(IM)MATERIAL GESTURES

A crucial question to ask is what happens when artists’ struggles at the years of financial crisis are entering the museum walls. Art and economic crisis has become a fashionable topic these days, much appreciated by a number of museums, institutions and foundations that have rushed to incorporate it in their programme, as part of their “struggle showcase vitrine” that tends to also include feminism or anti-colonial perspectives.

Assembling bodies in performances, public engagement projects, radical manifestos readings and community projects have been incorporated in most high-profile art institutions. The museum, in its perceived status of existence as public good, has always been a place where radical ideas found a place to flourish without avoiding at the same time the risks of institutionalization. Nonetheless, it is important to take a closer look at the terms under which these ideas are being incorporated. Is the material artwork simply replaced by the physical presence of the artist without challenging the subject-object relationship, adding other elements to be capitalised?

Politically sensitive works and immaterial performative actions have had a very important role as institutional critique pushing for important structural changes within the art world for decades now. Many artists and curators countenanced. However, the institutional turn of focus to immaterial and collective action that has occurred the last years, seems to coincide with financial considerations and management. Exhibitions of material artworks are expensive – insurance, transport, installation, artist fees– and the institutional program has to be renewed frequently to increase public reach and add up different audiences. Therefore, non-material projects are more “sustainable” and give more flexible solutions to programing.

Sustainability and flexibility, worlds used in the political/economic context the last years as a way to justify the dismantling of public education, health system, cultural sector and the basic income are nowhere close to the objective of this exhibition. In this project, we advocate a material exhibition pushing the institution to take responsibilities or to rethink its institutional character.

In a gesture like that none of the problematic terms are changed, nothing is solved. However, the complicated power relations become visible -as far as artist fees; and curators’ labour and the capitalizing of the crisis are concerned- and we attempt to give space for reflection on the role of the institution and its practices, the role of political art in normative institutional spaces, the conceptualization of the material and the immaterial, the object and the subject.

The present project is an exhibition within the framework of PIIGS_An Alternative Geography of Curating. Although the reason for this choice does not aim to endorse a traditional curatorial approach, the intention is to problematize both the material and the immaterial exhibition practices, showing their compatibility with the neoliberal objectives while they are incorporated in a museum program. At the same time we are dealing with them as a space of subversive politics and structural rupture, blurring their conceptual borders. The politics as display and the display as politics, tangible and literal.

Any idea of national bound or heroic narrative of defiance could only be critically approached by this exhibition. The answer to the neutralisation of radical political art in an institution context is the radicalization of poetics, of the slight and subtle artistic gesture that resists the patriarchal and the heroic manifestation. The antiheroic context, the resistance that is not a TV material, the melancholic irony and the failures are some of the aspects that the works of this exhibition are dealing with, constructing a space for political mindful investigation for another world in the horizon.

The selection of artworks in this exhibition focuses on social and political aspects articulating discourses in a critical, poetic, humorous and often satirical way. The exhibition aims to create a field which explores aspects of the “crisis”, in Greece and abroad, but expands beyond a crisis framework. The artists negotiate notions of power, subversion, independence and interdependence through different practices. The choices of artists and works are based on their conceptual, gestural and material approaches in challenging predetermined limits and established systems of perception.

(IM)MATERIAL GESTURES can be separated in two parts. Part one consists of an exhibition that will stay on for the duration of PIIGS_An Alternative Geography of Curating and is composed of works by Kostas Bassanos, Sofia Dona, Zoe Hatziyannaki, Anna Laskari, Pavlos Nikolakopoulos, Theo Prodromidis, Kostas Roussakis and Paky Vlassopoulou. The second part features a selection of video works by Loukia Alavanou, Sofia Dona, George Drivas, Anna Laskari, Orestis Mavroudis and Eva Stefani which will be screened as part of the public programs.

List of Artworks

Loukia Alavanou

The Hunter, single screen HD video with sound
running time: 8 mins
Courtesy the artist

The Hunter is a collage-like film composed of disparate material relating to the recurrent emergence of gold in times of Depression, as both a symbol and commodity. The departure point for the film is the recent events in the Cassandra gold mines in Northern Greece, which have caused much controversy, with the local population resisting the mine’s non transparent sale by the state and its long-term environmental destruction. On the other hand, gold as an obscure object of desire is appearing in all sorts of forms in crises-laden Greece.

The film makes an allegory between the surface of a gold mine and the surface of cinematic images through an associative montage structure that assembles the artist’s filmed sequences of ‘cuttings’ and ‘crushing’ in the Cassandra Mines and interweaves them with found footage fragments. Sound is used as a unifier, simultaneously creating a flow between the disparate images and a Brechtian Verfremdungseffect. Parts from film dialogues are being dubbed by the artist’s voice and re-assembled with other constructed sounds, creating a layered soundtrack. Using her voice like a ventriloquist or puppeteer becomes both a way of ‘possessing’ the found film fragments and of ‘making strange’.

Kostas Bassanos

Shifting More, 2012, A3 paper, ink, 46 x 42 x 42 cm
Courtesy the artist

Kostas Bassanos uses materials, usually of industrial mass production, as autonomous sculptural forms and minimally intervenes on them to reconfigure them conceptually. Shifting More questions settled limits and relationships by shifting the pages of Thomas More’s Utopia. The work focuses on displacement and the quest of balance through the negotiation of opposing forces; it alludes to the multiple interpretations and uses of the notion of utopia, to the shifts in reality that utopia presupposes.

Sofia Dona

Capital Control I, 2016, glass, metal and coins, 78 x 78 x 45 cm
Courtesy the artist

Capital Control I is made out of four hundred and twenty coins. This number is equivalent to the maximum amount that can be withdrawn in Greece (per week), due to the capital control regulations that first started to operate in the summer of 2015. Capital Control I attempts to connect this very specific restriction and, therefore, the lack of wealth, with Greek traditional handcrafts such as the decorative “semedaki”. A decorative table cloth that women used to make and was also used as dowry for their daughters or granddaughters. Dona is playing with the notions of the domestic, the decorative and the political. She is reflecting on the construction and the deconstruction of value in the current economic system and makes a connection between the economic power games and the turn to tradition and nationalism taking a playful and sarcastic stance.

Sofia Dona

Twinning Towns: Leipzig-Detroit, 2010, video
running time: 4:05 mins
Courtesy the artist

This video forms part of a broader project based on the concept of “town twinning” (sister cities), where towns or cities in geographically and politically distinct areas are paired. The “twin towns” concept was applied to the cities of Leipzig and Detroit, focusing on issues of urban shrinkage, abandonment and potentiality.

The project consists of a split video, where two trombone players perform in two abandoned swimming pools, one in Leipzig and the other in Detroit, in such a way that the music of both trombone players creates a unified composition. The sounds made by each musician activate the space for a specific period of time – the minutes during which they play. The empty volumes of the building amplify and multiply the sounds played by each musician, and the tones are distorted by the architectural elements. The image of each musician playing alone in an empty building is reevaluated the moment the two videos are projected together to create an image of two brass players composing together, two buildings in a dialogue, two distance places that connected through sound and image.

George Drivas

Sequence Error, 2011, video
running time: 11 mins
Courtesy the artist

In Computer Science, it is an error that arises when the arrangement of items in a set, does not follow some specified order. Sequence Error is inspired by the well known Karl Marx quote, “History repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce”, and re-uses parts of two famous speeches of the 20th century delivered by Che Guevara (1963) and George Marshal (1947). In a contemporary corporate environment and on the occasion of a sudden system crisis, two leaders of two different groups (workers vs. executives) deliver some parts of the two aforementioned speeches.

Zoe Hatziyannaki

After the End, 2014 – ongoing, inkjet prints on phototex, dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist

We are not in the world, we become with the world; we become by contemplating it. Everything is vision, becoming. We become universes. Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero.
Deleuze G. and Guattari F. What is Philosophy? London, Verso (1994, p.169)

After the End reflects on the relations between society, technology, nature and the dystopian scenarios that largely surround them today. It attempts, at the same time, to suggest the notion of movement and transition and the importance of passage, as a means of reinventing ourselves and our futures within the world.

Anna Lascari

Left of the Parthenon, 2015, 3D animation
running time: 2 mins
Courtesy the artist

Left of the Parthenon demonstrates an anxiety, the cries for help, the alarming efforts to find a way to escape, and after a long struggle to overcome fear, it leads to a revolt for freedom. The setting of the animation is in the commercial area of downtown Athens, which is mostly deserted at nights and on the weekends. A cat is locked outside a narrow balcony on the first floor office of a commercial building when the office is closed. We observe the cat’s desperate efforts to attract attention as if there were someone inside the office. We watch her nervously and endlessly pace on the balcony, while picking up her pace in repeated movements to calculate a possible jump on the street. We hear her constant, distressed meowing as she searches for someone to help her. Finally, we witness a vicious attack, which, nevertheless, drives to a miraculous escape.

Anna Lascari

Barrier, 2013, neon and plexiglas, 160 x 120 x 34 cm
Courtesy the artist

Barrier, as stated by Daphne Dragona, comments on a moment of a transition period, an interregnum, a crisis where the ‘old’ just collapsed and the ‘new’, the upcoming may not even be conceived. In such a crisis – as was written by Gramsci – many morbid symptoms appear. But at the same time, it is in this exact gap, in the transition point that the potential for reorganization and radical structural reconstruction becomes imaginable. Barrier is a comment on the modern Athens and its inhabitants, on a metropolis confronted with recession and its contested futurity. The unfamiliarity, uncertainty and anguish that the work exudes is inevitably resulting from the interval as the new “public”, which will be able to rally the crowd, has not yet been found. Barrier stands lying on the ground, its function suspended, illuminating and transparent. What is supposed to be solid and dominating is challenged by the artistic practice and becomes fragile, delicate and transparent. The symbolic fragility in a feminist context points to a political action that distances itself from the “heroic” male-gaze targeting towards a utopian but very tactile futurity.

Orestis Mavroudis

Attempt to Fly, 2013, HD video, colour, sound
running time: 4:50 mins
Courtesy the artist

Attempt to Fly presents a man, in his dark lab, building a paradoxical flying machine. Eventually, he goes to the mountain in order to test the potential of his construction. The end leaves the viewer questioning the success or failure of the man’s effort. This attempt can be seen as a parallel to current social, political and financial conditions and, consequently, result in a mixture of optimistic and pessimistic feelings.

Pavlos Nikolakopoulos

Silent peace, Credibile quia ineptum,certum quia impossible!*, 2016, inox and industrial paint, 210 x 110 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Analix Forever, Genève

Silent Peace is an installation consisting of twenty-three stainless steel blades slightly variant in the shape and length addresses the issues of resistance and violence arguing towards a positive rethinking on its political possibilities. The artist argues that the confrontational element is what could lead to effective critical stance and eventually to a different vision of the future beyond the dominant narratives, the supremacy of the economic sphere, the progress narrative and the obsession with safety in biopolitical terms. The ironic title of the work Silent peace is a politically alert oxymoron. The two confronting words overlap each other’s meanings. There can be no silent peace; silence reigns in non-peaceful totalitarian regimes or the burial ground while peace exists in noise, being based on constant frictions, dissensions, nonconformities. The subtitle Credibile quia ineptum,certum quia impossible!* refers to Vladimir Jankelevich’s rereading of the well-known Tertullian statement, meaning “It is by all means to be believed because absurd, for this is certain because it is impossible”.

Theo Prodromidis

Element for the Support of New Structures, 2014, bronze, 38 items (each: 13 x 13 x 13 cm)
Courtesy the artist

&
Goodbye…etc, 2013, handbound book, 108 pages, 16 items (each : 22 x 16 x 1,5 cm)
Courtesy the artist

Katerina Gregos writes on Goodbye…etc and Element For The Support Of New Structures: Dadaist Tristan Tzara devised a method to create poems by pulling words out of a hat. Applying this method, Theo Prodromidis “wrote” a book of 108 pages, with 524 sentences, composed of words taken at randomly from 524 different books and magazines, which were sent to him on a general call for printed matter that had to be relevant and important for the political discourse of the left. Books included seminal texts like Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867), Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) as well as more contemporary texts like Alain Badiou’s The Communist Hypothesis (2008). The content of the book was put together during two eight hour performances at Kunsthalle Athena in 2011, carried out by Prodromidis together with the actress Angeliki Papoulia. The duration of the performance determined the print run of the book: 16 copies. The performance and the resulting book present a method to formulate a re-reading as well as a critique of political language and seminal leftist discourse and to deal in a playful way with formal, social and historical issues. Element for the support of new structures is a bronze wall sculpture, serving as a kind of bookshelf for the 16 hand-bound books.

Eva Stefani

ATHENE, 1995, video
running time: 37:29 mins
Courtesy the artist

The movie ATHENE documents the life of the train station ‘Larissis’ in Athens during the spring of 1995. The focus is on the “permanent residents” of the station, Antonia, Floraki and Yorgos.  

Kostas Roussakis

And I will show you where the Iron Crosses Grow, slides, slide viewers, fluorecent lamp and wood, 60 x 40 x 15 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Elika Gallery, Athens

Kostas Roussakis constructs an image of crisis challenging the very notion. The playful character of the view-master and its support seem to originate from childhood while the stereoscopic image introduces a multi-layered landscape including many spaces and images, shaping an ambiguous territory, a no man’s land. His work And I will show you where the Iron Crosses Grow – borrowing its title from a line of Sam Peckinpah’s war film The Cross of Iron – composes a viewing mechanism confronting different, parallel, complementing or conflicting realities and possibilities.

Paky Vlassopoulou

Pos to trivoun to piperi, 2012, wood, leather and print, dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist

Pos to trivoun to piperi (meaning: How to grind pepper) is a folk song of the carnival using vulgar and sexually explicit language relevant to the excess, orgy and subversion that characterize the celebration. Paky Vlassopoulou combines the song’s verses with a hybrid object: a half shepherd’s crook and half lather lash sculpture. The work reflects humorously on liberties and restrictions, primal instincts and social behavior, sadistic or masochistic impulses and power relationships.

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