"As far as I am concerned, there is real space (for instance, a room, a kitchen, a gallery) and the work, which is also a thing (a chair, for instance), a colour (such as blue), a relationship (for instance small/large, pleasant/repulsive), a treatment of the space i.e. reality (for instance, crumpling, destroying) and of those within it. The form, the dimensions and the content which I give to this work of art- if it is a work of art- is an attempt to make the viewer see everything I’ve already described from another point of view and from the very beginning, in such a way that our connection to the world and our position in it is constantly put to the test."
Vlassis Caniaris, "Autobiographische Notizen" 1975
It was within this context that Greek artist Vlassis Caniaris (*1928) created the works which were shown in Berlin in 1974 when the accomplished exhibition "Gastarbeiter- Fremdarbeiter" was presented. Caniaris developed this exhibition during a DAAD scholarship. In 1975/76 the exhibition toured to other German cities as well as London and Paris*. Caniaris, who had himself a few years previously fled Greece due to the military coup (1969), began to concern himself with the plight of the so-called "Gastarbeiter” or "Guestworkers" not least because he found himself to be in a similar situation. In this sense he concentrated specifically on the human aspect of the improvised and uncertertain life which was typical for the "Gastarbeiters" in Europe at the time: contrary to the claims of many peers, who expected from him a politically lucid artistic statment, perhaps in the style of a politicised Realism, he was more concerned with the question of how one can overcome the difficulties of everyday life.
On the one hand Caniaris’s figures and installations unmistakably attest to the "Gastarbeiter’s" social status with their focus on the poverty of used materials and the simplicity of their construction, on the other hand they are well conceived, highly crafted images. In these images there is both decision and negation, improvisation as permanent condition or the provisional as a result, in other words: the terms of perception and action under cirumstances in which one is deprived of control become an artistic theme.
*Galerie des 20. Jahrhunderts, Staatliche Museen Berlin; Heidelberger Kunstverein, Kunstverein Ingolstadt; Museum Bochum; International Center of Art (ICA), London; Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris.