Thursday 7 March 2024

Women Together

Women Together,  at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens.

The exhibition Women Together, is the first rehang of the museum's collection in its permanent home, (the former FIX brewery), since the initial presentation in 2019. (You can  find out more about the building itself and its history here )

The exhibition is an attempt to address a major issue confronting all museums today: the under-representation of women and the urgency regarding gender equality.

There are a total of 49 works by different artists, ten of which are Greek.

Cornelia Parker, 
Dress, Shot by Pearl Necklace, 1995,
Suit, Shot by Small Change, 1995

The two works are the literal representation of the titles they bear. Using the pearls of a necklace and coins as bullets, the artist shot a woman's velvet dress and a man's suit. The 'corpses' of these destroyed garments serve as the spectral presences of the protagonists in a fictional narrative, partially alluding to the ironic and subsersive use of gender stereotypes.

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Cornelia Parker, Avoided Object, 1995

An installation of an assembly of objects collected by the artist from the subsoil of Dusseldorf using a metal detector. Through this gesture, Parker symbolically 'rummaged' through her past, the trauma of WWII, and particularly the silence engulfed around it on the part of her German mother. Among the remnants of an archaeological excavation and the waste of the urban environment, the objects on display are suspended from the floor at a height equal to the depth from which they were extracted. 

'My work is constantly unstable... hovering, or so fragile it might collapse. Perhaps that's what I feel, about my own relationship to the world. It is a universal condition, that of vulnerability. We don't have solid, fixed lives; we're consistently dealing with what life throws us'.

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Paky Vlassopoulou, A Day After a Day, After a Day, After a Day, 2023, (porcelain)

Despina Meimaroglou, A Pack of Lies, 1997, (C-print on aluminium)

A Pack of Lies consists of a series of photographic prints that depict three variations on the face of an aged Barbie doll, as well as its full-body portrayal bearing signs of physical abuse. For these works, Meimaroglou used early image processing applications to combine aspects of the toy doll with photographs of mature women in a gesture that epitomises the non-realistic standards of beauty and their relation with direct or latent physical violence.

Christina Dimitriadis, Thessaloniki/Livingroom II, 1995, (C-print)

Christina Dimitriadis, Berlin/Studio, 1995, (C-print)

Thessaloniki/Living Room II and Berlin/Studio are part of the Private Spaces series with which Dimitriadis engaged in the mid-1990s and delved into what she calls 'living environments'. These entail a series of directed self-portraits of her in intimate, private interior spaces, such as her parents' home or her apartment in Germany. The artist is blurrily portrayed due to the prolonged exposure time, as a result of which she appears to dissolve into the surrounding space. Through these works, she explored family relationships in an autobiographical manner, posing questions about how we 'exist' inside our private spaces.

Gillian Wearing, Trauma, 2000, (video on screen, colour, sound).

This work consists of confessional narrations of traumatic experiences made by people who have their faces covered with a plastic teenager mask. The video is presented in a room that resembles a confessional, linking these narrations to the Roman Catholic Christian tradition of managing emotions of guilt and self-victimisation. The mask allows the confessors to hide their identity while at the same time helping them inhabit themselves again at the age when the traumatic events took place. Through this ritual of confession, the narrators feel free to present a new face that has remained concealed even from their very selves.

Etel Adnan, Hommage to The Olive Goddess, 2018, (oil on canvas)

Sixteen round canvasses depicting olive trees. Their number corresponds to the number of supercentenarian olive trees in the village of Bchaaleh in South Lebanon, which, according to the local tradition, have existed since Noah's Biblical Deluge.

Hera Buyuktasciyan, Nothing Further Beyond, 2021, (industrial carpet, metal and wood)

This installation traces the layers of history beneath an architectural ruin in Istanbul, the Triumphal Arch of Emperor Theodosius I, which was erected in 395 AD and today is situated in Beyazit Square. The teardrop-like motifs that adorn the monument's columns symbolise the club of Hercules, the weapon he used to accomplish his twelve labours. Theodosius ordered that the arch be installed in such a way that it would point towards the Pillars of Hercules, which, according to legend, were placed by Hercules himself at the far end of the West side to signify the end of the known world and protect it from sea monsters. With the Latin phrase 'Non plus ultra' (nothing further beyond) inscribed upon them, as the legend goes, the Pillars delineate the borders of western civilisation, designating anything beyond them as 'other'. For her sculptural installation, Buyuktasciyan uses carpets that resemble geological strata in order to mimic the multiple narratives that exist among the ruins and remain latent within each layer.

Maria Tsagkari, I Couldn't Bear Living Without You, 2017, (natural human hair, wooden poles, acrylic paint)

Annette Messager, Soeux Sous Fillet, 1997, (black and white photos, net)

This installation is inspired by the ritual offerings left beside altars in Roman Catholic churches, often in gratitude for answered prayers. Evoking these so-called ex-votos, dozens of small photographs of body parts are hung from an array of black cords and veiled by a black net. Messager conceives of a female, intimate unviverse that alludes to the paradoxical and fragmentary nature of identity.

To see more of Messager's work go here

Tala Madani,  Aaaa Hit Wall, 2011, (oil on linen)

Madani deconstructs a male figure in motion with fluid, swift brushstrokes and the compositional approach of animation. The clumsy and teetering man appears to disolve into amorphous organic forms as he collides with the wall. The painter, combing humour and violence, addresses one of her favourite subjects: the portrayal of men in all their fragility and desperation.

To see more of Madani's work go here

Maria Loizidou, TraumaWar Loot, 2000, (mixed media)

The work was realised in 2000, 26 years after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. The pile of dolls made out of clothes and fabric scraps from people close to the artist, signifies a pile from the conqueror's loot and plunder: it serves as a means to remember the traumatic past and opens up possibilities of recognition, healing and eventually, redemption.

Ghada Amer, The Little Girl, 2001 (acrylic and embroidery on canvas)

The work belongs to a broader corpus of compositions where the representation of women is based on photographs taken from pornographic material. Amer isolates the female figures, removing men and presenting them in moments of sexual stimulation. Then, she creates drawings by tracing only their outlines with a thread. The work is the product of a double appropriation: on the one hand, of the medium of embroidery, and on the other hand, of an erotic iconography which addresses  the satisfaction of the male gaze. Regardless of the source from which she draws the material - fashion magazines, pornography, children's tales, the Koran, and mediaeval Arabic manuscripts - Amer's works attempt to critically challenge hierarchies and stereotypical portrayals of women, where the expression of desire functions as a means of empowerment.

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