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Destroy Athens started with a bang October 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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The 1st Athens Biennial in Gazi aims to deconstruct the Athenian Dream

If you feel like destroying Athens these days, then why not visit the Municipality of Athens’ Technopolis in Gazi, where Destroy Athens, the 1st Athens Biennial of contemporary art, presents the work of around 60 international and Greek artists.

Among the exhibits you’ll find a rubbish tip, a Byzantine wall painting depicting violent Athenian riots, a life-size reconstruction of a Chicago prison cell, countless paintings of a glass of water, plus plenty of video art dealing with subjects such as the exploitation of the Acropolis and the feminine side of the evzone’s foustanella (traditional skirt). Works of two pioneers of modern art (Pablo Picasso and Nikos Kessanlis) have also been included.

Destroy Athens is a polemic show that breaks down Athenian stereotypes and the Athenian dream, still bathed in the golden light of the city’s ancient history. The curators of the show (Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, Augustine Zenakos and Poka-Yio) have organised it via a narrative that takes the form of six chapters, or days as they call them, ironically referring to God’s days of creation. And because they don’t want anyone to lose track of their curatorial vision, they make sure you don’t by adding dark tunnels leading from one exhibition space to another, thus guiding the visitor through the maze of art.

The First Day of the show effectively kicked off with a bang, the blasting of old buildings, as depicted in the video work Detonation Deutschland by Julian Rosefeldt and Piero Steinle. The Second Day is also an imaginatively curated section of the show that probably has the most to say about the whole subject of Athens. It includes Yiannis Savvidis’ alternative city plans for the metropolis and other dynamic statements on the city via the works of Eva Stefani, Bernhard Willhelm, Stelios Faitakis, Nikos Kessanlis and Pablo Picasso, among others.

Eva Stefani’s video work Acropolis combines archival material depicting the Acropolis’ various visitors with other images, including some pornography, in order to create a sort of personification of the Acropolis as a prostitute with many suitors. The artist, whose work caused a stir at Art Athina this year, and was banned because of its combination of the Greek National Anthem with hard-core pornographic material, strikes back here with a much more intricate creation.

On a lighter note, Bernhard Willhelm’s video work The Rose playfully explores the more contemporary associations that could be made with the evzone’s uniform, while also tapping into issues of gender and race. Part of the work involves a black dancer, dressed as an evzone, who is being taught to walk like an evzone. The dancer later lets loose and does his own moves, which involve squashing some chocolate and cream cakes.

Stelios Faitakis’ awe-inspiring wall painting Socrates Drinks the Conium, in which the artist has adopted Byzantine iconographic techniques in order to depict modern day scenes of violence and the evils of today’s world, has been contrasted effectively with a small but ever so significant work by Pablo Picasso entitled Parthenon, on loan from a private collection. In the former, the anarchic communists have managed to place their flag on the Acropolis, while in the latter, Picasso has placed a flag symbolising peace, blue with a white dove, on the ancient rock. The work by Picasso has an interesting story attached to it: he created this work so that it could be printed on postcards and the funds from the sales of the postcards would be used to support the liberation of Manolis Glezos from prison.

In the Third Day, you’ll come across the amusing travels of artist Olaf Breuning in the video work Home II, while the Fourth Day includes a world of chaos and creation, accompanied by dance music, conjured up in the walk-in installation by the Assume Vivid Astro Focus group. The exhibition’s Fifth Day includes the Kimberly Clark group’s rubbish tip, which is topped by a female mannequin holding a cross, while the Sixth Day presents, among other things, a prison cell by Temporary Services & Angelo, and ends with decay via the work The Lamb of God by Eleni Mylonas, a video work that depicts a bloated dead lamb floating in the sea, slowly decomposing and being nibbled by fish.

These are just some of the highlights of “Destroy Athens”, which runs until November 18. Parallel projects include exhibitions such as How to Endure, Young Athenians, film screenings, performances and live events.

The 1st Athens Biennial is showcased in a series of parallel exhibitions at Gazi’s Technopolis through to November 18, Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 10pm. For more information, visit www.athensbiennial.org

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