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“Open Archive: Omonoia” as part of the 5th Athens Biennale

The Contemporary Greek Art Institute - iset presents the exhibition Open Archive: Omonoia at “Bageion”. iset showcases archival material from artworks and public space interventions at the wider Omonoia Square area. Omonoia Square is approached not only spatially, but also as a symbolic topos.

The Omonoia Square Archives include photos, videos, drawings, tests, correspondence and published articles. The exhibition features material from the public works of art commissioned for the square, and from artistic actions and performances that took place in the area from time to time. Serving as example, archival material relating to artworks by George Zongolopoulos Costas Varotsos, Costas Tsoclis, Vlassis Caniaris, Georgia Damopoulou - Demosthenes Avramidis and Nova Melancholia collective is presented. Material from the exhibition Printmaking-Painting-Sculpture 1985, also presented at the “Bageion”, is exhibited as well. The objective of the exhibition is to highlight forgotten or unimplemented ideas and actions, not by composing a grand narrative about the history of artistic production in the area, but by undermining the consistency of these linear narratives and by reminding that any attempt in that direction would produce a series of exclusions. The physical space of the archive, a negotiating field of the relationship with the past, becomes a space of ongoing dialogue.

The archive is not presented as an enclosed pattern, but on the contrary, a presentation open to change is proposed, one that enables organization and reorganization, restructuring, expansion, transformation and reflection.

Particular emphasis is given to ephemeral actions and community based projects. The exhibition explores the diverse historical, cultural, economic and political contexts within which these actions have been implemented in dialogue with the present time and the political and social situation. In this direction, iset will be showing the video works The New Kind by Georgia Sagri and Phony Utopia by Mary Zygouri.

The six-hour performance The New Kind (2003) by Georgia Sagri begins at the Varvakios Agora (Athens Central Market), and through Athinas Street it ends up at Omonoia Square. The video presented is made up by footage from the performance and is an autonomous artwork. Sagri in The New Kind focuses on new kinds of bio-political regulation of society. The liberal subject is being monitored, under relations of domination, subordination and discipline. The artist insists on the possibility of resistance and the shift from the dominant model, but also exposes the dissemination of power and the reproduction of its structures even in the context of this effort. The project, directly related to the area in which it was implemented and its human geography, appears as a prognostication of the present economic, political and social situation.

In her work Phony Utopia (2004), Mary Zygouri intrudes in the adult movie theater ‘Star’ in Omonoia. She operates on an almost verminous verge in an area accessible only to men, causing a destabilization of the limitations at hand. That area, designated as an action field of the "other", a space frequented by immigrants, gays, transgender people, is approached as an existent non-space, where we have alternative arrangements of social relations, but without negating all power relations. The female subject claims its position, in opposition to the female fetishism. The artist seems to tread the fine lines between desire and revulsion, fear and fascination, with these lines being always blurred. During the three month duration of the project, she works with the people of the cinema, undertakes cashier duties and accesses the movie theater archive. The action is completed with her playing the Kafkaesque heroine, Josephine, during a screening without an audience. The presence-absence relationships and the invisible power of the artist become part of the project. The subversive dynamics of the social and spatial conditions not falling in the ‘normal’ category are being explored, while the exclusions, limitations, norms and conditions of access to these places of ‘others’ are being traced.

Curator: Panos Giannikopoulos

Work Group - Research: Stella Angelidou, Christina Petkopoulou