Critic’s Guide: Athens

Ahead of documenta 14 opening in the city this week, a guide to the other shows and projects happening around town

BY Maria Nicolacopoulou in Critic's Guides | 04 APR 17

Ali Kazma, Safe, 2016, HD video still. Courtesy: the artist and Qbox, Athens 

Ali Kazma, ‘Safe Home’
Qbox Gallery
Opening: Tuesday 4 April
Runs: 5 April – 20 May, 2017

A fail-safe vault housing global food crops for a post-apocalyptic global wipeout, a Turkish female prison and an artist’s home are the sites featured in Ali Kazma’s three short films – Safe (2016); Prison (2013); Home (2015) – comprising his exhibition at Qbox gallery. Through a meditative approach using silent continuous shots, Kazma explores this diversity of spaces, void of human presence, that dictate internal and external boundaries of existence. Kazma’s poetic viewpoint takes us from the isolated and uninhabited underground structure on an island that is part of the Svalbard archipelago, to an operational prison’s impervious building to the interior of a museum-like home, revealing stage by stage the secret realities different spaces take on in relation to global circumstances, social relations and the self. 

Drawing by Michael Landy, based on a painting sent to NEON by a member of the public for ‘BREAKING NEWS-ATHENS’, 2017. Courtesy NEON; photograph © Stefanos Giannoulis

Organized by the Neon Foundation at Diplarios School
30 March – 11 June, 2017

‘From the people to the people’ is the motto behind this Neon Foundation’s four-month exhibition at Diplarios School in central Athens. On the fourth floor of this imposing historical building, Michael Landy, with help from local students and artists, is appropriating slogans, quotes and graffiti he receives in the form of photograph submissions (the open call began 14 February and lasts till 26 May) from the local public, turning them into paintings and drawings which he is positioning throughout the building’s myriad rooms. From religious to political and satirical catchphrases, aphorisms or sketches, the true, and sometimes hidden, voice of the city comes to light, activating numerous links, layers and juxtapositions. Due to the process-based and in-situ nature of the project, visitors will be able to witness it as it develops, while the converted drawings on display will be returned to their contributors after the show.

Panos Tsagaris, Your soul is the link between the mortal life and the divine spark, 2016, gold leaf, acrylic paint and silkscreen on canvas, 2 x 1.5 m. Courtesy: the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Athens/Thessaloniki 

‘Perished Sun’
Kalfayan Galleries
31 March  6 May, 2017

‘Perished Sun’ is a three-person show by Greek artists Yiannis Papadopoulos, Panos Tsagaris and Kostis Velonis. At its core is an overarching reconfiguration of various systems of knowledge – scientific, spiritual or social – towards a ‘suprematist contructivism’ which questions the pre-existing order of things. Papadopoulos’ mathematical background allows him to recalculate universal coordinates, in a poetic exploration of alternative systems and interpretations of the world’s order, for example, in his drawing of the world map according to 6th century traveller, Cosmas Indicopleustes. Velonis’ crafty architectural objects, succumbing to the darkness of the show’s title, subvert their cultural potential by allowing their form and matter to speak about the void associated with utopian expectations. Tsagaris’ multi-layered silkscreens on canvas, on the other hand, offer an optimistic alternative, by positioning materiality against spiritual awareness, transcending the questioning of perceived knowledge towards a higher state of consciousness.

Facade of Radio Athènes with BLESS musicurtain

‘All: Collected Voices’
Radio Athènes – in collaboration with the Goethe Institut
Opening: Thursday 6 April
Runs: 6 April 
 30 June 2017
First session: Friday, April 8 at 7pm

A table and chairs, a mixer, a sampler and microphones is the stage to which the voice of the city is called by Radio Athènes’s founder Helena Papadopoulos and collaborating curator Thomas Boutoux to comment on the artistic traffic in Athens this spring and summer. A small non-profit space, with a diverse programme, the space uses its original eponymous radio format to start a conversation with the public about the city’s vibrant creative scene. Whether an interview, a reading, a conversation or a sound piece, planned or impromptu, this discursive event will produce an archive of recordings available to listen to, on Stuart Bailey and David Reinfurt’s newly-built website dedicated to the project:

Maria Kriara, Per Aspera Ad Astra (Through Hardships To The Stars), 2017, silkscreen print on paper, 50 x 65 cm. Courtesy: CAN Gallery, Athens 

Maria Kriara, ‘Pawnshop’
CAN Gallery
31 March – 27 May, 2017

‘Pawnshop’ explores the narrative value of items stripped of their historical, cultural and social identities. Through a series of familiar texts, ephemera, images and sound removed from their original context, the viewer is called upon to revise familiar connotations and memories of the recent past and to consider a new and updated dialogue. Kriara, with a background in architecture, provides the stage for a multi-layered exploration of suggestive terms and ideas which might shape an alternative and broader historical context. For example the audio sent with the Voyager spaceship is heard throughout, recontextualizing the visual imagery, while a series of black and white print-like drawings can be found opposite suggestive quotes, alluding to ideas like: ‘We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and the strange’, a phrase which encapsulates the core of the show.

Rallou Panagiotou, One Piece on Erik (Off_Shore), 2017, aluminium, Volkswagen car paint, Ikea Erik drawer, 197 x 51 x 41 cm. Courtesy: Bernier / Eliades Gallery, Athens

Rallou Panagiotou, ‘Incorporeal Bundles’
Bernier/Eliadis Gallery
29 March – 4 May

In ‘Incorporeal Bundles’, Rallou Panagiotou’s playful pop commentary manifests itself in an array of appropriated personal and intimate objects, positioning materiality in a conversation with their more familiar designation as commodities. Items with a corporeal and finite existence, such as a chipped lipstick or pieces of a broken watch, are adaptated into marble and metal. Frozen in time they subvert notions of finality and the fleeting habits of the everyday. Passing gestures of body-related actions, such as manicured nails, are anchored in matter and turned into heirlooms, challenging any expected exchange value associated with their otherwise common market use.

Openings and other shows to see:

• Currently on view at the Benaki Museum, Pireas Street Annex, ‘Paratoxic Paradoxes’, sees Post-internet aesthetics meet the politics of ecology in an elaborate production of thematically commissioned video works by an international roster of predominantly female artists (23 March – 21 May, 2017).

Future Climates, a platform founded by curators Antonia Alampi and iLiana Fokianaki addressing the precarious conditions of individual workers and small-scale cultural institutions, launches at State of Concept with ‘The School of Redistribution’, a three-month long exhibition, research and discursive public programme (27 March - 26 June, 2017).

Wednesday 5 April

The DESTE prize anniversary exhibition at the Cycladic Museum of Art  also opens this evening, showcasing works by the nine recipients of the prize from 1999 to 2015: Loukia Alavanou, Anastasia Douka, Eirene Efstathiou, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Maria Papadimitriou, Angelo Plessas, Georgia Sagri, Kostas Sahpazis and Panayota Tzamourani.
Gagosian Athens (3 Merlin Street) opens its show ‘Rosy-Fingered Dawn’, a correspondence between Douglas Gordon and Lawrence Weiner
Pane per Poveri, an iterant art project founded in 2013 by Eleonora Meoni, Stefania Palumbo and Viron Erol Vert, opens its third installment at the Latraac skatepark in the Keramikos neighbourhood of the city, for five days of performances, music and interventions at Latraac and for evening performances at the Boiler bar on Vlachava 9.

Thursday 6 April

• Palais de Tokyo has produced an off-site interdisciplinary exhibition ‘Prec(ar)ious Collectives’ at Pavillon Neuflize OBC, 23 Akadimias Street, which sees the six visual artists currently on its residency programme collaborate with eight contemporary Greek choreographers.
• At Rebecca Camhi (in collaboration with London’s Sadie Coles HQ) is the first solo exhibition in Athens, by LA-based artist Shannon Ebner bringing together her video A Public Character (2015) alongside a series of works from her ongoing photographic series ‘Black Box Collision A’.
• Zoë Paul’s tea room opens at 11pm at The Breeder, together with the alchemy-induced 21-artist group show ‘Si Sedes Non Is’, curated by Milovan Farronato which runs till 4am.

Friday 7 April

• At the Municipal Gallery of Athens is the Hans Ulrich Obrist-curated Maria Lassnig solo exhibition, the last show the artist was able to personally plan before her death in 2014, and one that reflects the artist’s relationship to classical antiquity, mythology and the Greek landscape.

Saturday 8 April

• Finally, opening on Saturday is a project by Oscar Tuazon at Radio Athènes. The artist will place a fire-burning outdoor chimney on the street ‘for people to sit around and talk, read and tell stories.’

For more current exhibitions in Athens visit On View

Main image: Michael Landy, ‘BREAKING NEWS – ATHENS’, installation view, Diplarios School, Athens. Courtesy NEON; photograph: © Stefanos Giannoulis 

Maria Nicolacopoulou is an independent curator based in Athens, Greece.