Polyglossia

Onassis Cultural Centre

polyglossia.gif

Polyglossia, 2011. Installation view.

Polyglossia, 2011. Installation view.

‘Polyglossia’ – the existence, use or knowledge of multiple languages – brings together 31 Greek artists, as well as those of Greek origin, including American-Greek Lynda Benglis and Italian-based Jannis Kounellis. From Christina Dimitriadis’s deconstruction of the family unit to Vassiliea Stylianidou’s investigation into coincidences and systems in architecture, the exhibition stages conversations around a variety of discursive threads. Each explores the theme of identity, but none reach a simple conclusion.

Inviting questions about how artists are shaped by geographical influences and cultural origins, the show’s understanding of identity is exemplified in Miltos Manetas’s painted collages Internet Paintings II, 1 and Internet Paintings II, 2 (2009–11). Reflecting a copy-and-paste culture, the paintings acknowledge cultural identities that shift continuously within a globalized context. Of course, self-definition can be liberating as in Lucas Samaras’s masterful manipulations of his own image in the series ‘Photo Transformation’ (1973–6). Yet Dimitris Tzamouranis’s painting of immigrants shipwrecked off the coast of Italy in Clandestini (2008) reminds us that the experience of redefinition can also be forced and torturous.  

Like the artists on show, Greece has been formed as much from outside its borders as from within. Chryssa’s ‘Cycladic Books’ (1953–7) – 20 plaster casts of a cardboard box – explore the transmission of cultural origins from an international perspective. A meeting point between US Modernism and Greek classicism, stylized Cycladic forms fuse with the replicated imprint of a disposable cardboard box. The use of cardboard and plaster negates the marble-carved image of ancient Greek civilization cultivated by Western scholars (and 20th century fascist movements) as a symbol of superiority, authority and perfection, while in their referenced classical form, the cardboard boxes are rendered ritualistic icons for a modern, consumer culture. Perhaps Giorgos Gripeos’s print Facing West (2009) has the same intention by literally turning Athens on its head and presenting the contemporary city – without the Acropolis – in its over-crowded, cluttered chaos.

In this context, George Drivas’s video Sequence Error (2011) analyzes power relations and labour divisions through the lens of a system verging on collapse without making overt connections to culture or place. Speeches originally delivered by Che Guevara and George Marshall are spoken by symbolic figures: a 1960s-looking man in a turtleneck sweater; a presidential figure in a brightly lit boardroom; and a woman officiating over the dismissal of workers. A microcosm that echoes Greece’s current economic crisis set inside a glass-and-steel administrative building where everyone is identified by barcode badges, the work exposes Greece’s situation within the framework of a system that turns people into numbers.

Throughout Sequence Error, a silent woman icily presents equally silent employees with notices of their dismissal until she is finally dismissed herself. Her astonishment recalls the anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller’s question to German intellectuals during Nazi purges: ‘When,’ he asked, ‘they come for you, who will speak on your behalf?’ As such, although ‘Polyglossia’ appears as thematically unified as shattered glass, there is a moral to the show that speaks to a world in flux. At the beginning of a century characterized by upheaval, where the individual must navigate reality on local and international levels concurrently, it’s better to have many voices than none at all. The challenge is to discover meaning amidst the cacophony of the collective, while never losing sight of who you are in the process.

Issue 140

First published in Issue 140

Jun - Aug 2011

Most Read

With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The museum director, who resigned last year, acted with ‘integrity’, an independent report finds
In further news: study finds US film critics overwhelmingly white and male; woman sues father over Basquiat
With the government’s push for the controversial English baccalaureate, why the arts should be an integral part of the...
From Bruce Nauman at the Schaulager to the story of a 1970s artist community in Carona at Weiss Falk, all the shows to...
Sotheby’s and Christie’s say they are dropping the practice of using female-only staff to pose for promotional...
For the annual city-wide art weekender ahead of Basel, the best shows and events to attend around town
For our second report from BB10, ahead of its public opening tomorrow, a focus on KW Institute for Contemporary Art
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
In further news: declining UK museum visitors sees country fall in world rankings; first winner of Turner Prize,...
The Icelandic-Danish artist’s creation in Vejle, Denmark, responds to the tides and surface of the water: both artwork...
In further news: Emperor Constantine’s missing finger discovered in the Louvre; and are Van Gogh’s Sunflowers turning...
The opening of a major new exhibition by Lee Bul was delayed after one of the South Korean artist’s works caught fire
The LA-based painter’s exquisite skewing of Renaissance and biblical scenes at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Lee Bul, Abortion, 1989, performance documentation. Courtesy: the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul
In a climate of perma-outrage has live art self-censored to live entertainment?

A tribute to the iconic New York journal: a platform through which founder Andy Warhol operated as artist, hustler and...
A distinctively American artist who, along with four neighbourhood contemporaries, changed the course of US painting...
From Assemble’s marbled floor tiles to Peter Zumthor's mixed-media miniatures, Emily King reports from the main...
From Ian White's posthumous retrospective to Lloyd Corporation's film about a cryptocurrency pyramid scheme, what to...
Kimberly Bradley speaks to ‘the German’ curator on the reasons for his early exit from the Austrian institution
In further news: #MeToo flashmob at Venice Architecture Biennale; BBC historian advocates for return of British...
German museums are being pushed to diversify their canons and respond to a globalized world – but is ‘cleaning up’ the...
Sophie Fiennes’s new film Bloodlight and Bami reveals a personal side of the singer as yet unseen 
‘At last there is a communal mechanism for women to call a halt to the demeaning conventions of machismo’
The German artist has put up 18 works for sale to raise money to buy 100 homes
The novelist explored Jewish identity in the US through a lens of frustrated heterosexuality
Artist Jesse Jones, who represented Ireland at last year’s Venice Biennale, on what is at stake in Friday’s Irish...
‘I spend more time being seduced by the void … as a way of energizing my language’: poet Wayne Koestenbaum speaks about...
To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense,...
In a year charged with politicized tensions, mastery of craft trumps truth-to-power commentary
In further news: women wearing rainbow badges beaten in Beijing’s 798; gallerists Georg Kargl and Richard Gray have...
‘Coping as a woman in France is a daily battle: the aggression can be subtle, and you always have to push harder to...
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018