Ιn the framework of an open and investigative exhibition policy following the ecumenical spirit of our time, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens inaugurates the series EMST Commissions 2010. It is a program of new productions, commissioned by the museum, which will be presented in the Project Room. Our aim is to give the opportunity to Greek and international artists who create in different genres and media –painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, new media, performance– to experiment and create works that will be presented in this particular space, revealing contemporary artistic and transcultural quests. Six new productions are scheduled every year, with the perspective to be included afterwards in the museum’s permanent collection. These works are realized with the kind support of Bombay Sapphire gin.
The first work of this year is the multimedia installation titled Red Eyed Sky Walkers by Jenny Marketou which is presented partly outdoors, in the Peristyle of the building, and in the Project Room.
In an era when the issues of the need for public security and the preservation of individual freedom come more and more to the centre of attention, and when, at the same time, a large portion of the TV audience is fascinated by reality shows, in which the public exposure of the participants’ private lives becomes a game show, the boundaries between voluntary exposure and involuntary surveillance become more and more blurred.
The question of when surveillance (the involuntary recording on cameras as a means used by the systems of power to control the public sphere) borders on performance (a voluntary action in front of the camera) and vice versa has preoccupied a number of artists since the emergence of the video medium in the late 60s. The relationship between surveillance and performance is a theme which has been treated at length in Marketou’s work. And particularly after 9/11, when the artist, based in New York, a city living under close watch, experienced the constraint of fear under the new rules and regulations which develop the fear of the war on terror, the issue of surveillance and spying has been tackled in numerous of her works.
In Red Eyed Sky Walkers, the public space in front of the Museum’s entrance and the peristyle is observed by ninety nine red weather balloons, of which nine have small wireless cameras attached. The cameras record the movements of the passers-by and the activities of the people who frequent this place: the Conservatory students, the break-dancing kids, the security guards, the police on Rigillis Street, as well as the everyday incidents, important or not, that happen in this busy public space. The resulting visual material is projected in real time at the Museum’s Project Room. In this work, the viewer is at the same time a subject of observation and an observer, since, upon entering the Museum, he realizes that he becomes a party to information. The use of balloons gives a playful dimension to the work, but also hot air balloons were used as spy vehicles by the army during the American Civil War.
Red Eyed Sky Walkers is a participatory installation, which is presented simultaneously in an interior and an exterior public space and invites the viewer, or even a random passer-by, to enter into a dialogue with the work. The bodily presence of the passers-by, as well as their actions and behaviours, shape the visual material that is recorded by the nine cameras and shown on a split screen.
But aside from the participation and interaction, which are central elements to the installation, the practice of post-production that Marketou partially adopts in this work is another significant element. The artist combines the recorded aerial images with found material from the YouTube reservoir and other internet sources. She picks material from surveillance videos, videos of riots in public spaces, videos of arrests by the police, and so forth, as well as images extracted from previous versions of the work.
The reuse of material from the internet opens up to the viewer an interspatial, non-linear work with multiple readings, which aims not at a mere recording but at the creation of a visual narrative that extends beyond the reality of the image, lying between reality and fiction, between the familiar and the unfamiliar, between representation and abstraction, between the real and the virtual environment. Marketou creates a work that deals with topical issues in a humorous, creative and critical vein, attempting to reverse the practice of observation and encouraging the viewers to participate in the game between surveillance and performance.
Curated by Daphne Vitali
With the kind support of: