ART / athens / exhibitions

Exhibitions on the pulse of contemporary culture

THE NATIONAL Museum of Contemporary Art (or EMΣΤ/ΕΜST) kicked off a new series of exhibitions on January 28, with a live performance by artist Hannah Toticki, entitled In Sacred Work, whereby the lyrics of Whitney Houston’s ‘And I will always love you’, and Meghan Trainor’s ‘All about that bass’ changed their tune.  Ιn order to convey the extreme work ethics of today, cleverly done, and well performed by young karaoke dancers, the new words of the songs emphasized the ever more demanding ‘grind’ of everyday existence, in which the emphasis on work has increasingly become the new global religion. Toticki’s solo exhibition of works, entitled Everything, Everywhere, All the Time, (alluding to the recent award-winning film which also evolves around the crazy work ethics of today) further develops the topic. Exhibitions by Eleni Bagaki, Erica Scourti, Michael Karikis, and Dan Perjovschi were also inaugurated. The exhibition Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies), plus screenings of Melanie Bonajo’s Progress vs Regress also continue at EMΣT. Furthermore, the ongoing exhibit of 90 works from the museum’s collection can also be viewed, which includes highlights such as large installations by internationally acclaimed artists such as Kendell Geers, Mona Hatoum, and Jannis Kounellis.

Part of a series by David Haines entitled ‘Still Life with Flyer’, included in the ‘Modern Love’ exhibition. The artist reproduces advertising flyers for gay and trans parties and nightclubs, dexterously using the humble medium of graphite on paper.

EMΣT is considered to be the leading institution for contemporary art and visual culture in Greece, and one of the flagship institutions in Southern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. EMΣΤ regards art and visual culture as “a transformative element in education, knowledge production, storytelling, and as a driver of socially progressive and emancipatory values in society”. This cutting-edge contemporary art museum, which is housed in a former beer factory, has undoubtedly had its ups and downs to reach its final, completed stage that it finds itself in today. However, it ardently continues its exploration of socio-political matters via contemporary and conceptual art processes, now under the artistic direction of Katerina Gregos (since the summer of 2021). This is a museum that wants to have its pulse on the burning issues of today, both globally and regionally. And with the addition of the new series of exhibitions that were inaugurated on January 28, it offers visitors a very moving contemporary experience, that analyses issues that are plaguing us all, whilst also informing us on more specific socio-political predicaments from different corners of the world. It is both an artistic, and an educational experience.

In Hannah Toticki’s solo exhibition, various invisible labourers are also focused upon.

Below, you will find the temporary exhibitions on show at the moment at EMΣT, but be sure to also visit the works on display from the museum’s collection. All in all, you will need to spend plenty of time here, if you want to really be able to take in all that is on offer, including watching much of the video art and the audio-visual installations on display.

Hannah Toticki: Everything, Everywhere, All the Time (runs till 28/05/2023)

Hannah Toticki’s solo exhibition at ΕΜΣΤ is the first presentation of her work in Greece and the artist’s first major museum exhibition in Europe. Toticki has developed a highly distinctive and personal visual language that is inspired by fashion, pop culture, design and theatre. Her sculptures and installations incorporate clothing, accessories, furniture, and are often combined with performance, video and music. In her exhibition at ΕΜΣΤ, Toticki adopts a critical eye and an often humorous approach to examine aspects of the ‘burn-out society’, invisible women’s work, our relationship with technology and, more generally, the state of art in a post-capitalist society striving for productivity, acceleration and growth. The exhibition consists of work from different cycles of Toticki’s creative process. They are divided into four sections entitled Production, Sleep, Control and Attention that provide a conceptual framework and render visible the connections between the various themes that have permeated her art over the years. Ηannah Toticki lives and works in Denmark.

Curated by Ioli Tzanetaki, the exhibition is accompanied by a full colour digital catalogue.

Toticki is also featured in the exhibition Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies).

Female sexual fantasy is explored via the medium of painting in the work of Bagaki.

Eleni Bagaki: Something like a Poem, a Nude, and Flowers in a Vase (runs till 07/05/2023)

Bagaki’s work in painting, sculpture, drawing, text, sound and videos revolves around a persistent development of auto-fiction. Through the reconstruction of personal experiences or the creation of imagined events, Bagaki explores issues surrounding erotic relationships, sexuality, gender representations, and the precarity that many of the younger generation experience in Greece. Central to her artistic practice is nomadic wandering and flight as an existential condition in the quest for a sense of belonging.

The exhibition at EMΣT, the artist’s first major museum presentation, features a series of paintings with compositions of human figures standing alone or interacting in natural landscapes. The starting point for these works is desire: Bagaki’s dreamy paintings are produced, as she emphasizes, by and for desire. Intimations of physical attraction and erotic observation shape the artist’s relationship with the depicted bodies and their environment. The exhibition Something like a poem, a nude, and flowers in a vase unfolds as a kind of dreamlike wandering and observation on desire, sexuality, and erotic quest.

A work in the ongoing series ‘Niche Content for Frustrated Queers’ by Marijke de Roover, included in the ‘Modern Love’ exhibition.

One could also say that this series of works by Bagaki places the male in the position that the female was often allotted in the art of past centuries (and not only), in terms of being the object of desire. The fluorescent colours and feminine gaze of the artist on her subject-matter add to the whole concept.

The exhibition is curated by Tina Pandi. Eleni Bagaki was born in Chania, Crete; she lives and works in Athens.

Erica Scourti: Profiles of You (runs till 07/05/2023)

In her distinctly autobiographical work, Erica Scourti deploys humour, irony, parody and self-exposure to engage with emotion, intimacy, work, doubt and self-improvement as well as examining the artist’s role vis-à-vis technology. Her work is an ongoing process of self-narration in which personal biography meets the collective, the personal meets the political and the real meets the fictional. Her visual practice starts from a process of self-observation and a systematic recording of daily life and digital habits through the creation of audio-visual diaries and collages. Through a systematic use of social media, her mobile phone, applications and the web, Scourti creates text-based works on fabric or paper and performances, videos and collages characterised by a lo-fi, raw and immediate aesthetic. Viewers become voyeuristic witnesses to her personal life, in addition to becoming witnesses to phrases, words and concepts with open-ended and multiple meanings. Curated by Daphne Vitali, this exhibition at ΕΜΣΤ is Scourti’s first solo exhibition in Greece and as well as her first major museum exhibition. Erica Scourti was born in Athens, and lives and works between Athens and London.

Work in David Haines’ ‘Man Reading Messages’ series. Part of the ‘Modern Love’ exhibition.

Michael Karikis: Because We Are Together (runs till 28/05/2023)

This is the first in-depth presentation of Mikhail Karikis’ work in Greece. Karikis, a prominent representative of Greece’s cultural diaspora, was born in Thessaloniki. He currently lives and works between London and Lisbon. Though the artist has shown in many important international exhibitions, his work in Greece is less known. Karikis combines moving image and sound, with collaborative practices, to draw attention to social, political and environmental issues, both past and present. Working with groups of students, workers, pensioners, activists and drawing inspiration from global industrial and political history, literature and avant-garde music, the artist creates musical and vocal events that shine a ray of hope on an ominous future.

The exhibition is structured around six key audio-visual installations from Karikis’s work over the last decade: Weather Orchestra (2022), Surging Seas (2022), Ferocious Love (2020), No Ordinary Protest (2018), Children of Unquiet (2014) and Sounds from Beneath (2011-2012). These installations are complemented by selected smaller works, photographs, and texts. What they all share is a sense of polyphonic poetics in which separate narratives connect groups brought together by a sense of solidarity in their struggles for a better future. Curated by Stamatis Schizakis

Partial view of the installation ‘Dear D’, by artist Marge Monko, included in the ‘Modern Love’ exhibition.

Dan Perjovschi: ‘The Long Wall Report’ (site-specific wall drawing in the foyer, viewable till 29/10/2023)

Dan Perjovschi was born in Sibiu, Romania in 1961 where he lives and works. Since the 1990s and in the aftermath of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Perjovschi has become internationally known for his cartoon-like drawings in museums and other institutional spaces, as well as public spaces. His characteristic imagery, executed in permanent black markers draws from current affairs, politics, social issues and contemporary narratives, situations and pathologies. With a humorous, incisive and critical eye, Perjovschi explores political topics including recent global conflicts and contestations, identity issues, cultural biases, and burning issues such as the migration crises and religious conflicts, but also consumerist habits. Perjovschi has transformed the practice of drawing into a medium of information, political commentary and activism. Expressing difficult ideas in rapidly executed, off-the-cuff drawings, Perjovschi’s installations propose that art can be both political and critical without being didactic and moralistic. For his first solo museum exhibition in Greece, Perjovschi has been invited to create a new, large-scale 30-metre drawing installation, directly onto the largest wall of the EMST Foyer. Perjovschi has contributed to numerous exhibitions and biennials as well as literary and political journals, such as Contrapunct and 22. The latter was the first independent oppositional weekly published in Romania in the aftermath of the Democratic Revolution.

Curated by Anna Mykoniati

In Hannah Toticki’s solo exhibition, work hierarchies are also examined in a humorous vein.

Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies)

Also on at EΜΣT is Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies), which opened to the public on 15/12/2022, and runs till 28/05/2023. Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) is curated by artistic director Katerina Gregos, and focuses on digital technology and its influence on intimate human relationships. The subtitle of the exhibition is a reference to Eva Illouz’s book, Cold Intimacies: The Making of Emotional Capitalism, which argues that these relationships have become increasingly defined by economic and political models of bargaining, exchange, and equity. Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) explores the state of love and human bonds in the age of the Internet, social media, and high capitalism, probing how the digital sphere, the impact of technology giants, and neo-liberal practices have transformed love, social relations, and the way we interact with one another.

The accessibility of the Internet to an ever-greater number of people has had liberating effects, encouraging and empowering more open and diverse lifestyles, contributing to the dissolution of interpersonal orthodox conventions and social constrictions, and crumbling taboos and biases around gender and sexuality.

Sanam Khatibi’s ‘Deadly Nightshade’, included in the ‘Modern Love’ exhibition.

Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) looks at how the Internet has facilitated the expression of non-heteronormative sexual identities, especially in societies where queerness or non-binary sexuality are considered taboo, or even forbidden. It also explores the human pathologies associated with the commodification of emotion and the effects of digital dependency on relationships, as well as the issues that arise when the boundaries between the public and private, as well the virtual and the real, become more and more fluid. The Covid-19 pandemic and physical distancing have added yet another challenge to achieving fulfilling, intimate and meaningful human interaction.

At the same time, we also live in a time that philosopher Byung-Chul Han has labelled “emotional capitalism”, where human emotions have been co-opted by market forces. Thus, apart from offering an open and potentially endless sense of possibility, the dating supermarkets of Tinder and Grindr, “speed dating”, and the ease of Internet exchange have also hollowed out relationships and led to selfish or narcissistic forms of behaviour and the creation and curation of misleading images of the self, making it ever more difficult to establish what is real, meaningful, or true.

Istvan Zsiros’ ‘Borderless Love’, captures a scene shot in Budapest’s Keleti train station, where 3000 refugees found themselves stuck there in 2015, before travelling to Vienna.

The product of ongoing research, the exhibition – which features 24 artists from 14 countries – comes to Greece after presentations at the Museum für Neue Kunst (Germany), Tallinna Kunstihoone (Estonia), IMPAKT [Centre for Media Culture] and Centraal Museum (Netherlands). For the exhibition at EMΣT Athens, Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) has been expanded to additionally include Greek as well as international artists, most of whom are presenting their work for the first time in Greece.

Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) is accompanied by a bilingual (English-Greek) publication designed by Rafaela Drazic and edited by Katerina Gregos and Theophilos Tramboulis.

ARTISTS: Gabriel Abrantes (1984, US/PT), Andreas Angelidakis (1968, GR), Melanie Bonajo (1978, NI), Candice Breitz (1978, ZA), Laura Cemin (1992, IT), Benjamin Crotty (1979, US), Kyriaki Goni (GR, 1982), David Haines (1969, UK), Juliet Jacques (1981, UK), Sanam Khatibi (1979, IR/BE), Mahmoud Khaled (1982, EG), Duran Lantink (1988, Nl), Ariane Loze (1988, BE), Maria Mavropoulou (1989, GR), Lauren Lee Mccarthy (US), Kyle Mcdonald (US), Marge Monko (1976, EE), Eva Papamargariti (1987, GR), Peter Puklus (1980, RO/HU), Yorgos Prinos (1977, GR), Marijke De Roover (1990, BE), Margaret Salmon (1975, US/UK), Hannah Toticki (1984, DK), István Zsíros (1985, HU).

Melanie Bonajo: ‘Progress vs Regress’ (runs till 28/05/2023)

Progress vs. Regress explores the influence of technological innovations on social relationships through the perspective of the elderly, who have experienced the most sudden and widespread industrial, technological and digital changes in the history of humankind. Through the protagonists’ personal, intimate and touching stories the film portrays the needs, expectations and challenges of a generation that is trying to integrate in a society that is striving for constant progress, efficiency and speed. The film investigates how ideas of ‘progress’ affect attitudes towards labour, money, time and emotions. Embedded within it lies the story of how we, as a society, treat the elderly, who are often perceived as having no economic value, are not represented in our visual culture, and are marginalised.

Melanie Bonajo is an artist, filmmaker and activist. Bonajo’s work was featured in the Dutch Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale (2022). Other exhibitions include: Shanghai Biennale (2022); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2021); Helsinki Art Museum (2020); Rencontres, Arles (2019); Haus der Kunst, Munich and 1st Riga International Biennial of Contemporart Art (2018), Manifesta 12, Palermo; Kunstverein Frankfurt, and Tate Modern, London (2017).

Through her ‘Family Portraits’ series, Maria Mavropoulou strives to understand the new everyday realities created by our ubiquitous connectable devices.
  • For more info on the museum’s various programmes and time schedules, visit the museum’s site

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