I won’t lie to you. It felt AMAZING to go to an exhibition after the pandemic, the quarantine, the fear, the isolation; after everything. Visiting Portals was an extra treat, as the exhibition partly examined exactly that: life during and after the coronavirus.
As the curators of Portals (Elina Kountouri and Madeleine Grynsztejn) nicely put it:
This exhibition aims to highlight how this particular moment in history takes us through a “portal”. When we emerge on the other side, we will need to reaffirm – for the sake of present and future generations – our commitment to certain values: equity, interdependence, mutually agreed upon consensus, and respect for human dignity. The global scale of the challenges and consequences of the pandemic make this reaffirmation imperative. What is normal? What should be the next normal? What are the values that will define it? What are the new boundaries? How can we negotiate our way towards and through a portal to the other side?
Portals represents a pluralism of ideas and touches upon issues related to collectivity, cultural understanding of history and politics, public space, and our common past, present and future.
A labyrinth of paper houses, fragile but balanced. The foundations of the towers seem ready to collapse and the world slips and fades away. The road is uncertain, calling us to lose our way -physically, mentally and spiritually, in order to find the way out in the end.
The emblematic building of the former Public Tobacco Factory opens its doors for the first time, introducing a new contemporary cultural centre in Athens, open to all. This project is the result of a collaboration between the Hellenic Parliament and NEON to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence.
With this year’s commemoration of the Greek War of Independence and continuing to live through the pandemic, Portals aspires to give rise to new messages, ideas, and reflections regarding contemporary artistic creation, through the prism of a newly-formed reality composed of change and disruption.
A shimmering, hanging tapestry of reclaimed bottle tops sourced from Africe, epitomizes El Anatsui’s communal practice and the variety of draping forms made possible by his metal sheets. Created in his workshop through the combined efforts of a community of people, El Anatsui’s work affirms unity and solidarity. It is a communal act in the public space to develop a new shared language that does not erase the past, our memories or colonial histories but allows space for healing and understanding.
The inspiration for the exhibition originates from an article by author Arundhati Roy on the Financial Times on April 3rd, 2020 which states that
“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing to return to ‘normality’, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists… Nothing could be worse than a return to normality… The pandemic is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
Considering that the rift created by the pandemic on an individual and collective level opens a portal, it is up to us to deal with our transition through it.
“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.”
[Source: Exhibition’s Leaflet & Exhibition’s texts]
This is an exact replica of his apartment in New York made from translucent material, light enough to be packed in a suitcase, through which intimacy and mundane domestic activities can be observed. Do Ho Suh describes his sculptures as exploring ‘the physical and non-physical, the specific and intangible’. The apartment is a home, a space of refuge and a store of memories, an architectural structure that can be restored by imagination.
Robert Gober’s meticulously handcrafted Pitched Crib appears ready to collapse. The crib, a space of childhood memory and a representation of traditional familial unity, borders the tragic and the comedic. Home is our trust, our place of stories and the process of constructing that trust starts from the crib. “It’s a form of human love to accept our complicated, messy humanity and not run away from it”, Nussbaum says.
DATE: 11/06/2021 – 31/12/2021
TIME: Wednesday & Saturday: 11.00-19.00, Thursday & Friday: 12.00-20.00, Sunday: 11.00-17.00, Monday & Tuesday: Closed
COST: Free entrance (Reservation required via neon.artsvp.co)
LOCATION: Former Public Tobacco Factory – Hellenic Parliament Library and Printing House (218 Lenorman St. 104 43, Athens)
Portals is featuring 59 artists from 27 countries including 15 new site-specific installations commissioned by NEON.
Nikos Alexiou, El Anatsui, Dimitrios Antonitsis, Kutluğ Ataman, Kostas Bassanos, Vlassis Caniaris, Joana Choumali, Anastasia Douka, Eirene Efstathiou, Brendan Fernandes, Apostolos Georgiou, Jeffrey Gibson, Robert Gober, Vangelis Gokas, Sonia Gomes, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Shilpa Gupta, Elif Kamisli, Kapwani Kiwanga, Panos Kokkinias, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Jannis Kounellis, Louise Lawler, Glenn Ligon, Liliane Lijn, Maria Loizidou, Tala Madani, Teresa Margolles, Steve McQueen, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Marisa Merz, Ad Minoliti, Alex Mylona, Nikos Navridis, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Duro Olowu, Maria Papadimitriou, Dimitris Papaioannou, Cornelia Parker, Adam Pendleton, Solange Pessoa, Francis Picabia, Gala Porras-Kim, Michael Rakowitz, Ed Ruscha, Dana Schutz, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Elias Sime, Christiana Soulou, Do Ho Suh, Anna Tsouhlarakis, Alexandros Tzannis, Adriana Varejão, Erika Verzutti, Adrián Villar Rojas , Danh Võ, Daphne Wright, Myrto Xanthopoulou, Billie Zangewa.
The new commissions are by artists
Anastasia Douka, Brendan Fernandes, Elif Kamisli, Panos Kokkinias, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Glenn Ligon, Maria Loizidou, Teresa Margolles, Ad Minoliti, Duro Olowu, Gala Porras-Kim, Michael Rakowitz, Alexandros Tzannis, Adrián Villar Rojas and Danh Võ.