It would be an oversimplification to introduce Joulia Strauss to you as a Russian visual artist who lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Joulia is a Mari, from the Mari El Republic located in the eastern part of the East European plain of the Russian Federation, along the Volga River, right where the Ural Mountains begin. This small community of approximately 600,000 people has a rich tradition in the performing arts, and Joulia grew up in the middle of this, with two of her family members at the helm of the Mari National Theater in Yoshkar-Ola.
She got an admirable start in the art world by studying at the Platonic New Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg (founded in 1989), alongside artist and founder Timur Petrovich Novikov. This evolved into the Neo-Academism art movement in the 1990s. In my discussion with Joulia, you’ll see how she entered into the exclusively all-male New Academy, finding herself at the heart of the intellectual elite and queer culture of St. Petersburg at the time.
Classically trained as a sculptor, she creates works reminiscent of an antique and neo-classical idealism, always aiming for harmony, perfection, and beauty with a contemporary twist. She continued to be a member of Neo-Academism when she decided to pursue a fine arts degree at the University of Berlin. Being a skilled craftsman on her own, Joulia soon became fascinated with technology, science, and mathematics. By finding a lot of her answers in science (with the help of prominent thinkers in Berlin), her work began achieving the rigor for which she strove. She founded an artist-run space called art_science for gatherings of critics, scientists, artists, philosophers, in order to enable vital exchange outside of their own networks.
Joulia is highly politicized and conscious of the changes our society is undergoing. The sight of last December’s riots in Greece all over the media literally shook her. Joulia’s deep love and appreciation for ancient and contemporary Greece inspired her to come to Athens on a residency at MYLIVINGROOM in Metaxourgio, to observe and begin decoding the active role of artists in contemporary Greece.
Having taken September off, I am very pleased to return to my column and to you with this Joulia Strauss interview.
Four years ago, when using Google Earth satellites to zoom in on the roofs of our homes was all the rage, I was living in a Hudson River hamlet about an hour north of the city. In my one attempt to join the fun, my search resulted in aerial images depicting my regional topography as a massive black hole—the result of two military complexes and a nuclear power plant just down river. These facilities were not hidden in underground bunkers. Residents were not sworn to secrecy. Yet, national security did not permit me a peek behind the camouflage curtain. Certainly, virtual globes were not readily available in the mid-1970s, but if they had been, Lisi Raskin would have spent her childhood in a hefty Google Earth blank spot; she grew up a few miles from the Miami’s Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. Couple this with a memorable viewing of the post-apocalyptic made-for-TV movie, The Day After (1983), that imagined the cold war degenerating in full-scale nuclear holocaust and has fueled her artistic exploration of the military-industrial complex.
Over the past five years, Lisi has toured various facilities constructed throughout the Atomic Age. She spent six months as a resident artist at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies rolling through places like the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona; Wendover Air Force Base in Utah; and the Nevada Test Sites in Las Vegas. Her engagement with the American frontier centers not on the lore of Manifest Destiny, but rather on a gloomy retelling of militaristic homesteading and recognition of unfortunate people who lived “downwind” of the radiation.
In this summer’s Athens Biennale, in the cavernous Esplanade Building built to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, Raskin cleverly depicts a disheartening scene. Her 18-foot-wide Wildlife Refuge (2009), parodies every environmentalist’s worst nightmare: green mountains hollowed out to conceal a bomb production facility. Call me naïve, but when I think of Colorado, it’s Tevas and granola, John Elway, and skiing that come to mind—a place as pure as the snow that dots the Rockies. But for nearly fifty years, the contamination leaking from the Rocky Flats plutonium plant inspired Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt to sing to a crowd of demonstrators until Congress agreed to transform the windy plateau back into a wildlife refuge and inspired Raskin to create this work. Clumsily constructed with wobbly painted plywood, the lines of the façade create a diagonal with several peek-holes leading down to the ultimate reveal. Greeted with an eerie dark purple light at the partially-sealed entrance, the viewer feels his anxieties rise at the sight of an empty headquarters and a Kodak slide projector shuffling through retro images of missile statistics, charts, and launch photos. There is a clue to the launch’s target: the Isle of Lesbos, a large Greek Island in the Aegean Sea, which caters primarily to lesbian tourists. Disturbingly, we are not allowed to trespass into the scene and are helpless to alert the islanders of the pending catastrophe.
In the same year that included her international Biennale debut and stellar reviews for her solo exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin, Raskin has suffered two setbacks. First, in mid-February her New York gallery, Guild & Greyshkul (a personal favorite of mine), shut their doors (she is still represented by Country Club Projects in Cincinnati and Milliken Gallery in Stockholm, Sweden). Perhaps an even greater disappointment: after the tremendous high from an invitation to participate in the 11th International Istanbul Biennial came the realization that the U.S. State Department has ceased funding all international biennials (with the exception of Venice).
Famished for some art? It’s Friday and we’re back with this week’s Index. Do you know what was sizzling here this past week? Put on your thinking caps — there’s no need for utensils. Ready set, go… !
- What is the U.S.A’s 18th largest city, the home of the first self-serve grocery store (the Piggly Wiggly,) has an ancient sister city in Egypt, and is also the home an interesting spaces to view art? Guest blogger Adrian Duran gives us the low-down on what to check out in the art world of Memphis, TN.
- What’s in the Yard with Josiah McElheny in downtown Manhattan and Queens? Click here for the answer and other Art21-related news.
- This curator keeps himself pretty busy as a Senior Program Specialist at the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, and he’s back in full force as resident writer for the Art21 Blog.
- What are the different ways art educators can consider avoiding art becoming (simply) wallpaper? Art should not deaden our ability to imagine! Joe Fusaro lends his advice…
- How does one go about making a film of that moment when teachers, students, artists, and the casual viewer are confronted with artists talking about their work, the ideas behind it, and then attempt to DO something with that experience? Jessica Hamlin introduces the Art21 Educator Video with Joe Fusaro in his classroom in Nyack.
- Louis XIV and a giant floral Puppy Dog? What was Jeff Koons thinking? Wes Miller teases us with a clip from Art21′s Season 5 Fantasy episode and an excerpt from Art21 Season 5 book.
- Where the heck is Daniel? Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio neighborhoods in Athens? Breeders Gallery? Francois Pinault’s Puntas della Dogana in Venice?
- For another helping of an Art21 Video Exclusive, see Arturo Herrara’s Assistant Jeff Bechtel describe the process in which he…
- And last, but certainly not least … it’s Part II of Jonathan Munar’s interview with writer and producer of Second Skin, Victor Pinero. (psssssstt…. hey New Yorkers, the film is premiering this weekend at The Tank.)
Upon arriving in Athens, several curious and helpful people gave me every warning to stay far away from the Kerameikos and Metaxourgeio neighborhoods, which was exactly where I was headed, for ReMap KM 2. Settled by new immigrants from Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, and Lebanon, and dubbed Little Bangladesh, these neighborhoods are defined by poverty, drugs, petty crime, and prostitution.
Just as I was about to head into the first gallery, Nice & Fit from Berlin, a teenager came barreling around the corner, ran out into the intersection, and was gone without a trace. Six of Athens’s finest gave chase for a couple blocks before giving up the pursuit. Perhaps the bad reputation is sadly deserved. But there was a tremendously festive spirit that night. Hundreds of brave art appreciators were following maps, strolling between abandoned buildings where the 21 international galleries and 16 independent projects had set up squats. It felt like we visitors had set up a block party on derelict pedestrian streets after the residents had agreed to disappear for the night.
Many of us ended our tours at Breeder Gallery’s elegant new space at the end of the nearly empty Iasonos Street. Co-owner George Vamvakidis explained to me that these seedy blocks were once part of Athens’s most affluent neighborhood, the grand homes creating a romantic passageway. As the city expanded, younger residents moved to further out suburbs, their parents died, and the crumbling facades were left to decay. I asked George if it had been a good idea to relocate his gallery to oblivion. He said he liked the action the street gets—all types of action—and that the foot traffic increased as the city grew darker each night. As it turns out, the vast majority of the seemingly abandoned-looking buildings were far from empty. Rather, they had been adapted into brothels, woven into the massive web of Greece’s legal sex trade.
Early the next morning, when I returned to the area to take a few photos in the light, I found myself walking behind the only other person who was out and about. He was dressed smartly, with a polo shirt tucked into his jeans and I assumed him to be a fellow tourist, perhaps a gallery-hopping collector, as we were both fumbling maps while walking. Suddenly he stopped, looked left, looked right, steadied himself, and then bolted through the front door of one of the brothels. I was left alone in the middle of the walkway completely surprised.
Perhaps it isn’t so shocking, the intertwining of ad-hoc galleries amongst prostitutes. Certainly, artists have long investigated the links between the two ancient professions. Marlene Dumas famously wrote, “lf a Prostitute is a person / who makes it a profession/ to gratify the lust of various persons / for economical reasons or gain, / where emotional involvement may / or may not be present— / Then it seems not so far removed / from my definition of an artist.” And six years ago, Andrea Fraser debuted her video, Untitled. She had sex with an unnamed collector who had paid her $20,000, then displayed the bird’s-eye-view footage in galleries around the world. (The $20,000 apparently did not cover the full girlfriend experience. They commenced with intercourse, engaged in a bit of talk, and then exited to opposite sides of the frame.)
With great pleasure, artistic provocateurs have explored every angle of the sex trade, but my recent European vacation made me wonder about the exploitative nature of the art viewer. See, in full confession, not long after I saw the john in Athens, I engaged in my own degrading activity — only mine took place at the entrance gate of an art museum in Venice.
- Matthew Barney (Season 2) and Elizabeth Peyton have collaborated on a site-specific installation for the Deste Foundation in Hydra, Greece. Blood of Two is on view through September 30 in the foundation’s new project space, which used to be the local slaughterhouse. Read The Moment to learn more.
- Sally Mann (Season 1), Kara Walker, Collier Schorr, Louise Bourgeois (all Season 2), Ellen Gallagher, Roni Horn (both Season 3), and Jenny Holzer (Season 4) are included in a mega display of works by women artists at Cheim & Read. The Female Gaze: Women Looking at Women opens June 25.
- Works by Gabriel Orozco (Season 2) and Josiah McElheny (Season 3) are on view in the exhibition Universal Code at The Power Plant in Toronto. Timed to coincide with the International Year of Astronomy, the exhibition presents artists responses to cosmology and ideas of the universal in the current age of information. Continues through August 30, 2009.
- The Art Newspaper reports that nearly twenty bronze sculptures in the Tasting Garden (1998), a public art project by Season 4 artist Mark Dion, have been stolen. The garden was created for the inaugural Artranspennine exhibition organized by Tate Liverpool and the Henry Moore Institute.
- Art critic Christopher Knight of the LA Times has reviewed Hipnostasis, a collaborative video and multi-screen installation by Raymond Pettibon (Season 2) and Yoshua Okon at Armory Center for Arts in Southern California.
- Read Deborah Sontag’s extensive New York Times article about Yinka Shonibare (Season 5), poetically titled Headless Bodies From a Bottomless Imagination.
- The Cincinnati Art Museum has announced an exhibition of prints by Season 2 artist Martin Puryear. The show is scheduled to open December 2009.
- Barbara Kruger (Season 1) is included in the forthcoming exhibition of work by women artists at the Centre Pompidou. Read about this ambitious display in the Los Angeles Times.
- Seven works by Ursula von Rydingsvard (Season 4) will be installed at the ancient site of Pilane, Sweden for the annual exhibition, Sculpture at Pilane. Opens June 6.
- The MacDowell Colony, a leading artist residency program, will present their annual medal to Season 2 artist Kiki Smith.
- Season 1 artist Richard Serra has received a 2009 honorary degree from Yale University.
- Louis Vuitton; A Passion for Creation at the Hong Kong Museum of Art features a selection of objects from the Fondation Louis Vuitton pour la Création. Pierre Huyghe (Season 4) is included in this display of works by European, American and Chinese artists.
- Work by Andrea Zittel (Season 1) is on view in U.F.O. Art and Design at the NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaf in Düsseldorf. Continues through July 5.
- The 2009 edition of Art-Athina–Greece’s leading international art fair for contemporary art–will include work by Kara Walker (Season 2) and William Kentridge (Season 5) in a collateral event/exhibition, entitled Praise of Shadows. Through July 26 at the Benaki Museum.
- Season 5 artist Yinka Shonibare has enlisted children to assist with his piece for the National Gallery, London. Read the Times Online article.
With this post, we introduce a new bi-weekly monthly column to the Art21 Blog: Inside the Artist’s Studio, written by Athens-based artist and contributor Georgia Kotretsos. Here’s an overview, in her words:
…A haven, an office, a meeting place, a thinking space where the working hours spent by an artist may easily be considered illegal by outsiders. It’s the space where one composes oneself and tunes in with one’s surroundings, where the placing of one’s own paraphernalia is sacred but at other times simply allowed to rest in ordered chaos. The space where light-footed apprentices gracefully serve the creative process. A place where the scent of art and habits of an artist pierce one’s senses. A space where an artist collects his/her thoughts and then scatters them around freely to be cast into artworks.
Can this really be true? Do we still latch onto romantic notions of what a studio is or can be? Or have they involved over the years along with artists themselves?
For this reason, I am setting out to meet with two one artist a month to discuss their studio practice, whether that is in the streets, at a computer, in their living space, etc. Inside the Artist’s Studio will introduce you to a number of artists’ work. Together we’ll discover where some of today’s art is made.
At Dafni E. Barbageorgopoulou’s studio, art is in the making. Right on Athens’s Keramikou Street, the nest of her creative energy previously served as an Asian restaurant. To this day, evidence of this is found in the dried-up noodles stuck on the tiles on the back wall, apparently there to stay.
There is a boyish, fresh quality in Barbageorgopoulou’s work. Her tapestries are generous gestures of art and her personality reflects this very liberty by drawing from a wide range of influences, such as from Cycladic to Mexican art, science fiction to dreams, geometry to poetry, origami to monumental architecture. A fusion of eclectic ideas, disciplines, and genres make up the profile of her work.
Dafni holds a BFA in sculpture from the Athens School of Fine Arts and an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art in London (2006). As we speak, she is off to the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien International Studio Program in Berlin for a year.
I visited her studio several times—working with her on this post was a pure joy. She is one authentic lady and I’m very please to have her kick off the “Inside the Artist’s Studio” column on this site.
Georgia Kotretsos: Take us through the development of your practice over the past few years and then talk to us a little bit about how these three tapestries (Mother, 2006; P, 2008; Space Kraft, 2009) came to be?
Dafni E. Barbageorgopoulou: My practice focuses on the mapping of bodily experiences, which are then transferred into two-dimensional forms (patterns, collages). These maps/motifs (as in the case of Mother) are consequently being transferred as objects/installations into space (as with P).
At the center of this process is the way in which the body tunes into creative flow. A sense of energy and repetitive movement conducts new rhythms. I am interested in how the final object or situation preserves the levels of energy released during the process of making. This release creates a certain void around the work activating the field around it. The end result becomes lighter, shifts scale, and engages with new materials. Each project is an integral part of a bigger synthesis.
Continue reading »
The Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis symposium recently took place on Saturday, January 10 at the Benaki Musuem on Pireos Street in Athens, Greece.
Co-organized by Costis Stafylakis and Yorgos Tzitzilakis, the symposium was an initiative of the Architecture Department, University of Thessaly.
Soon after the symposium, I met with Stafylakis to tell me about the occasion of the symposium:
Associate Professor, Ph.D. Program in Art History at the City University of New York, Claire Bishop’s lecture focused on socially-engaged art and spectatorship. Here is an excerpt of her presentation where she discusses The Margate Exodus and filmmaker Christoph Schlingensief.
Directed by Penny Woolcock, Exodus was made in Margate and was broadcast on Channel 4 and released in cinemas in 2007.
As Till Briegleb explains on Schlingensief’s website:
Christoph Schlingensief creates a permanent state of insecurity by blurring borders between reality and fiction, art and offense, intention and action. This often works brilliantly with his off-stage antics: most passers-by thought the Big Brother show with asylum-seekers in the centre of Vienna, where the last one to be ejected is supposed to win a residence permit, was real. There was also his staging of Hamlet in Zurich, for which he not only recruited officially repentant neo-Nazis, but also created a rehabilitation centre for their kin, triggered a heated debate on the credibility of this kind of stunt.
Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis was a call to the art community in Athens following the puzzling events of December 2008. The Benaki auditorium was packed from 10:30am, and that visually was a much stronger statement that any of the panelists could make that day.
I was a witness of excessive intellectual talk, valid efforts to assert historicity into December 2008, and attempts to contextualize isolated gestures and narrations of the events—without a period at the end. It was all necessary, respected and much needed, yet I got the sense this past December had left most panelists in an intellectual corner, unable to take a step into tomorrow. But it is also ok if they struggle to process the new conditions that constitute our society at the beginning of 2009.
But in my opinion, Extimasies: Art, Politics, Society in Times of Crisis accomplished three fundamental things:
The symposium was the day of giving names to the events, the causes, and the month of December. A language that allows us to communicate the events among ourselves was established and that is IMPORTANT.
How left?/How right?
The symposium placed the Greek art world, as if it was a pawn on a charged political map at a light “left” position without provoking, offending, or talking on behalf of any of the attendees, and that is IMPORTANT at this stage.
Artists, architects, curators, sociologists, and art theorists kept on putting their thoughts on the table for an entire day and that is IMPORTANT for everybody’s mental and emotional well-being.
There is no next move, it’s up for grabs and that is UNCERTAIN.
Starting with Davou, she was born in 1932 in Athens. She studied painting at the studio of Costas Iliades (1952-58). Her early work focused on Abstract Expressionism. In 1958, she became involved with the artist and mathematician Pantelis Xagoraris.
In 1967 she embarked on a series of three-dimensional compositions of plastic materials, where were then composed in multicolor grids. In 1978, she showed the series Serial Structures at Desmos Art Gallery for the first time.
In 1981, Serial Structures 2 –Odyssey consisted of drawings in which she copied Homeric verses and further arranged them in Fibonacci sequences. Around the same period, she began a series of presentations with sails, which allude to the journey of Ulysses.
In 1987, she participated at the 19th Biennale of Sao Paolo, where she correlated the sail environment with the land of Cimmerians, the land of the dead and one of the stops on Ulysses’ mythical journey.
The above quests culminated in the exhibition entitled Epitaph at Demos Art Gallery in 1990. In 1996, her retrospective exhibition was held at the House of Cyprus in Athens.
Bia Davou passed away in 1996.
The exhibition was co-curated by two emerging curators, Stamatis Schizakis and Tina Pandi. In 2005-08, Schizakis worked on numerous exhibitions at EMST, such as: Videographies: The Early Decades, The Years of Defiance: The Art of the ‘70s in Greece, The Grand Promenade, and In Present Tense: Young Greek Artists with Tina Pandi & Daphne Vitali. In 2007, Pandi curated the retrospective exhibition of Nikos Kessanlis: From Matter to Image and co-curated the exhibition In Present Tense: Young Greek Artists. In 2008 she curated the exhibition Ulrich Rückriem: Shadows of the Stone, the latter being one of the finest exhibitions I have seen in Athens thus far.
Here they tell us a few words about Bia Davou’s body of work at EMST:
kaput. is a quarterly online magazine on contemporary art, which was founded last year in Athens, Greece. The name of the magazine was inspired by Hal Foster’s widely-known phrase “[…] art history is as kaput as art is” found in the Design and Crime (and other Diatribes) book, published by Verso books in 2002.
kaput. features articles, essays, reviews, and interviews in both Greek and English from Greece and abroad. The editors do an amazing job in putting together diverse teams of contributors for each issue. Thus, this is how a constructive, informed and critical voice in an ocean of mediocrity is beginning to hold its own.
I am very pleased to introduce to you the founders of kaput., who are no other than writer and curator Christopher Marinos and writer and independent curator Thanos Stathopoulos. It’s important to note that Marinos is one of the curators of the 2nd Athens Biennial, which will take place in June 2009 and that he also serves as a correspondent for Flash Art International and Modern Painters. He is also a founding member of the Reading Group. Stathopoulos has equally written extensively on artists’ works for exhibition catalogs and he is a regular contributor to the Eleftherotypia newspaper.
This dynamic duo has formed an ambitious yet fundamentally needed forum of dialogue, for the sake and prosperity of Greek contemporary art. As an artist, I find immense comfort in knowing kaput. is at arm’s reach. Christopher, as you’ll read later on, acknowledges Athens Art Review, which paved the way for kaput. It’s also worth mentioning that the magazine was exceptionally edited by Theophilos Tramboulis. It’s an optimistic evolvement of the field when one can begin to trace things back to genuine initiatives. This very continuity that makes kaput. a valuable project for Greek art.
If there was a sensor that could detect when a community is ready to talk, or when its thoughts have nicely brewed and matured, things would be easier. In this case, we have two individuals who are sensitive to the art world and alert on what’s out there. Marinos and Stathopoulos are strategically setting Greek art up against a demanding international discourse. Intellectually, creatively, sociopolitically, this may turn out to be a challenging yet exciting time for our generation in Greece, and those who are behind creative thinking outlets may have the most exciting time of all.
Considering and further acknowledging the importance of their service to the community, I invited both Christopher and Thanos to tell us a little bit about kaput. and its mission. Our conversation floats on the very surface of the job and responsibilities of an editor, but I hope I’ll have a chance to talk to them again in the near future.
Georgia Kotretsos: How did your collaboration and the idea of an online quarterly magazine come about?
Thanos Stathopoulos: The idea of creating a new magazine lies (as with any collaboration) in particular relationships, on dialogue and people who work well together so that they can bring it about. In our case, the dialogue and collaboration began some time ago. The die was cast and the magazine came about as a natural consequence. There was a common need and, in fact, an imperative because of the lamentable fact that once again the Greek art world was faced with a vacuum as far as art magazines were concerned. The choice of an online magazine reflected our inclination as well as what was considered feasible.
Christopher Marinos: However, beyond the need for people who work well together, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that a magazine is also a collective matter. In the past few years, important progressive steps were taken in the Greek art world that have contributed decisively to artistic output and to kaput. There are many new good artists, new exhibitions spaces, as well as a new group of curators and theoreticians, most of whom have studied abroad. The magazine could not have existed without this “springtime” in Greek art.