ON HALLOWEEN, I decided to visit the Athens Biennale with a friend, and it turned out to be a great choice. The variety and cutting-edge character of this humongous art event certainly had us both in awe and at times even in shock with the artworks that reflected so many facets of the dystopian times that we are living in. Be ready to embrace it all: from queer culture to gaming culture and from inner trauma to outer space. From ‘Destroy Athens’ (the title of the first Athens biennale, 2007), we have now reached ‘Eclipse’ (the current title), and the road for this event has been long and arduous, yet at the same time it has never ceased to surprise us! This time, the biennale is taking place in four buildings: the former eight-level building of the Fokas department store, the historic building of the former Santaroza Courthouse (one of the first buildings to be erected after the establishment of the new independent Greek state), and the 5-storey Schlieman-Mella Hall. These buildings are in close proximity. Further afield, is the Onassis Stegi building, which has also collaborated with the Athens biennale this time round, and hosted some of the events, such as Steve McQueen’s ‘End Credits’ .
The 7th Athens Biennale (AB7:ECLIPSE), runs till November 28, and is co-curated by Omsk Social Club and Larry Ossei-Mensah under the artistic direction of Poka-Yio. The exhibition features over 80 artists based in North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe, many of whom are exhibiting in Greece for the first time. The event’s press release states that the exhibition title highlights “the obscured perspective of reality caused by the constant state of flux we are experiencing in our society now. ECLIPSE engages the social, political and spiritual changes of today’s global construct and in Athens itself, as a rising metropolis located at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa both physically and historically. An eclipse is a phenomenon of filtering and shrouding as well as a cosmic event. The experience of the eclipse functions as a catalyst for reprocessing an unresolved past that can inform an unspoken present and ultimately shape our future. Thus, Athens serves as the appropriate vantage point for contemplating the nuances of time and space.”
The exhibition aims to defy the prevalent politics of historical narratives, and instead to challenge oppressive mechanisms and outdated idealism: “By deploying various immersive techniques such as real game play, radical gossip, persuasive realities, ‘emotional hypnosis’, bodying, synthesis, and visualization, ECLIPSE activates narrative fabrication and orchestrates an experiential shift in art viewing opening an alternative future for contemplation”, state the organisers.
An eye-opening exhibition
So, what was our experience like? Here are just some of the highlights: Totally enjoyed the works of Andrew Roberts that were interspersed in the Fokas building, and which were totally in sync with our Halloween mood… his chopped hands with the ‘Fake News’ tattoo, chopped tongues tattooed with symbols, and chopped foot tattoed with the Nike symbol were so life-like, but also sent poignant messages. Huntrezz Janos’ multiplayer environment accompanied by 3-D printed armour (‘Eclipsatrix Exuvia’ parts 1 and 2), were also impressive, as were many other works in the exhibition inspired by video-games, internet, digital and tech antics. Yinka Ilori’s quirkily-designed chairs (hybrid constructions comprising different chair parts), made us think of what the nature and shape of a chair really is. Watching artist Eleni Mylonas perform with Tomashi Jackson in the video work ‘We’re All Gonna Gel’ was another highlight. But kudos also to Nuri Koerfer for his cute Styrofoam, papier-mache and resin animal sculptures, that also doubled up as seats. They kind of made me reinterpret the meaning of ‘creature comforts’.
In the former Santaroza Courthouse, things got scarier as strange sounds emanated from the bowels of the building where a large installation by Billy Bultheel was making its presence felt. However, the explorations of space and the future via a series of coloured-pencil drawings by Susan Treister, plus the findings of what appears to be an Egyptian sphynx in the basement (an installation by Zuzanna Czebatul), added to the whole ambience. From Navine G. Khan-Dossos’ Chios-inspired geometric designs updated for our contemporary era, to otherworldly atmospheres… this building had it all.
By the time we got to the third building (Schliemann-Mela), across the square, we were pretty tired and admittedly, did a quick tour, deciding that we would need to come back again for further viewing. The video works in particular need time. However, even on our fast-track tour, we stopped to peruse the former offices of the Hellenic-Serbian Friendship Association (Εταιρία Ελληνο-Σερβικής Φιλίας), that had been left there like a time capsule-cum-installation.
We look forward to our next ‘cathartic’, stimulating, mind-boggling experience here. As my friend said, “it was an eye-opener”!
So, be sure to wear your sneakers, and be ready to not only be inspired, amazed, surprised, angered and shocked, but also worn-out, by the end of this biennale experience. But that’s what biennales are about.
Participating artists: manuel arturo abreu, Zebedee Armstrong, as they lay w/ Abdu Ali + Markele Cullins*, Sanford Biggers, Billy Bultheel*, Judy Chicago, Contemporary And, Zuzanna Czebatul, Simon Denny, DETACH (Voltnoi & Quetempo)*, Alexandros Douras, Christoph Draeger, Claude Eigan, Awol Erizku, Doreen Garner, Miles Greenberg, Happy New Tears*, HellFun (Josefin Arnell & Max Göran)*, Jack Hogan & Trakal*, Deborah Joyce Holman & Yara Dulac Gisler*, Klára Hosnedlová*, Satch Hoyt, Hypercomf*, Yinka Ilori*, Astrit Ismaili*, Tomashi Jackson, Huntrezz Janos*, Olalekan Jeyifous*, Evi Kalogiropoulou, Samson Kambalu, Lito Kattou*, KAYA, Navine G. Khan-Dossos*, Nuri Koerfer, Ndayé Kouagou*, Aristeidis Lappas, Kris Lemsalu & Kyp Malone*, Marissa Malik & Yeshe BahamonBeesley*, Rodney McMillian, Steve McQueen, Ana Mendieta, Moor Mother*, Petros Moris, Zanele Muholi, Nascent*, Kayode Ojo, Omsk Social Club*, Zohra Opoku, Vasilis Papageorgiou*, Nektarios Pappas*, Ebony G. Patterson, Primitive Art*, Yorgos Prinos, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Andrew Roberts, Victoria Santa Cruz, Jacolby Satterwhite, Jonas Schoeneberg*, Erica Scourti, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Juana Subercaseaux, Valinia Svoronou*, Taka Taka*, Ayesha Tan-Jones*, Filippos Telesto, The Critics Company, the Mycological Twist*, Hank Willis Thomas, Iris Touliatou*, Tourmaline, Suzanne Treister, Theo Triantafyllidis, Wu Tsang, Eugenia Vereli, Cajsa von Zeipel*, Julian Weber, YESSi PERSE*. *An asterisk denotes a new production or premiere.
Former Department Store Fokas, 41 Stadiou Str.
Former Santaroza Courthouse, 48 Stadiou Str.
Justice Square, Arsaki & Panepistimiou Str.
Schliemann-Mela Hall, 46 Panepistimiou Str.
Onassis Stegi, 107-109 Syngrou Ave. (24.9 – 24.10)
- OPENING HOURS
Wednesday – Friday: 1 pm – 9 pm
Saturday – Sunday: 11 am – 9 pm
*On Mondays and Tuesdays, the exhibition will remain closed.
*On Thursday, October 28, and on Wednesday, November 17, the exhibition will be closed.
- Tickets at 10 euros/5 euros reduced. Available at the main exhibition venue, Former Department Store Fokas (41 Stadiou Str., Athens).
- For more info, go to: eclipseathensbiennale.org https://eclipse.athensbiennale.org/en/info