Through the Roadblocks – Athens

bound: 1. A boundary, a limit. / 2.tied / 3. to leap forward or upward; spring

Under the multiple readings of the title, bound presents artists from the Balkan region. Given that the issue of ever-reforming identities is constantly present in the region – where historical, racial, political, gender, artistic, ontological terms are at stake – the exhibition explores the interrelationship of participants within this reality of continuous flux, their interaction with and their attitude towards it. Artists from different starting points and backgrounds and looking towards different directions, each one with his/ her own artistic language, negotiate issues of how to define and abolish limits, divisions and restrictions, in a direct and caustic manner.

In the video with painterly qualities of Jana Stojakovic Schizoid Dream of a Body, seduction and eroticism are the means in search of the ‘Other’ and discovery of the ego. The ‘one’ and the ‘other’ in the beginning in a physical distance, they smell each other like animals and explore their differences. Only channel of communication, proximity and finally acceptance proved to be the body, its distortions and the traction between the two bodies. The hamampool as heterotopia becomes an arena, a battleground and a bargaining field. The apparent moisture feeling of a ‘container’ emphasises the fluidity of the situation, of the bodies and sexes and finally of their very identities as a matrix-womb where everything is in a constant state of ‘being and becoming’.

In the works of M.Tadic and P.Ivanov we come across the metaphysics of ‘being and becoming’ as an attempt to communicate with the surrounded spacetime and wonder about who and where we are. In the stop-frame animation of Marko Tadic We used to call it moon an open fragmented narrative is created which takes us to unknown imaginary spaces or u-topos. Lines run on the paper creating landscapes and interiors, colour stains spread, sometimes erasing the previous images, sometimes transforming them. The moon-cycle bursts every now and then as a catalyst- doubles, multipliesdisrupting with its multiple presence the perception of each environment. The drawing is transformed and altered, reminding us that meanings are elusive, uncertain and in continuous flux and evolution. The only ‘certainty’ is the concept of drawing and structure as a way of understanding the world and this only for the moment that drawing is inscribed on the paper.

In the two minimalistic gestures interventions 3 Square Meters Cleaned Up and Minus One Cubic Meter, Plus One Cubic Meter, Pravdoliub Ivanov deals with what poetics of space could mean. The removing of layers of matter-dust from tiles of an old hamam (roman baths) and of soil from a courtyard in the historic city Plovdid respectively, reveals fragments of history, creates a new space in place and transfers space in time. It reconnects in this way pieces of an identity as history emerges at the surface and space, leading in turn to a new reading of the here and now.

Nemanja Nikolic in its stop animation Masterpiece focuses in history and its re-reading as well as the concept of authority – whether artistic or not-, through a fictional misreading. Hitler sees a horror to evolve in front of him and he paints flowers, a ‘still life’. The use of plasticine and mutilated dolls come in contradiction with the tragicomic cannibalistic ritual of skull’s fracture. Charged (overloaded) symbols – Hitler, dolls as an element of childhood’s innocence, the skull as a ‘hamlet’ is questioning for the value of existence, the ‘still life’ as part of the artistic tradition take part in a frenzy narrative full of black humour. The lust of power, the triumph of the darkest instincts or how ‘creation’ and commitment into an absurd dystopia can lead to nightmarish extremes.

The use and the reverse of symbols and of stereotypical references, the way images are manufactured and perceived and thus how identities are constructed are common links in the works of Em Kei & Nicolaich, Stela Vula and Fani Sofologi. The themes above as well as the transformation of materials in the work Untitled of Em Kei & Nicolaich, become part of a discontinued narrative, which questions the established way we perceive. A tableau vivant that stands critically and ironically against the exoticised myth of ‘Greek summer’. Objects constructed and found – and materials such as a printed coloured textile with black geometric shapes (a black door and black/grey circles), wood, a pool of black liquid that becomes mirror, a pedestal with stones, a decapitated female figure, with a ritualistic approach and due to their juxtaposition acquire multiple and ambiguous readings. Their existence, value, and their properties are shifted and weakened, whilst the ‘low’ becomes ‘high’ and gains metaphysical properties, the object of pleasure takes threatening dimensions and the ‘high’ is deconstructed with humour.

The flag, symbol par excellence of the differentiation from other states, becomes in the video Geometry and animals of Stela Vula the roadmap of a kaleidoscopic narrative. The digital process ends up showing the flags like mass-produced stickers, where their diversity is homogenised and everything is repeated endlessly. At the same time, however, since the passage from the one flag to the other is happening through national symbols-animals (and they are released from their emblematic role) the symbols return to a common place where the animistic, international, folk tradition more connects rather than separates nations. Maybe after all a common identity that unifies as well as divides us is the animalistic?

In the performance The illustrated history of everyday life of Fani Sofologi the cultural ‘encounter’ between two countries, Greece and Germany, with a contradictive relationship that unfolds through time, occurs through the presentation of posters with mundane matters that have been collected from the two countries. The semantics of everyday life, the power of image, the stereotypes and the prejudices in the way we perceive, the relationship between marketing and aesthetics are the elements that this performance deals with. The questions and dilemmas posed by the presenter-performer require the activation and the involvement of the viewers. Can she affect the public opinion? And who ultimately is her role? Is she rules or is she dominated by the audience? What is pseudo-dilemma and which is the truth every time is questioned and under negotiation.

The dilemmas posed by the western standard of living and homogenisation as a tool of exercising power are examined in the works of Dusica Drazic – Sam Hopkins and Vassilis Hatzopoulos. In the video performance Young Serbians Dusica Drazic and Sam Hopkins, with humour and sarcasm wonder about the value of the American dream. A woman in a rainy landscape without references a motorway anywhere in the contemporary Western world dances with the sound of Bowie’s Young Americans, a song criticism on the American dream. Everything which is moving is behind and away from her. A male voice in the chorus paraphrases and screams Young Serbians. The body is ‘cut’ in two from the line of the motorway while, due to the line, the body is integrated with the space. Is the song in the end the abandonment of the dream that she is not able to follow or a release from the compulsive desires that the Western dream imposed on her? The definitive answer is meaningless. Meaning has the active posture of the body of the performer who seems to enjoy and question.

The controversial object Chair ‘distance’ of Vassilis Hatzopoulos, where the basic functions of a chair and of a wheel come together and create tension between stillness and motion, questions the Western model of time. It urges us not to miss other walks and pleasure, but also it reminds us the lost time that is contained in any form of immobility. In search of the (or one amongst many) identity, the lost time could prove important and beneficial. The romantic notion of loss of time, where what we have lost is the time we haven’t invested in ‘walks’ and not in productive time: a challenge towards the mainstream contemporary western culture.

Another approach towards objects, their mode of production as well as their value is suggested by Philippos Gkountzos in his installation Without any error. Tools and objects of indeterminate identity and functionality, where raw materials (wood, iron, lead, bricks) coexist with readymade objects (pens, fibreglass, lexicon). Perhaps weapons, perhaps torture tools, eroticism or dysfunctional hybrids, which were altered by the time or somebody made a joke in order to strip them from clear/ describable properties. The ratios are not achieved and the error in their production process undermines the logical sequence ‘This is so as to fulfil (for) that purpose’. The rules are overturned and no one has the power, because no one obtains the means of production. We arrive at ground zero since we have to re-invent new ways to manipulate the ‘useless’ items. Let’s see again who is who.

Finally in the photo series Becoming blind of Ender Gelgec their tiny size and the way they focus on details of objects encourage a fresh way of looking at things. The closeness and the intimacy that was developed between the artist and the objects he photographed, can be found also in the relationship between the viewer and the work. Whether things are misrepresented or corrected through the photographic lens it is of a little importance. The little gestures that tend to ‘silence’, only ask some of the viewer’s attention and a slight shift in position-in the way that we see, listen, understand and approach.

ps. the exhibition bound demanded a lot of small shifts of positions and limits from all of its participants.

Participating artists

Pravdoliub Ivanov (Bulgaria), Nemanja Nikolic (Serbia), Marko Tadic (Croatia), Ender Gelcec (Turkey), Stela Vula (Albania), Dušica Dražić & Sam Hopkins (Serbia & Kenya), Jana Stojakovic (Serbia), Filippos Gountzos (Greece /Albania), Vasilis Hadzopoulos (Greece), Fani Sofologi (Greece), Em Kei & Nicolaich (Greece)

Curators: Sofia Touboura, Maria Lianou, Nana Sachini

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