Reality Check Chapter II: Inner Sanctum
“Reality Check Chapter II: Inner Sanctum” is a temporary art exhibition taking place at an abandoned building in the Psychiatric Hospital of Attica near Athens. Discover the work of 36 different artists form all over the world, through art installations, photographs, sculptures, videos and live performances. An extremely interesting exhibition dealing with the ideas of mental health, and space and time; not to be missed!
The installation of Dimitra Skandali ..any courage is a fear.. –a title that comes from a poem by E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)– is an immersive environment surveying the oppositions between the imbalances of the outside world and the potential tranquility that can be achieved through esoteric processes. War, conflict and environmental degradation are some of today’s traits that the artist wishes to expel from our life. Employing materials that channel undisturbed peacefulness and serenity, she proposes a new space for rumination and equilibrium. This is her own domain that she gracefully shares and invites us to be a part of and re-construct a new – sturdier– inner fortress. Reverberating positive frequencies, Skandali’s work is a poetic take of our actuality suggestive of the universality of humanity and the re-establishment of our higher self.
Psychiatric Hospital of Attica
The geographical location of the Psychiatric Hospital of Attica (Dafni, Athens, Greece) is situated on the axis of the ancient Sacred Way that connects the city of Athens with Eleusis. This is where the ritual and procession of the Eleusinian Mysteries used to take place in antiquity. Just across the road from the hospital, one could find the temple of God Apollo (Dafnaios Apollo), above which the Byzantine Monastery of Dafni was built later. The sanctuary of Aphrodite (Aphaia Skaramanga – Haidari) was also located on the same axis. It incorporated carvings and niches on the natural bedrock, where the pilgrims used to place votive offerings to the goddess praying for personal uplift, fulfillment of desires and catharsis.
Reality Check I
In 2021, the group exhibition reality check took place in one of the largest –abandoned– buildings of the hospital grounds, turning our attention beyond the objective hypostasis of a psychiatric institution.
One year later, the exhibition reality check chapter II: inner sanctum, curated by Kostas Prapoglou, returns to the same place with 36 artists seeking through contemporary art, answers to new questions, figments of a dialogue between artists and viewers; a dialogue that has been unfolding unceasingly since the artistic praxis gave a new breath of life to the muted building at Dafni.
Christina Anid’s Litany of Desires is an homage to the human soul and its need to find peace and redemption. The room is taken over by two sculptures that are both made of innumerable ex-voto offerings, representations of fulfilment of a vow or gratitude towards God or a saint in Christian tradition. Infused by a robust sense of prayer, supplication and meditation, the works on view are vessels of energy and hope. At the same time, the reflective and transformative power of Anid’s writing that covers the wall surfaces, conjures aspects of spiritualism and mysticism. It is an articulation of the power of faith as well as the power of doubt constantly antagonising each other and relentlessly challenging our mind. A heart and a flying child are the answers to this battle and declarations of belief and optimism. They emerge as individual ex-votos themselves promising benevolence, humility, tenderness and kindness. This was my personal favourite.
Does the future exist and, if so, how close is it? Do we live in the future and, if so, what value could the present and the past possibly carry?
Spaceless time and timeless place are ubiquitous. We sail towards an unknown direction; this ‘unknown’ often disarms, disorients and paralyses us. And yet, an inner driving force awakens us, challenges us to continue, to breathe, to feel, to love [again]… life itself and our own self seeing it anew, reborn and resurrected.
This power is the inner sanctum that dwells and hides in our souls. It is the place that makes us feel at home. It is our refuge, the locus of our inner flame, our precious sanctuary. It may take time for each of us to discover and realise it. This conceptual theme will be the basis, the yeast and the magic of the artistic creation in the second chapter of reality check.
The work of Iakovos Volkov initiates an other-worldly environment –a dark room– where viewers are confronted by a verbal fragment of –what is considered to be– the greatest monologue in science fiction history. All these moments will be lost in time like clouds in heaven is an extract from the final words of an android’s swan song about to be terminated in the film Blade Runner (1981). The artist depicts this statement in bright colours juxtaposed against a background of as close to Vantablack (the blackest manmade black known to us) as possible. Toying with opposing emotional conditions, Volkov traces his own redemption through the darkest of paths. The implying toxicity of his materials is eliminated by a surfacing optimism that gradually spreads its light across all borders of shadowland, making us all part of his philosophical quest.
Each artist has a separate room, and every viewer has the opportunity to converse with them following their own –personal– mapping of the exhibition. This process will give the audience an opportunity to discover, decipher and interpret the works in their own time. They will follow a course within the objective space, while simultaneously developing a dialogue with the subjectivity of space-time into which they will gradually surrender.
id by Elia Iliadi is a site-specific durational performance that begins with the start of the exhibition and ends with its conclusion as it is intimately related and dependent on its audience. Each viewer is free to enter the artist’s sacred space, sit in front of her and answer laconically a secret question. The answer is written anonymously on a piece of paper and, later, it is taken by her assistants, who re-produce it in latex at a dedicated lab next door. All answers are transformed into leather-like inscriptions which are then suspended from the ceiling above the artist, gradually populating the room on a day-to-day basis. With references to initiation practices involving ancient mysteries but also to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, Iliadi’s interactive work concentrates on the id, the instinctual and primitive section of the mind that hides sexual and aggressive drives as well as concealed memories. Viewers are abruptly prompted to anonymously express their deepest and most inner self, temporarily overlooking the two other agents that altogether define and stabilise the mental status and the behaviour of a person; the ego and the super ego. Iliadi’s room will progressively turn into an extraordinary thinktank of desires and unconscious pleasures.
Vana Ntatsouli’s it’s not what you think, attests to the existential reverie of a fictional character, whose personal story unfolds notions of emotional equilibrium. A gentle giant sits calmly in lotus position in one of the corners of the room with a balmy smile in his face. His posture indicates a meditational state, which has eventually helped him reach a state of tranquility. His crown –a symbol of achievement and fulfilment for the artist– lies on the floor as a precious trophy, which he is ready to offer as a gesture of kindness and gratitude. Pieces of fabric on the floor are all part of his and, in combination with his embroidered biographical narration, a reminder of where he comes from and what he is truly made of. Ntatsouli’s work is an open invitation to accept ourselves the way we are and search for the endless possibilities of self-development and advancement. It is a mental process of self-reflection and mindfulness, as fundamental elements of human thinking; a truthful example of a long-achieved victory.
Nadia Skordopoulou’s Your soul that never wears, Your spirit that never tears is an installation moving between internal and external space, making a place for contemplation. It is inspired by the aeroponic technique that helps plants grow in the air without the use of soil in a controlled environment. The total isolation of plants from the soil promotes a healthier and quicker disease and pest free growth. However, Skordopoulou, brings the earth into her room and separates it from her plants that are all suspended from above. She underlines this disconnection by creating a new condition of living and a new way of understanding our cosmos. Symbols of virility and fertility in ancient Greece, orchids are the protagonists of the artist’s narrative. She re-imagines her own sanctuary, where votives are transfigured into plants and are sent to the sky like prayers. A soundscape is united with the physical presence of all earthly elements creating a sublime ambience that takes us to an uplifting and joyful state.
DATE: 29/09/2022 – 13/11/2022
TIME: Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday 15.00 – 20.00
COST: Free admission
LOCATION: Psychiatric Hospital of Attica, Dafni, Athens (Leoforos Athinon 374, Chaidari 124 62)
Organiser: Artefact Athens
Lydia Andrioti (Greece), Christina Anid (France/Greece/Lebanon), Zeina Barakeh (Palestine/Lebanon/USA), Orit Ben Shitrit (Israel/USA/Morocco), Robert Cahen (France), Yannoulis Chalepas (Greece), Evangelos Chatzis (Greece), Lydia Dambassina (Greece), Angie Drakopoulos (USA), Guillermo Galindo (Mexico/USA) Aikaterini Gegisian (UK/Greece), Michal Heiman (Israel), Daniel Hill (USA), Elia Iliadi (Greece), Nikos Kokkalis (Greece), Natalia Manta (Greece), Stella Meletopoulou (Greece), Gisela Meo (Italy), Andreas Mniestris (Greece), Noemi Niederhauser (Switzerland), Vana Ntatsouli (Greece), Stefanos Papadas (Cyprus/Greece), Pipilotti Rist (Switzerland), Evi Savvaidi (Greece), Ariane Severin (Germany/Greece), Nadia Skordopoulou (Greece), Dimitris Skourogiannis (Greece), Dimitra Skandali (Greece), Constantinos Taliotis (Cyprus), Tolis Tatolas (Greece), Nikos Tranos (Greece), Iakovos Volkov (Greece), Tori Wrånes (Norway), Gil Yefman (Israel), Katerina Zacharopoulou (Greece), Eleni Zouni (Greece).
[Source: Exhibition’s guide and texts, Curator: Dr Kostas Prapoglou]
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