Inspired by the space and its contemporary dimension, Michalis Manousakis in his exhibit at the National Museum of Contemporary Art creates for the first time an installation staged in situ by the artist himself with toys and other items from his personal collection, which directly or indirectly are related to children and come from the period of the Cretan State, the Balkan Wars, the Asia Minor catastrophe, the Metaxas dictatorship, and the German occupation, as well as the decades of the ’50s and ’60s.
In the evocatively lit hall, with colors that symbolically refer to childhood and to nostalgia, the sequences of photographs and other archival documents, accompanied by the artist’s personal texts as parallel narratives that supplement or interpret the image, work together in a single installation as they are transformed from pure collectibles or documents into an artistic narrative, open to interpretations and readings.
With respect paid to historical continuity, but also with a visible fictional disposal, Manousakis “speaks” about history, war, social and political consequences, economic hardship, and primarily the children’s unknowing participation in a game of situations and roles defined by adults, and, at the same time, without naming them clearly, he alludes to the perpetrators, accomplices, to those responsible for the evils of greek history. The artist’s intention to penetrate through history into the present is fully revealed through original documents and improvised connections, such as the childhood piggy banks, which, while stimulating tender childhood memories, at the same time provoke an emotional charge, when connected in one’s mind to the empty, of money and of dreams, savings banks of today.
Manousakis’s installation culminates in a big showcase like an ark full of Greek, European, Japanese, and American toys of the period 1897-1965, constructed at the height of children (one meter). Although the information that one draws when faced with this unique exhibition of toys on folklore, ethnology, sociology, etc. is indisputable, at the same time the unsystematic or unindexed juxtaposition of toys at the end of the narrative, and especially their confinement in what the artist calls an ark, requires different types of approaches. An ark to rescue dreams, an ark to stimulate a lost childhood, a cry in a time of crisis and ferocity, Manousakis’s ark calls forth familiar experiences and memories in everybody from a childhood that is selfless, delightful, full of intensity and momentum, and simultaneously invites one to a process of introspection, redefinition, and resistance, a necessary condition for survival and a last attempt to escape from contemporary dead-end reality.