Saturday, October 01, 2011

A Moment in the History of White Walls: 3rd Thessaloniki Biennial Compedium

Thessaloniki is a city often represented by a white 12th century fortification tower. This tower was part of a white fortification infrastructure protecting the city. 

Now the White tower is just a logo.

Biennials survive on white walls. One could say that white exhibition walls are a kind of fortification, since they keep reality out and offer a white cube of isolation where objects can be read as artworks. 

 White Cube spaces are the White Towers of Contemporary Art

They once protected art from reality, but now they signify exhibitionville, they became logos for the generic art space.

(Confusion reigned between what was exhibition and what was fortification, between city and gallery)

Suddenly in Thessaloniki white walls extend out of galleries, 
and stand guard in front of venues, hoping to have something to protect. Could they stop the crisis from entering the Biennial? Should they? In the end they too become logos, fortification as signage just like the white tower itself. 

Breaking up the STATE MUSEUM
Meanwhile at the venues, the exhibition arrangements attempt to put together proposals for an architecture of white walls. The space is too large and too bland for works, the scale is wrong and the collonade seems to attract all the attention.

Gallery rooms break apart, and sit closely to the corners, they form half rooms and semi rooms and open rooms, a maze of shifting possibilities. 

Their structure extends to attach itself to the existing building, forming another maze of inbetween spaces, where visitors can step out of the exhibition, pause and enter the space of another artist.

Works by Spartacus Chetwynd, Steven Harvey, Ali Kazma, Alexander Kluge, Irini Miga, Michail Pirgelis, Hrair Sarkissian and Kostis Velonis are shown vis a vis selections from the Costakis collection of Russian Avant Garde. The new rooms are dedicated to contemporary artists while works from the collection hang in the museums permanent walls.
visitors stepped in and out of rooms 
that almost didnt exist

Guarding the Ghost at CASA BIANCA

Casa Bianca is an Art Nouveau villa from the turn of the last century. The house is still haunted by tales of the well-to-do Jewish families’ daughter who fell in love with the gentile army lieutenant.
A set of unfinished ghost rooms occupies the reception areas of Casa Bianca, like a ghost waiting to decide if to appear. 

A fortification wall stood guard outside. 

Inside, rooms looked over white walls into other rooms

doors led through other doors  

 into rooms that contained other roomsending up in rooms one didnt expect(Manfredi Beninatti)curated by Paolo Colombo, featuring works by Manfredi Beninati, Pierpaolo Campanini, Andreas Embiricos, Yannoulis Halepas, William Kentridge, Margherita Manzelli, Pavlos Nikolakopoulos, Jockum Nordström, Imran Qureshi, Jean-Marc Rochette, Alberto Savinio, Christiana Soulou, Andreas Vais, Nanos Valaoritis, Constantin Xenakis. 
Passing through layers of fortifications at YENI DJAMI

One could say that Yeni Djami (New Mosque) is a building of curiously double identity. Built as a Mosque in 1902 by architect Vitaliano Poselli, it was commissioned by the community of the Dönme, which explains the overall theme of Stars of David decorating this Mosque. 

The Dönme were Jews that converted to Islam

and later expelled from Thessaloniki as “Turks”, although they maintained many of the beliefs and traditions of Judaism. Ironically those same beliefs isolated them once expelled to Turkey as Jews. 

A double identity twice rejected.
Two fortification walls are place in the Yeni Djami.  One  wall is placed outside and one inside, one is white and the other black, one offers a direct entrance, the other a hidden passage in to the main “temenos” of the Djami.

Works by Mounira Al Solh, Nikolaj B.S. Larsen, Moataz Nasr, Marwan Sahmarani, NaoKo TakaHashi were selected by Mahita El Bacha Urieta

An island sits inside a prayer room at ALATZA IMARET

Alatza Imaret is a 15th century poorhouse meaning literally “Colorful Refuge”. It consisted of a main prayer space, and adjacent food and study rooms, with the sleeping quarters in houses around the building. 

History repeats itself, and today those long gone sleeping quarters have been replaced by ad-hoc housing blocks in what is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Thessaloniki.

The works and exhibition walls are placed on a plinth that floats in this room like a white island, a safety raft. Visitors step up on this island, elevated and isolated inside the tall prayer space of Alatza Imaret.

(Slavs and Tatars Molla Nasredin reading beds and on the far wall, great spiderweb drawings by Pae White)

works by Penelope Georgiou,Panos Koutrouboussis, Yorgos Sapountzis, Slavs and Tatars , Ryan Trecartin  and Pae White were selected by Marina Fokidis

on the opening night, amazing concert by Solon Lekkas 
(on the facade great Yorgos Sapountzis)

Darkness engulfed the MACEDONIAN MUSEUM

The long narrow tall space of the Macedonian museum disappeared behind a wall of dark.

The darkness protected the works from the space, allowed the videos to breathe.

works by Kerren Cytter , Mounir Fatmi , Yehudit Sasportas , Pandelis Pandelopoulos, Dionyssis Kavalieratos 

An archive was placed inside BEY HAMAM

A set of repetitive, adjustable modules was conceived to host the  "information center of the biennial. The module transforms from passage to bookase to desk to vitrine to another vitrine to a seat.

 The back side of the modules is painted artworld white, and when the ymodules are placed together they form an enclosure, a wall of archives protecting (and perhaps intellectually fortifying)a space for works that need white walls.

This Archive Building could exist on it's own, but thecurators chose Bey Hamam, an Ottoman bath house from 1444, as the venue for this curious information center .

The function of the Hamam and the archive are interpreted as almost identical, one being for the body what the other is for the mind. Both programs relate to the passing of time, to introspection, to reflection, maybe daydreaming.

This affinity suggested the opportunity for an unexpected superimposition. In a reverse archaeological gesture, the archive building is embedded inside the cavernous spaces of the Hamam, as the result from a potential future discovery, a fata morgana

As you walk from room to room in the labyrinthine hamam, you encounter the bookshelf walls of this archive building yet and again. 

These walls seem to continue from room to room, 

and slowly you understand that the form a larger shape, a complete archive building that lives inside the hamam building.

Bey Hamam features works, archives and movies by Arab Image Foundation, Cinémathèque de Tanger, IKONO TV, PRISM TV (Nikos Katsaounis&Nina Paschalidou), Archive (Francesca Boenzi, Paolo Caffoni, Chiara Figone, Ignas Petronis), 98 Weeks

(Moments in the history of White Walls in Thessaloniki, from fortification, to prison, to tourist attraction and finally to exhibition wall. A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, main program of the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennial, curated by Paolo Colombo, Mahita Ebu, Marina Fokidis, architecture by Andreas Angelidakis.)

Transporting art through the TELLOGLIO FOUNDATION


The exhibition areas of the Telloglio Foundation seemed to resemble an 1980's Balkan airport, so we decided to leave the exhibition in it's shipping crate rooms, ready to travel.

somehow the shipping crates echoed the architecture of the building
the crates were conected with corridors, themselves connecting to curious crates we found on the site

works by Thomas Dvorzak, Tayfun Serttas, Vlassis Kaniaris,  and Socratis Socratous

 While the exhibition design plays with the idea of fortification and protection  as branding device, a large part of visiting the Biennale takes place outside these white walls.
Going from venue to venue becomes as much part of the biennial as the exhibition itself. You drive through strange neighborhoods were everybody seems to sell old stuff, followed by neighborhoods where everybody sells furniture. Then markets, 70's run down modernist apartment buildings, posh areas overlooking the sea, next to neighborhoods where students find shelter. 

 Other venues include the Archaeological Museum were you can see Athanasios Argianas, Sifis Lykakis and Dionisis Kavallieratos, Bruce Nauman and Christina Dimitriadis
(Bruce Nauman)
At the amazing Eptapyrgio prison you can see another ominous work by Vlassis Kaniaris. During the opening days one could also see a haunting performace of Olaf Nicolai's work, which is spread over all the venues (one song selected for each venue).
Then at Byzantine great works by Katerina Athanasopoulou, Dionisis Kavallieratos and Katarina Lillqvist.
The biennial concludes, (and often begins) from the Center of Contemporary art at the port, where one can see strong works by Francis Alÿs, Rasheed Araeen, Christoph Buchel, Angelo Plessas and Ahlam Shibli

(Angelo Plessas' Monument to Internet Hookups, a work that was shown in an initial version at the 2nd Athens Biennial in conjunction with Athens Pride, but now takes on a larger presence, offering free wifi which could initiate internet hookups of both sexual and political nature)

A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, the Main program of the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennial is curated by Paolo Colombo, Mahita Ebu and Marina Fokidis with architecture by Andreas Angelidakis 

special thanks to the State Museum of Contemporary Art
Sotiris Vasiliou (Angelidakis Studio)
INTEREXPO, AMSFAIRS, INTERFORM, EXPOSYSTEM and TETRAGON for construction and coordination.

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