The Athénée Project
01.04.2017 – 29.04.2017
On Saturday, April 01st 2017, Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center, in the context of the group show Integral I, presents the site-specific installation by Frini Mouzakitou, entitled The Athénée Project.
The show will open on April 1st, in Arsakeio Arcade, and it will run until 29th April 2017.
A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while thepile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
— Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History
In 1927, art historian and Director of the Hannover Provincial Museum Alexander Dormer commissioned El Lissitzky to design an exhibition space in which to host his own works alongside works by other avant guard artists of the time; Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Mies van der Rohe, among others. Lissitzky, in close colaboration with Dormer, would go on to conceive a geometrically arranged space in the Modernist spirit. The exhibits, inside display cases, would form an integral part of the space. Dormer’s vision of a new kind of museum which would allow the spectator to interact more with the art works and exhibition spaces would become a legacy for the future.
In Lissitzky’s Cabinet of Abstraction, works of art were no longer ‘fragments’ standing against the background of a white wall; instead, they became parts of a conceptual whole which effectively assimilated them. The passive observer was transformed into an active receiver of the dialectic relationship between art work and space. In this ‘experiment’, art work and space were presented as an indivisible entity. In the years to follow, this coexistence would also prove decisive on the other side of the Atlantic, where Alfred Barr would refer to the cabinet, calling it the single most famous room of twentieth century art in the world.
In the interwar years, between the atrocities of two world wars, the heroic era of grand innovation coincided with the crisis of democracy in Europe and the rise of nationalism and populism. Thus, in 1936, with the Weimar Republic already fallen, the Nazis would destroy the cabinet and all the works inside it, as well as everything else they considered to be an example of ‘degenerate art’. The Cabinet of Abstraction was created and destroyed in a deeply divided, defeated country, immersed in financial crisis. The collapse of democracy had disastrous consequences for Germany itself and for the rest of the world.
The financial crisis of 2010 created an escalation of discontentment towards the existing political system, which failed to give credible answers on the causes of this crisis. Therefore, the trust of the public is shaken in regard to the actual function of democracy and the institutions that support it. Questions on whether democracy is taken for granted or is vulnerable, both in Greece and Europe, tend to arise more often lately.
At Arsakeion Arcade, behind locked shutters, time appears to have stopped. It is inevitable that one should associate the financial crisis, social disintegration, increasing nationalism, populism and political polarization in Greece with similarly dark ages in the past. That is, at least those of us who realize that symptoms and coincidences may yield a similarly bleak future.