ART / athens / exhibitions / interview

Katerina Botsari’s anti-monumental quest and urban glass fossils

Stella Sevastopoulos catches up with Katerina Botsari at her solo show entitled ‘Tiny Subjects’, currently showing at Communitism’s Project Space in Athens, till May 26:

KATERINA BOTSARI’S new solo exhibition entitled “Tiny Subjects”, curated by Christoforos Marinos, includes a series of sculptural constructions (all made in 2022), that refer to the experience of the street, the way it is experienced, recorded and given meaning. A thorough observation of the urban landscape, combined with the artist’s interest in antiquity in architecture, where the new building becomes obsolete very quickly, fuels her work. Botsari’s research is based on the study of anti-monumentality and how it is rendered through the assembly of materials such as liquid glass, cement and plastic. The solidification, that is, the change in the state of matter that charcterises these sculptural joints, creates an opposite effect, an icy fluidity, as if trying to close a bolt of lightning, as if capturing or freezing a firework. In the transparent sculptures of Botsari, which look like failed scientific experiments, forms, volumes, colours and shapes are collected that compose artificial urban trash, debris and waste. They are “geological sculptures” associated with soil, decay, disorder and entropy, with littleness and fragmentation at the heart of her quest.

‘The Sawmills’, in the foreground, with ‘Tiny Subjects’ in the background

The sculptural construction entitled ‘Tiny Subjects’, is the largest construction of all in the exhibition. It deals with the subject of those abandoned scaffoldings, those ‘modern menhirs’ as Botsari calls them, personifications of ‘ruins in reverse’.

Botsari studied painting at ASFA (Athens School of Fine Arts), and went on to do a master’s at Slade School of Fine Arts in London, where she lived until 2012. She is a PhD candidate at the ASFA. Among her many artistic achievements, she has had three solo exhibitions in London and Athens and has participated in various group shows and residencies in Greece and abroad, as well as having curated the exhibition “BOOBS – The semiology of the breast”, at The Art Foundation in Athens. She is also a founding member of the experimental art space Backspace.

Close-up of section from ‘Tiny Subjects’, the largest work in the exhibition
  • Tell us firstly about your experience of London

My MA was realised in a multi-cultural environment, not only in the school, but also beyond it. Perhaps that was the greatest educational experience there. After Slade, I taught at Heatherly art college, where many students of Slade taught. I did an internship at the Sartorial Gallery, and realized a solo show there, plus one at the Hellenic Centre. Yet, although I had work possibilities in London, certain factors led to me decide to return to Athens. My life there, at the end of the day wasn’t so satisfying in the wider frame of things. Plus I can’t say I was enthusiastic about the weather! I had gone through phases of depression there. And in a way, the crisis kind of released me from the mindset of staying in London. Plus the scale of London wasn’t right for me. When I returned to Athens, I realized that this was the right environment for me, despite the difficulties that this city has. So I decided to apply what I had learnt in London, to Athens.

  • Such as?

I had certainly learnt a form of strategy in London, you have to have a programme, a method, to persevere and not give up in the face of adversity, to have faith in yourself and the goals you set. And with this mindset, you can also achieve things in Athens. It’s not so unattainable. When you consider what you have to give, in order to achieve things in London, it’s crazy. So, I thought, why do that in London, where I’m not that happy, when I can do this in Athens instead.

‘The Passage’ in the foreground, and ‘Unmonumental’ in the background
  • You worked with cement for the last few years, before you turned to liquid glass. What made you move on to this medium?

Curiosity. I’m curious as a person and I considered that this could be a material that would allow me to play. And this is certainly a main thing in my work: ‘what would happen if?’. If you change the rules a bit, if you change the way you see the work of art. If you use different means etc. So, within this context, fluid glass was something that I could explore. That doesn’t mean that it’s here to stay in my process, because I like experimentation and I’m more concerned about not being forced to stick to just one kind of gesture or process. I’m more interested in seeing what can happen when I change things. Change the rules.  

  • So how have you changed the rules in this series of works?

Well one aspect that comes through in these works, is changing the rules in terms of the artwork and its base. What happens when the base is not a traditional base, and I play a bit with the concept of scaffolding. What happens when I change the rules of balance. What result will I have compositionally? What will be more interesting? The work or the base? And maybe the base is part of the work after all? These bases I have created for the works, are inspired by scaffolding constructions. Maybe scaffolding is interesting after all?

‘Fuji’
  • The largest work, ‘Tiny Subjects’ is a more direct reference to the structure of scaffolding. An exact copy of the scaffolding that existed under the bridge of Metaxourgeio where the highway towards Corinth begins.

Yes, it is inspired by scaffolding made by skilled ironworkers in the ‘90s for billboards that would advertise the development of Athens at the time, and the road towards the Olympic Games. The question is, how do we see them now? As monuments or anti-monuments of that time? Is there a monumentality in these scaffoldings? Under the bridge, there was this scaffolding there, next to a neoclassical building. It was a beautiful construction, obviously made by an old craftsman of metalwork. So, these copies I have made, are the 2-dimensional reproduction of a 3-dimensional scaffolding structure.

  • For me, the works in which you experiment with liquid glass, embedding in it various debri and objects, look like ‘urban fossils’. There’s even a little plastic dinosaur toy included in one of them.

Yes, because this material will take a long time to decompose. It could be found, along with all the other fossils of liquid glass, created by industries. Because there has been so much liquid glass used to enclose flowers and other objects in it. Along with those, maybe someone will find these too in the future! And their shapes will be an enigma.

‘Setting’

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