Anish Kapoor, Untitled, 2001-2005

The Grand Promenade

Pedestrian walkways Dionysiou Areopagitou, Apostolou Pavlou and Ermou - Αdjacent public and private buildings

The Grand Promenade is the first of two large scale international exhibitions organized by the National Museum of Contemporary Art, in the framework of the Pre-Opening Events 2006-2008, in view of the completion of its permanent premises in the middle of 2008.

The idea of the exhibition was born from the close proximity of EMST to the archaeological sites and monuments of Athens that offers us a possibility of various transcultural communication networks between antiquity and contemporary international art.

The title of the exhibition refers to the Grand Promenade of the Unification of Archaeological Sites, a huge urban intervention around the Acropolis and creates an “open” museum where the rich cultural heritage is intersected with the capitals daily life and its multicultural reality.

As experience and metaphor the Grand Promenade, allows unexpected encounters and ties, stories within History, new relationships between the local and the universal, and an open conceptual narrative incorporating the Elsewhere and the Others.

In the exhibition participate 44 artists from around the world with recent works or with in situ commissions of the Museum, which will be presented along the archaeological Grand Promenade and adjacent public and private buildings.

The works that are presented in the various exhibition venues are in dialogue with the natural and architectural beauty, with mythology, history and the contemporary social reality of sites and buildings, and in harmony with the atmosphere that each one of these radiates.

Some of the notions touched upon by the works in the exhibition, are the relations between the public and the private, fiction and reality, memory, the landscape and history, the dream and the journey, the community, democracy, utopia, multiculturalism, migration, the City.

Opposite the New Acropolis Museum, the visitor will encounter the first work of the exhibition, of the Palestinian artist Khalil Rabah. Rabah’s installation represents a museum, the New Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind. Its building, like a real Museum in miniature, consists of rooms of permanent collections, a room of documentation and projections. It’s a nomadic museum, which was presented for the first time in 2004 in Ramallah, in 2005 in Rome and Istanbul and in 2006 in Amsterdam and Athens, this time under the title The New Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind. With basic theme and concept the sacred olive tree, this monumental work opens a dialogue with the memory, the history of the Attic land and the common anthropological background of the people of the Mediterranean.

Along the Grand Promenade, the visitor will discover the sound installations of Steve Roden, Susan Philipz and Pavel Büchler, sculptures like those of Ulrich Rückriem and Anish Kapoor, as well as the work of the Iranian artist Y. Z. Kami, in the Roman Agora, which refers to the sufism of the 13th century mystic Iranian poet Rumi. Οn Ermou pedestrian walkway, opposite Kerameikos, Vana Xenou’s installation Axis Mundi, Eros-Thanatos, Nymph Cemetery is presented, referring to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Axis of the world is a symbol and intermediary of a transition.

Dimitris Pikioni’s historical formation of the archaeological sites around Acropolis, during the 1950s, is also presented as an exhibit of the Grand Promenade. Pikioni’s work is based on the architecture of motion and memory, which the visitor experiences as he/she walks amidst a giant “collage” of marble and clay pieces that retrieve memories of 19th century demolished Athens.

In the strongly imbued by the political and artistic personality of Melina Mercouri, building of the Melina Mercouri Foundation, political and social documents appear as fictional, in the works of the Turkish artist Gülsün Karamustafa and the Lebanese Fouad Elkoury, while in the familiar artistic venue of the Graduate Association of Fine Arts Students, fiction is displayed as historical reality in the work of Michael Blum. In other rooms, the Polish artist Pawel Althamer will reconstruct, in a daily performance, the relationship between the artist and his model. Next, on the façade of the building of the University of Indianapolis, Athens Campus, (former Goulandri Horn Foundation), the visitor will come upon Per Barclay’s photographic installation For Dionysos (Laura and Tomo – Montalcino). Farther away, a series of new ethereal paintings by Silke Otto-Knapp and a serene sound installation by the American Steve Roden elevate the intrinsic and full of memories space of the Turkish Baths.

Another in situ installation that has been positioned in Thisseio, near-by the ancient road of Panathenea, is Neen Plateau, a collaboration between three Greek artists, Andreas Angelidakis, Miltos Manetas and Angelo Plessas, members of the international group Neen. The artists will display three different works put together, creating a platform for discussion, laying questions such as what is a city in the internet era, what is a promenade in an age of continuous communication, what is an exhibition and what is the Neen movement.

Right across, in front of Thisseion park, has been installed the mystic work of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, The Falling Angel.

Next, the visitor will come across the building of the Association of Greek Archaeologists, where the in situ installation of Christian Boltanski, the installations of Janine Antoni and George Hadjimichalis, the sculpture and the drawings of Wolfgang Laib deal in a poetical and reflective way with ancient and contemporary myths, and notions like death, time, human fate, light and darkness.

In the last section of the exhibition, at the “Technopolis” of the City of Athens, will be displayed, in four of the buildings of the former industrial complex, works by Thomas Hirshchorn and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, that deal with subjects like philosophy, politics, democracy and community. Swiss Thomas Hirshchorn presents an installation titled U – Lounge, using in the title only the initial letter of the word Utopia and creating a space for poetry, philosophy, art, for a mutual universal prosperity. His aim is to connect utopia with reality and to create a space in which any distance between these two concepts will have been eliminated. The German Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, with his film the Cave of Memory, motivated by the myth of the platonic cave, penetrates into great moments of the European civilization, referring to the works of Goethe, Mozart, Kleist, Beckett. In the works of a great number of artists that are hosted in the “Technopolis”, such as Ghada Amer, Santiago Sierra, Andrian Paci, Vlassis Caniaris, Yu Hong, Julie Mehretu, Lina Theodorou and others, are investigated subjects that are related to socio-political issues such as the female identity, the city as a multicultural metropolis, migration, xenophobia, the contemporary reality of Greece etc.

Andreas Angelidaki’s video installation Walking Building could be the last work of the exhibition. On the opening night the work was projected upon the Fix building, on Syngrou Avenue.

Curving the Line
By Anna Kafetsi

Briefly then, said she, love loves the good to be one’s own for ever.

Now if love is always for this, she proceeded, what is the method of those who pursue
it, and what is the behaviour whose eagerness and straining are to be termed love?
What actually is this effort?
It is begetting on a beautiful thing…
Plato, Symposium

In the beginning is the line, of the place and of the story. Which unites the Temple of Olympian Zeus with Plato’s Academy. Aristotle’s peripatetic Promenade with the Symposium. These two points define a real path at the heart of Athens, the passage of philosophy from Myth to Verb.

In this sentimental topography, to recall Dimitris Pikionis, endless routes open up on noble pavements and earthen paths, in glades and fresh shadows, in hidden and visible fragments of History. The return here brings with it the nostalgia of the road, memories of Kassiani’s chants and Heracleitus’ poetic profundity. The promenade sweeps round to enclose the city within it, the warmth of the private, the collectivity of the public, the colours of the Others.

We stroll along with the light. The Greek Line. of Periklis Giannopoulos, the most limpid writing of the line describes within us the sculpted stones and olive trees on the slopes of the Acropolis.
There, amidst, is the narrative.

The narration of the line is not linear. Its limits, the beginning and the end, are continually shifting. Just as in the real topography, they branch and extend, lose themselves in parallel lines and intersections, peter out in the open curve and in concentric circles repeated in time, tracing the movement. Walking and speech. With their falls and their silences. With experience and metaphor. Life.

The Grand Promenade is its mirror, its fictional body. Its circular narrative overreaches time and space by setting everything in relation to the centre. It reveals unexpected encounters and links with images, texts, sounds, persons and dates. With dreams and desires. It brings the past into the future, erasing the boundaries between remembrance and expectation. The present is transformed into an in-between, hybrid space between there being and there not being, between here and there.

Walking in the circles of narrative, the experience of movement is no longer the same. Nor are our relations with the city or our bonds with the garden. Through the stories, the memories and identities of the Others, we reread History and our landscape, we invent life as we look for new names and contents of the “other dimension”, the human. We call to mind the roads of distance and of immigration as they are redrawn. We cross to the other side. We approach the margins and the peripheries, we eavesdrop on the different voices. Smells contain other smells within them. The house invites us to the speech and black and white photographs foretell prophetically of blue.

Searching for the centre, the voice of the strange woman, of Diotima, is heard. The curve is revealed. Formed between two museums that resemble one another. Because they turn dreams and expectation into sculpture and painting. Because they claim a reality.
The Palestine land is transferred to the Attic land.
From our wander through the exhibits and its descriptions, the common anthropological depth of the Mediterranean emerges.
And at the same time, inexhaustible bonds with the other circles.

The discourse about the narrative is not the promenade. It is the remembrance of and preparation for it. Because the promenade is the true joy.

Curated by Anna Kafetsi