National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens


06/07/2004 - 31/12/2004



Megaron Moussikis Athens

06/07/2004 – 31/12/2004

Curated By: Anna Kafetsi

The exhibition under the title Transcultures, with which the National Museum of Contemporary Art participates in the Cultural Olympiad 2001-2004, has been conceived, from the very beginning, as a collection project as well. The idea was to address a considerable number of international artists originating equally from metropolitan centers and peripheries, and through commissions of artworks especially for the exhibition enrich the permanent collections of the newly established museum.

In the exhibition, which is developed on three levels of the new wing of the Athens Concert Hall, 17 internationally acknowledged artists participate : Miroslaw Balka, Costas Varotsos, Katharina Fritsch, Kendell Geers, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Emily Jacir, Jannis Kounellis, Wolfgang Laib, Shirin Neshat, Walid Ra’ad and The Atlas Group, Kimsooja, Danae Stratou, Do-Ho Suh, Costas Tsoclis, Bill Viola and George Hadjimichalis.

As a creative stimulus the thesis was formulated, that the intersection of cultures constitutes the necessary condition both for the production as well as the reception of contemporary art. Through an extended nomadic experience, contemporary artists and spectators transcend national delimitations and closed identities in order to open themselves up and open a global communication among different peoples, individuals and societies.
In front of this transcultural mobility, museums could not remain indifferent. They are today asked to redetermine their strategies and programs in a perspective of approaching and knowing the Other, of the critical convergence of the local with the global.
From this point of view, Transcultures remains an open project…

 Communication Sponsor of the Cultural Olympiad

[…] Is an alternative approach to globalization, founded on a transcultural unity of the world, possible? Through what strategies and processes are we then able to conceive a new content of the notion, which includes diversity within the ecumenical, and an extended definition of the global, in which we recognize the multiplicity and the heterogeneity of the local?
An answer to such questions can be sought on the artistic field, on which we trace methods, practices and forms that control, question or attempt critical transgressions of the economic-political boundaries of globalization, by revealing the other side. From that point of view, the postmodern concept of multiculturalism is confirmed as fundamental, by referring to the other, non-European cultures and the co-existence of different, axiologically equal civilizations, opening the way for the reconsideration of the previous west-centrism and for new artistic fronts.
The recognition of a cultural pluralism has allowed, at least during the last fifteen years, voices that were previously neglected or underestimated by the history of the modern movement to be expressed and listened to, and marginalized minorities within a society, such as women, immigrants and homosexuals e.a., to come out of their silence.
Although the phenomenon of expatriated artists is not rare throughout the twentieth century, it cannot in anyway be compared to the size and the intensity of the present mobility of artists, works and information entering the public artistic discourse all over the world. Contemporary artists either from peripheral or former colonial countries come out of their isolation, speak about their own sociopolitical reality, narrate their different stories, draw on local practices and offer material substance to the historical experience of their peoples, through their artistic works. Invited in international exhibitions, which inaugurate a new condition of transcultural encounter, immigrants and exiled artists either produce in situ, or import works not solely in the great artistic centers (New York, Paris, Berlin, London) but also in peripheries, attracting the interest and recognition of a transnational audience. […] The “voyage in”, in order to recall the renowned words of Edward Said, as well as the decentralized quests in localities draw the framework of a new transcultural condition that allows us to understand contemporary art on both levels of production and reception, in the horizon of a new nomadism and continuous immigration from one place to the other, from one culture and language to the other. As a term referring directly to the travel and the transcendence of territorial and cultural boundaries, nomadism constitutes a vast artistic metaphor of the homeless, exiled and hybrid activities of contemporary artists, who, through the transcultural experience of the immigrant, abolish the borders of indigenous culture and open themselves to the whole world. Furthermore, it allows the redetermination of the notions of cultural identity and of space, but also of their ideologically produced representations.
Liberated from one-sided fixations to closed territories and unmixed traditions, identity is no longer approached in terms of origin or purity.
On the contrary, it is conceived as a flexible place of transformation and translation, within the context of continuous displacements and transferences from the same to the other, from here to there. Identity, us, previously defined through the difference from others, now incorporates the other within its own body. Similarly, the limits between distance and proximity are incessantly being transposed and the distinction between here and elsewhere that functioned as a way of self- definition of western identity in relation to the non-western world, which through a globalized logic is nowadays received not as a distant and unfamiliar space but as proximal, is annihilated.
It should be therefore noted that from this aspect, what matters is no longer the place where the artists live and create, but the critical relations they develop with an illusory collective identity and cultural geography and the eclectic contacts with the rest of the world, which globalization has rendered possible.
The exodus from identity, which encourages knowledge, comparison, confrontation or identification with the other, and in any case the open communication with a multi-numbered human community has not changed only the mode of thinking of contemporary artists. Listening to others and to their stories or seeing the unseen or immaterial aspects of a place, constitute practices that allowed both novelists and artists to re-determine the conditions of the artistic process and the methods of writing and production of artworks.
The voyage towards others constitutes a process, through which a hybrid artwork is produced. The contemporary artist definitely initiates his/her nomadic journey, either intellectual or physical with a certain cultural background, which has been anyway shaped by crossings, exchanges and inter-dependences of local traditions with European or western models.
When crossing the border, his/her aim is not to merely gather multicultural elements from different backgrounds, or to add to own multiple cultural origins other, different ones. Through his/her “transexperiences”, according to the inventive term created by the artist Chen Zhen in order to describe this phenomenon of nomadic “homelessness”, he/she assimilates and transforms different elements, he/she brings into osmosis and mixes the identical with the different, he/she creates original works by translating a reality, idea or situation into another, or even interprets his/her own self by quoting or referring to others. […] It is evident that when facing the open world of today and the huge anthropological and cultural wealth, the artist no longer feels the need to choose between the one and the other. On the contrary, through artistic hybridity, inter-transformation and the mixture of elements which are considered alien, incompatible or hostile to one another, he/she inscribes the different into the artwork as its own inherent component, so that identity and alterity can coexist without being mutually annihilated..
Transculturality, which denotes the process of passing across multiple boundaries, and is explored in the in -between space of oppositional dipoles of notions, projects the “trans” as a ‘third space’, according to the expression of Homi Bhabha in the quoting we cite as a motto in this introduction. The opening of an in between space, between us and the others, the center and the periphery, the local and the global, west and east, north and south, allows us to transcend divisions and mutual exclusions, which a polarizing logic imposes. Conducted by the plurality of local, modal and other meanings of the prefix trans-(culturality), we can seek the beyond, the through, the after, or, in other words the processes of the approach to others and the multiple networks of artistic, cultural, social and geographical relations.
From this point of view, transculturality offers a critical perspective to unidimensional globalization and disjunctive ethnocentrisms. Without underestimating national cultures and continuities, which sustain the common historical memory of peoples and societies, what is reassured, through the voyage and the discovery of difference, is the need for the transcendence of frontiers and universal communication.
On the level of reception, the notions of immigration and traveller might constitute allegories for viewing and viewer, who is called to transcend both national and local identifications and receive contemporary, transcultural works through a process of incessant translocations from the geographically known and domestic, to the culturally different and alien. To the extent that the possibilities of the interpretation of works have been transposed from the morphological topography of the modern painting and sculpture to various anthropogeographies and real sociopolitical events of either local or global interest, the transcultural visitor exits the traditional limits of viewing in order to open up to “other” narratives and travel to, both culturally and intellectually, fluid and discontinued artistic territories.[…]

Anna Kafetsi

Extract from the introductory essay “Transculturality as the in between space” in the exhibition catalogue


Editor: Anna Kafetsi
Texts by: Costas Varotsos, Bill Viola, Kendel Geers, Kimsooja, John Menick, Miroslaw Balka, Shirin Neshat, Walid Ra`ad, Do-ho Suh, Danae Stratou, Guy Tossatto, Costas Tsoklis , Katharina Fritsch, George Hadjimichalis, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill.
152 pages, 29 Χ 24 cm.,Athens 2004
Bilingual (greek-english), includes photographs of the works
ISBN 960-8349-06-0
Available for sale: price 25 euros


Photo: Bill Viola, The Raft, 2004