, our work travels across the ocean and our creative and intellectual energies combine once again to create new random associations for a new audience in Brazil. At the end of last year, I used my 12 images for the Dados project to make a calendar for 2005. It seemed appropriate not only because there was one image for each month, but also because the whole process of creating these images, the questions involved and the incidental pleasures of discovery, touched upon the subjects that most concern me: which are, that despite the pain and difficulty, the negative emotions and dark corners in our lives and the horrors of our world, there is a fragile beauty in the moment of living and a chance to redeem ourselves through art and poetry by keeping our consciousness and our consciences alive. After my motherĘs death in March I started to work on a series of powerful, life-size figures which I loosely describe as "Angels". These figures assert the materiality of the body but also suggest our links and aspirations towards the immaterial. When I started to draw the angels after Mother's death it was with the idea of the strength, vulnerability and fragility of the human—these apparent contradictions which make up what it is to "be human", but also of an energy that transcends the human, our aspirations and "intimations of immortality". This exploration is the essential rhythm that drives the creative act. It is the sub-text to the German poet, Rilke's Duino Elegies where the Angels provide a link between the material and immaterial and suggest our own potential for transformation and transcendence. So it seemed appropriate to include these Angels in my contribution to the book that we are presenting as a homage to Lewigue and which will be exhibited in Porto Alegre. The struggle with the Angel which I also depict (an idea which came to me from Delacroix's fresco of Jacob wrestling with the Angel), represents the struggle of man, and particularly the artist, to shape his existence and find his own way, and this also I wished to dedicate to Lewigue. Energy, creativity, transcendence, the fragile beauty of existence and how it is threatened by the "forces of darkness" which are present in all of us: this brings me back to "Juego de Dados" that game of 16 dice, 96 panels created by eight artists, with its infinite possibilities and combinations of ideas and images, and how this project has grown in significance since I first became associated with it. Javier Quintanilla's proposal to the eight artists involved in the project was for each of us to create 16 panels, 50cm x 50cm each, for two dice covering issues relating to the evils and injustices of our world: the condition of women, the exploitation of children, war, the environment, corruption, famine. As I started to work on the panels, I made my own creative and formal discoveries which affected the content of the work. There was the challenge of the square format and of the cube: the fact that I was producing two-dimensional work that would also be viewed in the context of the other sides of the cube and should be "readable" or of interest from all four sides, since the dice could land in any number of ways. This encouraged me to think of the relationship of one panel with the adjoining panel, as a series of connections, but also of the relationship of opposites: the panel that is the reverse of the other. It made me aware of ambiguity and ambivalence; how relative can be our notions of truth and justice, good and evil and this became the subject matter of my work. To merely describe evils as we see them or protest against them seemed to me too simplistic. I wanted to facilitate the shifts in the viewerĘs perception that are made possible by the cube form of the dice. So, in one panel I have drawn figures with negative words "raining down" upon them (hate, shame, fear, envy, deceit, etc.) and when the cube is turned over there is an image of flowers with positive words radiating out like a starry constellation (laughter, joy, dialogue, compassion, etc.). But in another panel a woman covers her face with her hands and the words scratched into the red and black darkness around her are mixed and perhaps confusing as they are not just "good" or "bad" (terror, intolerance, suspicion, war, god, democracy, peace, love, justice) - how many wars have been waged in the name of god, peace, justice and love? We must all examine our consciences and our history. We run around in fear of the barbarians, the enemy common enemy that helps to create a group identity and yet we are all barbarians. In another panel I list some of the great poets of western culture, the foundations of our civilization, but in the centre is an image of Iraqi women armed to defend their country and around it I have written the words "Defending our Values" - each side fights for what it believes, but a small shift in perspective and you read the image from one side or the other. The point is that Art can raise questions and encourage dialogue and the Game of Dice can encourage, in a concrete form, this flexibility in modes of perception. The first presentation of Juego de Dados opened in Barcelona in June 2004 under the auspices of the Universal Forum of Cultures whose themes were Peace, Diversity and Sustainability. My own experience of working on the Dados project mirrored some of these issues with regard to diversity, language and communication. The 8 Dados artists are from different countries and use different languages so we have to find ways to communicate with each other. When a group of us met in Barcelona, French was the only common language, but at other times it is Spanish or English. Which not all of us speak. So at times communication through words is difficult and frustrating which means that images must be strong and communicative. Differences of language can create different perceptions and shades of meaning as the original is "lost in translation". One of the challenges of working on this project is to try to overcome these obstacles and to celebrate the "wealth of diversity" that our different languages, cultures and backgrounds bring to the project. After the opening of Juego de Dados in Barcelona, I began to think beyond the scope of my own contribution and began to discuss the "game" with people in England, Italy and Greece. I discussed different possible ways of experiencing the work or playing the game, seeing the dice as elements in a performance. This is what emerged: There is an attendant. An individual viewer enters the space and the dice are thrown by the attendant at that moment for that viewer. So the combination of dice that fall at that moment are that viewerĘs unique experience. She cannot and does not control the experience but she is given space to form her own conclusions. The randomness of the moment, the "juego aleatorio", is followed by the moment for reflection and interpretation. So there should be moments of activity followed by moments of silence. In order to be a game of dice it should be an individual experience for each viewer, where the particular throw of the dice offers her this chance to stop, examine, think. Each work, each die is of equal value and importance and deserves to be considered in its own right, so there should be no choice element in the process. The viewer must not be able to choose what she wants to look at or to create the combination that she wants. It is "fate/ destiny/ chance" that presents her with her own unique combination of dice and she must then study them and create meaning from them. In this way the different panels are considered in themselves and in relation to each other and meaning is multiplied. If the dice are just thrown around by different people all together, then it is not a game of dice but a game of throwing, like a ball game, or of construction like building with bricks.

Rea Stavropoulos, Florence, 30 October 2005