Despina Sevasti: Greekness, the Photocopy Machine & the Pink Dinosaur

Thesis Advisor: Rachel O’Reilly 
Arnhem, June 2017


This thesis attempts to perform an associological working through of historical and contemporary versions of Greekness, both within Greece and internationally within what we call the Western world via a feminist perspective. Greekness is examined as an ideological and aesthetic apparatus using Agamben’s and Althusser’s work, and also as a fictitious origin drive, drawing on Moten and Harney’s comprehension of New World settler subjectivity. For the purpose of this thesis, I call this apparatus ‘The Photocopy Machine of Greekness’, looking in the ways it reproduces itself and co-produces a series of eugenised commonings, corporeities and architectures within the realm of a tableau vivant humanism. This machine illuminates their congealed interstices through Greekness as a corporeity (via the cult of statues) as a nurturing, cornucopian ideological vision of what is called the Western civilization: modern nationalism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, affective binds of debt (in relation the Greek debt crisis). 

To unweave this narrative I introduce and draw upon my performance persona of the Pink Dinosaur that I have already developed during my time at the Dutch Art Institute within my artistic practice, in order to query my entanglement with the ideology of Greekness as an artist, a former archaeologist and a art teacher. This figure of the artist-theorist, coming from multiple aesthetic educations, works from Athens in the midst of the crisis and in relation to the international political and artistic scene that has become attracted to Athens in the past few years due to this same crisis. I draw on what Berlant calls the “noise of attachment” and the “double-bind” concept of Spivak as a method to talk critically through and beyond my multiple institutional and vital entanglements. My research draws from theoretical work on the construction of Greekness in relationship to the Greek state, and at the core of modernist archaeology as articulated by the research of Greek archaeologists Hamilakis and Plantzos, but also brings in entanglements with lesser-known case studies and effects of this apparatus. Greekness is thus related to the repeating measure and construction of the perfectly human, struggling subject, a ‘perfect middle man’, and also to the continuity and rights of colonial settling, via the aestheticization of Greek symbology, especially in the USA. Here, Greekness is observed to be operative as a very ordinary and uncanny object/origin, at the same time that it functions as what Sianne Ngai calls a “visceral abstraction”, driven by capitalistic, colonial and continuously normative affects. My thesis stages an engagement with an active theoretical and artistically lived refusal of this machine.