Learning from South (as a State of Mind)

South as a State of Mind is a contemporary arts and culture magazine founded by Marina Fokidis in 2012, the fourth violent year of economic crisis. Fokidis launched the first issue two years after the foundation of Kunsthalle Athena, a flexible institution, close to the idea of the kunstverein, and interested in making contemporary art from Athens public.

South as a State of Mind has since become a platform, an “experiment to try to break the barriers of place through a magazine … and focuses on the concept and personality of the symbolic South.”
Rethinking the southern attitude means redefining new postures, new ways and ideas to conceive questions related to the identity of a nation-state. Since late 2015, South as a State of Mind has become the temporary official magazine of documenta 14. Four special issues will be published before the opening of the exhibition in Athens and Kassel in 2017; the diagonal that is connecting two poles, two seemingly contrary cities. Quinn Latimer, documenta 14’s Editor-in-Chief of Publications, and documenta 14 Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk are the editors of the current configuration of the magazine.

A History of South as a State of Mind and A Contemporary Reading is the panel that Michelangelo Corsaro, curatorial assistant, and Laura Preston, editorial assistant, of documenta 14 will present during PIIGS_An Alternative Geography of Curating.

For PIIGS_An Alternative Geography of Curating hosting South as a State of Mind brings awareness to a previous and ongoing attempt to use the concept of South as a site for possible emancipation. Reconsidering the premise of its identity, our concept of South tries to invert the cardinal points, to replace the reading coordinates, building a new legend for our planisphere. Learning from the South approach, PIIGS will start its three day research, exploring its self-knowledge, redrawing its code.

Bernardo Follini


A History of South as a State of Mind and A Contemporary Reading

South as a State of Mind was founded in 2012 by Marina Fokidis amidst the violent consequences of four consecutive years of economic crisis. The mission of the magazine then was to rethink literal and metaphorical notions of the South and to renegotiate the southern attitude, partly to define it and partly to invent it. European social, cultural, and political conditions had progressively worsen, exacerbating the division between North and South to a point in which these real and mental geographies had to be rethought. The first issue of South was launched in the heart of Athens to infilterate the prevailing culture with ideas that derive from southern mythologies such as the perfect climate, easy living, chaos, corruption, and the dramatic temperament, to name just a few. With an ironic as well as subversive disposition, South borrowed stereotypes of local and global Souths to touch upon notions of democracy, sovereignty, sense of belonging, and participation; these notions today seem to be undergoing major reforms subject to ideological forces that have engendered economic inequality, violence, and class war. From 2012 to 2015, the first five issues of South continuously redefined and rethought the metaphorical South in order to generate new ideas of political coexistence.

In its new, temporary role as the magazine of documenta 14, the sixth issue of South (the first of four guest issues) arrived one and a half years before the exhibition is scheduled to open, in Athens in April 2017, and in Kassel two months later. documenta 14 is being conceived as one exhibition comprising 163 days in a trajectory of two distinctive, partially overlapping timelines. As such, documenta 14 will encompass two locations that are emblematic of the extreme and polarized states of Europe, and perhaps the world at large. Since the first issue of documenta 14’s South, the course of political events shaping our future have become both nebulous and strangely all too predictable: the nation-states organised around the flows of capital keep self-adjusting their strategies to benefit the 1 percent and right-wing populism is only gaining traction, meanwhile the economic and social conditions in Greece have been deteriorating further still, as the nominally left-wing Greek government has implemented a string of austerity measures. South is one such situated response. Its contributions might be thought of as thinking tools that reveal ways out of suffocating passivity, and as unstable as the local (and global) conditions are and as uncertain its future, it reflects the exhibition’s intention to think in solidarity, with Germany and Greece conceived as simultaneously real and metaphorical sites where such thinking is urgently necessary. In this process, documenta 14 insists on “learning from Athens,” not from the cradle of Western civilisation but from a place where the contradictions of the contemporary world, embodied by loaded directionals like East and West, North and South, meet and clash. This discussion will be accompanied by a reading from the most recent issue.

Michelangelo Corsaro and Laura Preston

Michelangelo Corsaro first learned about South as a State of Mind while he was in London, during the autumn of 2012. Attracted by the spirit of Marina’s project, he began immediately working for the magazine until the passage to documenta 14 and for Kunsthalle Athena until 2015. During his path in Athens, Michelangelo followed several other projects in the Greek capital, starting to write for ArtReview from 2014. He curated exhibitions in Italy, Austria, Lithuania, Belgium, and Cyprus and was fellow curator at Art Space Pythagorion in Samos in 2013 and 2014. Michelangelo is currently working for documenta 14 as curatorial assistant.

Laura Preston comes to editorial work after the focus she placed on writing and research as a curator. She was the Curator-at-Large for Victoria University of Wellington’s art gallery, the Adam Art Gallery, from 2013–16, and Guest Curator at Portikus, Frankfurt am Main, in 2012. Prior to relocating the Europe she held the in-house curatorial position at the Adam Art Gallery for five years. Over the course of 2011, she codirected Alterations, a project space motivated by art and research developed within the condition of free time. She has written for several contemporary art journals including Artforum and Frieze. Laura researches with Sabeth Buchmann at the Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Currently, she works as editorial assistant for documenta 14.

South as a State of Mind #7 [documenta 14 #2],
Cover, June 2016, Photo: Rosa Maria Rühling / Εξώφυλλο, Ιούνιος 2016, Φωτό: Rosa Maria Rühling

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