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Venice Biennale 2019 - Greek Pavilion

Press Release

Pavilion of Greece at the 58th International Art Exhibition ― La Biennale di Venezia Artists Panos Charalambous, Eva Stefani, and Zafos Xagoraris represent Greece at the Biennale Arte 2019 in an exhibition titled Mr. Stigl curated by Katerina Tselou

May 11–November 24, 2019 Pre-opening: May 8–10, 2019 Inauguration: May 10, 2019, 2 p.m. Giardini, Venice

Artists Panos Charalambous, Eva Stefani, and Zafos Xagoraris represent Greece at the 58th International Art Exhibition ― La Biennale di Venezia (May 11 ― November 24, 2019) with the exhibition Mr. Stigl, featuring new works and in situ installations, curated by Katerina Tselou.

Lining the Greek Pavilion―both inside and outside―with installations, images, and sound, the three artists challenge the establishment of history across the political, social and private spheres of our lives, by uncovering and rediscovering the voices and stories that have been lost or ignored over time. In the environment they create, grand narratives and personal stories interchange constantly. By revealing the unknown details of history, the works subvert the supposedly indisputable nature of the official record.

Mr. Stigl, the enigmatic character who lends his name to the title of the exhibition, is a playful reference to the Dutch de stijl works that occupied the Greek Pavilion in 1952. There are official records of Mr. Stigl, yet his existence is questionable. He is a historical paradox, a constructive misunderstanding, a fictional hero of an unknown story whose poetics take us to the periphery of official history and reality. This ironic narrator introduces us to a space of doubt, paraphrased sounds and nonsensical identities.

The question that Mr. Stigl proposes is: What does history rewrite and what does it conceal?

The voices introduced by Panos Charalambous reach us through the rich collection of vinyl records he has accumulated since the 1980s. By

combining installations with sonic performances, Charalambous brings forward voices that have been forgotten or silenced, disrupting and recomposing their sound. His new work An Eagle Was Standing is an installation covering the Greek Pavilion floor with 20,000 drinking glasses, upon which an ecstatic sonic dance is performed, creating a vortex of deep listening. The viewers are invited to walk on this transparent stage and leave behind an echo, a trace in the present. Two archival recordings from the artist’s vinyl collection accompany the sounds emerging from the glass installation. This multi-sensorial experience is a eulogy to the body’s ability to tell powerful stories - a Dionysian idea celebrated in many areas of Greek tradition and yet largely excluded from official historical narratives.

Eva Stefani presents three video works that use the short narrative form and present marginal characters associated with the periphery of history. The new work titled Only Men documents the everyday life of several middle-aged men; multiple narratives composed of small-scale stories move between realism and paradox, outlining a man’s world in an anti- heroic way, removed from the stereotypical depiction of masculinity. These are men of all sorts - a poet, a tavern owner, a retired tailor, a builder, an immigrant. In Window the artist tells the story of time that seems to have stopped. The video depicts a female sex worker sitting in a room, with her gaze directed at the viewer; in her silence and non- action, she signals the persistence of unrecorded history. In Mouth, archival footage of parades and national celebrations is set against tiny pieces of text. The words, written by Stefani herself, subversively intertwine private and public speech. Like the pages of a diary containing different entries bound together, Stefani’s characters bear the intimacy of the human condition through several unofficial tellings.

Zafos Xagoraris transforms the entrance of the Greek Pavilion by reconstructing a gate of the infamous military prison on the island of Makronisos. This installation, The Concession, transports us back to 1948, during the troubled years of the Greek Civil War, when the Pavilion of Greece was instead offered to the American art collector Peggy Guggenheim to show her pivotal collection of modern art for the first time in Europe, changing the history of the Biennale itself. At exactly the same time, displaced soldiers and civilians were being forced to build replicas of ancient Greek temples at the Makronisos concentration camp, as part of a political and cultural reformation. Xagoraris' gate, along with his three-dimensional model of a hybrid building that sits inside the exhibition space, references the architectural connection between the Greek Pavilion and the buildings constructed by the exiled

islanders during the Civil War. The works suggest that two contradictory events occurring simultaneously have the power to define the collective memory of the land as well as the stories of people living apart.

The Metropolitan Organisation of Museums of Visual Arts of Thessaloniki (MOMus) has been appointed commissioner of Greece’s national participation by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports. The role of commissioner is undertaken by Syrago Tsiara, deputy director of the MOMus–Museum of Contemporary Art and MOMus– Experimental Center for the Arts. The project is funded by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.

The project is powered by Onassis Culture, with the support of NEON Organization for Culture and Development, the Greek National Tourism Organization and Aegean Airlines as official air carrier sponsor.

Inauguration of the Greek Pavilion: Friday May 10, 2019, 2 p.m. A sonic performance will be presented by Panos Charalambous during

the inauguration (10 min.).

Press material and photos here:

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Panos Charalambous

A Wild Eagle Was Standing Proud, 2018–19 Installation, dimensions variable; performance 20,000 drinking glasses, marble, two turntables, six loudspeakers, embalmed eagle, vinyl records

Sonic material: “Fate’s Game” with T. Karnavas, amateur recording during the August 15

celebrations in Acarnania, 1987 “Lamenti de Epiro I, II” by Demetrio Stratos, Metrodora (Cramps Records, 1976) The artwork is accompanied by a limited-edition double vinyl with recordings assembled by the artist (Rekem Records, 2019).

Eva Stefani

Anaglyphs, 2019 Work includes: Only Men, 2019 16 mm, Hi8, VHS-C, HDV, color, sound 70 min. Window, 2019

Digital video, color, no sound 2 min. Mouth, 2019 Archival footage, black-and-white, no sound 3.5 min.

Zafos Xagoraris

The Concession, 2018–19 Installation, dimensions variable This installation comprises the reconstruction of the Greek Pavilion gate (950 cm x 1,250 cm x 150 cm), a three-dimensional depiction of a hybrid building (90 cm x 140 cm x 90 cm), and a display case with archival material from the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (ELIA), Athens; Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI), Athens; Venice Biennale Historical Archives, Venice; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York; and Peggy Guggenheim Collection Archives, Venice.

BIOGRAPHIES Participating Artists

Panos Charalambous (b. 1956, Acarnania, Greece) creates site-specific installations and public audiovisual presentations. Through in-progress units and sonic dance happenings, he is concerned with the “survival” potential of patterns, voices, sounds, ideas, feelings, and productive behaviors; “thinning” the prevalence of the present, and making new arrangements and distributions possible. Abdicating from the representational status quo, he pursues ionization through his own incidents of “en-act-ment.” At the same time, he explores his expressive ability as a subject within the “minor Modern Greek scene” and “indigenous establishment” of a multicultural environment. He has participated in international group exhibitions, including: Voice-o- gragh & Flatus Vocis, documenta 14, Athens and Kassel, 2017; Genii Loci: Greek Art from 1930 to the Present, Saint Petersburg, 2016; Venice International Performance Art Week: The Dream of Antigone, Venice, 2016; White House Biennial, Varna, 2016; Break-Through, ARCO, Madrid, 2004; Eidos, Besançon, 2004; Copenhagen European Capital of Culture, 1996; Ogrody, Poznań, 1996; Kunst-Europa: Visual

European Landscape, Berlin, 1991; Glasgow European Capital of Culture, 1990; Οut of Limits, Poznań, 1990; and 3rd Biennial of Young Artists from Mediterranean Europe, Barcelona, 1987. Solo shows include: Αquis Submersus, Athens, 2014–15; Tobacco Area 1986–2011, Athens, 2011; Voice-O-Graph, Athens, 2006–07; Phonopolis, Athens, 2003–

04; Psychagogia II, Athens, 2001; 1496–2000 / como humo se va, Athens, 1999– 2000; Psychagogia I: Recreation, Athens and Thessaloniki, 1997; ΙΧΘΥΣ, Athens, 1995; Concerning Fishing, Athens, 1992; and Story of Τobacco, Berlin, 1991 and Athens, 1990, 1988.

He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts in Greece under Nikos Kessanlis. Charalambous lives and works in Athens, where he is Rector of the School of Fine Arts.

Eva Stefani Documentary filmmaker, visual artist, and poet, Eva Stefani (b. USA, 1964) uses video and super 8 film to make observational documentaries and short visual poems. Selected filmography includes Manuscript (2017), Virgin’s Temple (2017), Dimitris Papaioannou (2012), Bathers (2008), What Time Is It? (2007), The Box (2004), Acropolis (2001), and Athene (1995). She has been awarded international prizes, among: Principal Prize at the 64th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, National Quality Award from the Greek Ministry of Culture, International Film Critics Award (FIPRESCI), and 1st Prize for Short Documentary at Cinéma du Réel, Paris. She has participated in international art exhibitions, most recently documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel (2017). She is the head of the Film Series at Patakis Publishers in Athens, as well as the author of two film books, Documentary: The Observation Game (Patakis, 2016) and 10 texts on Documentary (Patakis, 2007), and a book of poetic prose, Fin’s Hair (Polis, 2014). She studied political science at University of Athens (BA); documentary filmmaking at Ateliers Varan, Paris; Cinema Studies at New York University (MA); and documentary at National Film & TV School, London. She finished her PhD on Ethnographic Filmmaking in 1997 at Panteion University, Athens. Stefani is Associate Professor of History and Theory of Cinema, Faculty of Theatre Studies, University of Athens, and a Visiting Professor at Freie Universität Berlin.

Zafos Xagoraris In his work, Zafos Xagoraris (b. Athens, 1963) often refers to historical details or disregarded events that he shifts to the present as if breathing life into a ghost. His research starts in situ or within the exhibition context.

He has participated in various exhibitions such as Have We Met? Dialogues on Memory and Desire, Stamps Gallery, Ann Arbor, 2018; documenta 14, Athens and Kassel, 2017; Politiche della Natura, Fondazione Zimei, Pescara, 2016; PIGS, Artium, Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2016; No Country for Young Men, Bozar, Brussels, 2014; 4th Athens Biennale, 2013; Sotto Quale Cielo, Museo Riso, Palermo, 2011; Manifesta 7, Rovereto, 2008; 1st Thessaloniki Biennale, 2007; 1st Bienal del Fin del Mundo, Ushuaia, 2007;

and 27th São Paulo Biennial, 2006. In 2015, he presented the outdoor installation Downhill Classroom commissioned by the Benaki Museum, Athens, and in 2016, The Performance for NEON City Project, Athens. During 2017–19, he organized the educational project Dismantling Devices with the collaboration of Onassis Cultural Centre at six elementary schools in Athens. He has been invited to present his work at universities, including: Iuav, Venice; School of Visual Arts, New York; Academy of Fine Arts, Munich; Academy of Fine Arts, Palermo; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and School of the Art Institute, Chicago. He was one of the curators of the Greek Pavilion at the 9th Venice Biennale of Architecture (2004), and the 2nd Athens Biennial (2009). He has been a Visiting Professor at Universities of Sassari and Patras, a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University, and a Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence at University of Michigan. He is currently Professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) under an Onassis Foundation scholarship. He was awarded his PhD on the construction of miracles by the “Hero of Alexandria,” National Technical University of Athens. Xagoraris lives and works in Athens.


Katerina Tselou Katerina Tselou (b. Athens, 1974) studied Literature and Art History at the University of Athens, and then moved to Paris for her postgraduate studies of Art Theory at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS). She was Curatorial Advisor at documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, as well as Assistant to the Artistic Director Adam Szymczyk (2014–17). She was a co-curator at the 4th Athens Biennale in 2013. From 2009 to 2013 she was the curator of the visual arts program at the National Theatre of Greece, and from 2007 to 2008 she worked as Exhibition Coordinator at Argos Centre for Art and Media

in Brussels. She has also organized projects as an independent curator in Greece, collaborating with institutions such as the Athens School of Fine Arts, the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly, the European Film Festival, and Notos Theatre. Tselou lives and works in Athens.


Syrago Tsiara Syrago Tsiara (b. Larissa, 1968) completed her studies in History and Archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and continued with an MA in Social History of Art at the University of Leeds. Her PhD dissertation was on art in public space and the formation of national identity and memory. Since 2000, she has been working as a curator at the State Museum of Contemporary Art (now MOMus–Museum of Modern Art–Costakis Collection), organizing exhibitions, conferences and multidisciplinary events, and since 2007, she is the director of the Thessaloniki Centre of Contemporary Art (now MOMus–Experimental Center for the Arts). She has been responsible for staging numerous exhibitions, including: Masquerades: Femininity, Masculinity and Other Certainties; Genius Seculi: Despina Meimaroglou and Deimantas Narkevičius; Leda Papaconstantinou: In the name of; Public Screen; and Ident-alter-ity (co-curation). She has taught Art in Public Space, Avant-Garde and Modernism in Europe, Greek Art (nineteenth and twentieth centuries), and Contemporary Art Theory and Methodology at the University of Thessaly from 2004–08, and in 2009, she co–curated the 2nd Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art titled Praxis: Art in Times of Uncertainty with Gabriela Salgado and Bisi Silva. She is also the Director of the 6th and 7th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2017 / 2019). Tsiara is the Deputy Director of MOMus–Museum of Contemporary Art and MOMus– Experimental Center for the Arts, and the National Commissioner of the Pavilion of Greece at the 58th International Art Exhibition―La Biennale di Venezia.


58th International Art Exhibition―La Biennale di Venezia titled May You Live in Interesting Times is curated by Ralph Rugoff.


The pre-opening for accredited press and professionals takes place on May 8–10, 2019. The exhibition is open to the public from May 11 to November 24, 2019. Closed on Mondays (except May 13, September 2, November 18, 2019)

Opening hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Venue: Giardini, Venice

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