Ideas and Solutions for your Home: exploring the familiar
Exhibition review by Christina Petkopoulou
3 137 is an artist-run space in the center of Athens that was established on a turning for the future of the city as a contemporary art destination and a manifold political battleground. In the past two years, artists and members of 3 137, Paky Vlassopoulou, Chrysanthi Koumianaki and Kosmas Nikolaou curated a contemporary art project that revolved around the state of the city, as this appears to be ten years after the founding of the organism; a financial breakdown of the Greek state, a documenta hosting and a pandemic later. 3 137 inaugurated F.A.R (Floor Area Ratio), a series of events, radio shows and workshops referring to the particularity of the housing problem in Athens and beyond, while addressing in a characteristically confrontational way the (art)world, and the urban condition under which their hybrid art organism has been born.
In June 2022, as part of F.A.R., the team curated “Ideas and Solutions for your Home”, a group show which took place in the space of 3 137 and the next-door building, former music club Enallax. In this final chapter of the F.A.R project, 3 137, particularly interested in the perception of the notions of home and housing, instigating from the paradigm of Athens, strived for a more esoteric, universal experience: the fragments of familiar memory, common images, the abstract outline of everyday objects that draws our impression of a household.
The group show hosted the work of Greek and international artists and collectives, archival material, design objects, artifacts and texts in order to put together a two-stage setting that enabled the viewer to engage with the artist’s interventions, intrigued by a feeling of coziness, subtly -yet constantly- invaded by a sense of estrangement. How can a house serve as a monument of use? How distinctive to the emotional gaze of its resident is the aesthetic stratigraphy of an apartment? The group’s curatorial approach of the project, instead of reflecting these questions from a certain distance to attempt an epistemologically “correct” aspect of the transitions occurred in inhabiting and cohabiting in the past few years, it aimed to inspect those transformations within the confidence of their subjectivity, like a neighbor behind their window (or perhaps the neighbor’s cat) observing the outside world from the -debatable- safety of their home. The 3 137 team, along with the artists invited, delved into the concept of “home”, as this can be experienced in a house, a neighborhood, a city, in a shared cultural or physical environment.
The show’s title “Ideas and Solutions for your Home” is a reference to an acclaimed design and decoration magazine, printed and published in Greece during the 1990s. In an era defined by a narrative of wealth and ambitious expectations (yet lacking Instagram filters and Pinterest), middle- and upper-class Greeks flipping through its pages, accessed an imagery of prosperity and perfection, culturally neutral and satisfying, with harmonic color tones, smooth fabrics and spacious rooms lacking human presence. Those ready-to-wear design settings and house trends invaded massively the properties of privileged at-the-time Greeks, who could finally buy their own houses with the blessings of the thriving economy and generous housing loans. Surprisingly, in the ongoing economical and real-estate context, the title sounds differently than it did twenty years ago: I unintentionally think of a problem that asks to be solved with good, redemptive ideas.
In the exhibition space, design objects and hand-made rugs from Thrace co-exist with Maria Toumazou’s disarticulated bed headboard, Shreyas Karle’s uninviting cushion, Hera Büyüktaşçiyan’s industrial, carpets with her personal, mysterious carved language, Andreas Sell’s photograph depicting all of his material belongings and Claire Fontaine’s Epikourou 26, key on the wall. With the mental image of the safety locks hanging all around Athens including keys of apartments for short-term rent, I stood above the archive material of the -now closed-Thessaloniki Design Museum staring at fragments of its un-housed collection.
Intimate and mysterious, Marc Camille Chaimowitz’s Vasque tapestry was placed strikethrough the glass window of the 3 137’s studio. Its surface served as a gate to a family room, invoking the feeling of entering a private space, where we have been welcomed at some point of our lives. With the uncanny pattern of decorative urns, the tapestry encloses a memory of the artist’s Jewish-French heritage and at the same time a reminiscence of the banal tapestries covering the walls of the apartments of our grandparents since the 1970’s. There, where one could find framed family photos and paintings, like the fragile canvases by Niki Gulema, lying on the floor and on the tapestried wall. Sensitive glimpses of color deriving from an obscure place of one’s personal history, Gulema’s works responded to the viewer’s uncertainty on how to pose themselves inside the gallery space: as a house guest with a slight reluctance, like the painting on the floor expecting to find its place on the wall.
Wandering in the exhibition space, in and out of the familiar premises of 3 137, out on the street of Mavromichali -my own neighborhood-, to the next-door building of Enallax club -a point of reference of another generation that makes me nostalgic of something I’ve never lived-, I kept thinking of the intensely sensitive nature of comfort. One can feel comfort in familiar spaces that they have once been inhabited or even in ones reminiscents of the latter. Equally, friendly faces can be often as heart-warming as familiar objects, like the ones in the photo prints of Eleni Bagaki hanging on the walls of the club’s first floor, her installation The Importance of Reading, Writing and Exfoliating. A mixer you cooked with ten years ago, a coffee machine that reminds you of your mother and strangely, objects that imply the former use of a stranger, as if their contact with human body broke their glossy, cold, industrial husk forever. All these everyday objects, devices and banal containers, most probably hidden in cupboards in professional design-architectural catalogues, don’t they signify the difference between a space that is being lived rather than just visited? Meanwhile, in the next room, Thodoros Tzannetakis presented for the first time his collection of Braun items, juxtaposing them with care on a case he discovered in the 3 137’s space. The electric devices with their own history, colorful, shiny objects, futuristic in their own time and eye-candies in the present, stand now out of use in a rare assemblage.
Comfort however, doesn’t go along with risk, and crossing boundaries is a risk worth taking. Curator Eva Vaslamatzi wrote a piece that, through her creative collaboration with graphic designer Stavros Bilionis, stood as an artwork on the front door of the music club. Visible and readable from the passers-by, Vaslamatzi’s text was an ode to the fluidity of the term of “space”: physical, domestic, inhabited, or historical. Discussing the rigidly definitive relation of space with time, she exposes herself as a creator moving gracefully into a position of which she has profound knowledge, yet it was never acquired by herself before. Fairly, 3 137’s choice to work solely as curators of this particular project, even though it is not primarily unexpected, since they have been actually curating the space’s program with the strict and the broader sense of the term for the past ten years, one can’t help thinking that it wasn’t the easiest way to go. From the large scale production the activation of a nearly abandoned building, to the creative insightfulness of involving young and established artists, archival material, exhibits from an ethnological art museum and the contributions of artist collectives, 3 137 ran thoroughly an ambitious and courageous curatorial project, owned it and most importantly shared it.
After the exhibition tour, I found myself on the terrace of the former music club, exposed to the actual residents of the neighborhood. An open space, viewed directly from dozens of windows and balconies of the surrounding blocks of flats, hosted the red silk banners of Byron Kalomamas Silk-Banners in Limbo or How to Undo the Meander and Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann’s installation She Vomits the Forty-Seven Oranges she Swallowed Whole for a Bet. They Fall from Her Mouth one By One Strings of Saliva Accompany Them. Neighbors would gaze at the top of the building from their own homes. They were watching us walk among the oranges, spread on the floor, an image well-known for the Athenians, since the streets of the city are occasionally covered with the products of a certain variety of citrus fruit trees. Kalomamas’ blood-red banners with their drawings seeming to have been extracted from a manual of a strange, complex machine, waved in the summer breeze. The former night club is now on sale.
*F.A.R. (FLOOR AREA RATIO)-PART III Ideas and Solutions for your Home took place between June 9 — September 24, 2022 at 3 137 artist-run space in Athens with the participation of: Eirini Apergi, Eleni Bagaki, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Katerina Charou, Elli Christaki & Thessaloniki Design Museum (Dorothee Becker, Bruno Munari, Aldo Rossi), Eteron — Institute for Research and Social Change, Claire Fontaine, Iannis Ganas, Niki Gulema, Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann, Byron Kalomamas, Shreyas Karle, Pennie Key, Audrey-Flore Ngomsik, Christodoulos Panayiotou, Amalia Pica, Viktorija Rybakova, Andreas Sell, Evi Sougkara, Eric Stephany, Tastes of Damascus, Ethnological Museum of Thrace & Aggeliki Giannakidou, Maria Toumazou, Thodoros Tzannetakis, Eva Vaslamatzi, Come to Greece gia na tin vreis (Greg Haji Joannides, Em Kei)
3 137 (Paky Vlassopoulou, Chrysanthi Koumianaki and Kosmas Nikolaou), Eleni Bagaki, Niki Goulema, Byron Kalomamas, Pennie Key and Eva Vaslamatzi are SNF ARTWORKS Fellows.
Christina Petkopoulou, (Athens, 1992) is a free-lance curator, researcher and writer based in Athens. She has studied Archaeology and History of Art at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Paris I-Pantheon-Sorbonne and completed a master’s degree in Cultural Management at the Panteion University of Social Sciences. She is a member and the in-house curator of the A-DASH team, a researcher and curator of the online art projects a time of her own by Zoe Chatziyannaki and Athens Report by Anna Lascari. She has curated exhibitions and public programs (Lipiu, 2020, Playing Ground, Automatic Transmission, 2019, Liminal Aristeidis Lappas solo show, Praxitelous 33, 2016, Choro-graphies-Points of flight, Artscape Athens, 2014 and more). Her texts have been published in several editions and catalogues (The ArtNewspaper Greece, Lipiu, Vera Chotzoglou, Bona Fide, State of Concept, 2021, Ammophila II, Under the Burning Sun, 2021, The Feminine Sublime, 2019 and more). She has worked for the Greek Contemporary Art Institute (ISET) researching and documenting its archive and she has also collaborated with several cultural institutions such as the Athens Biennale (2013, 2015), Art Athina (2014, 2015) and Archaeological Dialogues (2015). In 2016, she was chosen for the Neon Foundation curatorial exchange program in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and in 2019, she has been awarded with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS. She also works as a teacher and a copy editor.