To mark the occasion of the Ceremony of the Signature of the Accesion Treaty of the ten new member states, the Informal European Council on 16 April and the European Conference on 17 April 2003, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Hellenic Presidency Bureau has organised a series of events to showcase contemporary Greek art.
The central point of reference for the events is a sketch annotated with the words Free Transit (?), published in the Greek press and attributed to the General Secretary/High Representative of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, M. Javier Solana. Taking as their starting point the European Ideal itself, and the way in which it incorporates the concept of ‘free transit’, the events use a number of different works of art to analyse the various facets of the concept: the use of communication to transcend frontiers, respect for difference, the peaceful exchange of ideas and, finally, the creative integration of new proposals, different national traditions and religious faiths into one dynamically evolving and stable, if not homogeneous, structure.
The main showcase for the works we are discussing will be the exhibition Free Transit (?) at the Zappeion Megaron, which is the main venue for meetings being chaired under the Heelenic Presidency. Throughout Zappeion there will be displays of works by important Greek artists, representing current preoccupations in the Greek visual arts. The world of the visual arts in Greece may seem marginal in respect of developments in the major world capitals, but can nevertheless claim a certain freshness and humour, and a definite subversive streak, combining elements of a global vocabulary with its own local poetic.
The ‘mysteriously simple’ works of Steven Antonakos, constructed from neon, gold and metal, and the steel and neon sculpture Times Square by Chryssa, both highlight the ambiguity of our times and illustrate with a ‘Byzantine’ luminescence the features of urban civilisation, symbols of a timeless spirituality. Similar results are achieved by Nikos Alexiou, best-known for his metaphysical approach to his materials and the subtlety with which he communicates his own personal experience. The Cypriot artists Nikos Haralambidis and Savvas Christodoulidis both explore the mechanisms of memory – one with a subversive sarcasm rich in meaning, the other with dense but lucid intimation. Giorgos Lappas conducts a remarkable dialogue with space and fate, reassembling the limbs of his red citizens – and with them the certainties of our already fragmented experience.
Pantelis Handris locates the image at the very limit of language, while Haris Kontosfyris creates mirror-works, inward-turning reflections which turn our eye from the external to the internal aspect of things – that aspect of which St. Paul spoke in the Epistle to the Corinthians. Andreas Angelidakis uses virtual, networked mirrors to anticipate changes in the way we see, while the perpetual exchange of units between their glass constructions – making the completion of one the result of interchange with the other – is like a perfect metaphor for the hopes and ambitions of a United Europe. The world constructed of interwoven recording tape by Thalia CHioti might have been made especially for the Free Transit exhibition, as indeed was the case with the video-ladder of Alexandros Psychoulis, with its silent passages and unexpected twists. Here too is the the cycle of nature of Giorgos Gyparakis, the designs in iconography of a free propaganda by Ilias Papailiakis, the images as objets trouvés by Dimitris Antonitsis, the image-installations of Angelos Skourtis and Christos Apostolakis, the digital worlds of Miltos Manetas, Sofia Kosmaoglou and Eleni Glinou, the photographic juxtapositions of public and private in the work of Lia Nalbantidou, Manolis Bambousis and Marios Eleftheriadis, the hybrid trays and glasses produced by the encounter of East and West in the work of Marios Spiliopoulos, the ‘fallen angels’ of Tassos Vrettos and finally the contemporary mural of Attalos Stoa, in coloured tape, created by Vasilis Balatsos in the Zappeion Megaron.
The works included in Free Transit (?) highlight the symbolism of the use of the space in which they are installed, incorporated at the same time in its functional forms. They generate a dialogue among themselves and between work and spectator. It is the hope of the artists, the curator of the exhibition and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for this to be a truly meaningful dialogue, giving rise to positive reflection and debate.
The same logic underlies the ‘road signing’, the decorating of buildings along the routes to be travelled by our European visitors with works by Valaoritis, Vrettos, Angelidakis, Haralambidis, Papailiakis and Gyparakis, as well as the mementoes (mousepads & screensavers) of the Greek Presidency.
We should like to thank all those who have helped to realise this idea, especially the artists – who have enriched with a new dimension the history of our time as it is currently being written.
Curator, Director of Cultural Affairs, Hellenic Presidency Bureau
The “Free Transit” exhibition will remain open till the end of June 2003 and, after Easter, dates for guided tours will be announced.
For further information, please contact Mr. Argyris, tel.: 210-3683790
For a selection of photos from the exhibition click on the links below: