South likes: Stefania Strouza at Athens Festival, Athens

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Stefania Strouza, To a certain degree, sacredness is in the eye of the beholder, installation view, 2014, Athens Festival-Peiraios 260

South likes: Stefania Strouza at Athens Festival, Athens
To a certain degree, sacredness is in the eye of the beholder
Athens Festival, Peiraios 260, Athens
5 June – 31 July, 2014

Text by Michelangelo Corsaro

With the title To a certain degree, sacredness is in the eye of the beholder, old and new works by Greek artist Stefania Strouza find a new spatial and narrative arrangement inspired by the passional cinematography of Pasolini and by the formal rigour of Le Corbusier. This ongoing project, co-ventured by the artist together with curator Apostolos Vasilopoulos, questions the conflictual and yet coessential existence of two different regimes of thought: mythology and formalism. These two threads intertwines in the show following two references that call into question two episodes somehow relevant for current cultural trends in the contemporary Greek art scene. In July 1933, a cruise sponsored by the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) left Marseilles, towards Athens, where the congress would take place. On board of the boat the main representatives of the Modern Movement, lead by Le Corbusier, approached “the ancient waters of the Mediterranean”, seeking in the Greek territory the primitive roots of the modernist architectural theories that they were developing in those years. Three and a half decades later, Pasolini staged his own personal interpretation of an older and possibly more gruesome story: Euripides’ Medea (impersonated in the film by Maria Callas). Both these references comment on a complex array of conflicting circumstances related to the geographical, cultural, and aesthetic context in which the show takes place. The first is the opposition of east and west, an essential element in the formation of modern Greece—which extended its roots toward Asia way before the birth of European Union. The second aspect taken into account in the show is the encounter between two distant mental worlds: the heritage of mythology and the influence of modernist rationalism, the rituals of the ancient world and the technocratic drives of modernity, the irrationality of tragedy and the rigour of formalism—the Dionysian and the Apollinian. The polarisation of these two psychological dimensions appears as an appropriate commentary on the state of things, in contemporary Greece, torn between the push towards capitalist-driven modernisation and the attachment to a tradition which is deeply entrenched in a thousand-year old cultural development. In the exhibition, Stefania Strouza’s works seem to achieve a happy (although ephemeral) marriage between the composure of modernist aesthetics and the violent passion of tragedy. The name of Medea, infinitely repeated on a black hanging banner, becomes a sort of abstract geometrical motive, transposing the dramatic sentiment that the name bears into a formalist arrangement of letters. Next to it, a large-scale metal sculpture employs an abstract composition that is reminiscent of a Greek(ish) typeface. Can we read again the name of Medea in this sculpture, or is it just the systematic repetition of a geometrical module? The notion of cultural conflict emerges as well from the sound performance that accompanies the exhibition, combing two audio sources (an opera excerpt by Maria Callas and the main theme from Pasolini’s film) into a state of sonic dissonance. And in fact the notion of dissonance, it might be argued, is confronted by Strouza’s work, trying to mend and highlight opposite forces, between correspondences and asymmetric temptations. From this perspective, the iconic image of Maria Callas, doubled and mirrored by a slide projector, dominates—despite its small dimension—the lofty venue, an abandoned industrial building wisely left half empty. One question is ultimately posed to the viewer and purposely left unanswered: is the conflict between clashing cultural drives to be resolved in the conjunction of unbalanced irrational pushes and the harmony of symmetrical forms?

www.toacertaindegree.net

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Stefania Strouza, Les passagers, cement, metal, 2014

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Stefania Strouza, Modulor, metal, 2014

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Stefania Strouza, To a certain degree, sacredness is in the eye of the beholder, installation view, 2014, Athens Festival-Peiraios 260

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Stefania Strouza, To a certain degree, sacredness is in the eye of the beholder, installation view, 2014, Athens Festival-Peiraios 260

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Stefania Strouza, Pisa, collage of found fabric, and L’Amour Fou, objet trouvé, 2013

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Stefania Strouza, Les passagers (detail), cement, metal, 2014

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To a certain degree sacredness is in the eye of the beholder, slide projection of 80 identical slides, 2014

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Sound Performance by Christos Christopoulos (neon) & Vyron Katritsis (neon)

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Sound Performance by Balinese Beast

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Sound Performance by Acte Vide

 

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