Advertisement

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
Advertisement

Most Read

Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich’s Museum Brandhorst charts the artist’s career from the 1980s to the present, from ‘fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
The disconnect between public museum programming and private hire couldn’t be starker – it’s time for the arts to...
In further news: Angela Gulbenkian sued over Kusama pumpkin; and Pussy Riot re-arrested immediately after release from...
With Art Week in town, a guide to the best exhibitions to see, from sonic surveillance to Ronnie van Hout’s showdown...
Moving between figuration and abstraction, the New York-based painter and teacher made work about in-between spaces and...
Trump’s State Department is more than 3 months late in announcing its national pavilion – testament to the chaos...
The continued dominance of UK-US writers makes a mockery of the Man Booker’s ‘global outlook’
The fashion photographer has been accused on Twitter of ripping off another artist – with both represented by the same...
Katharina Cibulka has stitched ‘As long as the art market is a boys’ club, I will be a feminist,’ across her alma mater...
The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018