28 May 2012: guided tour of the exhibition “Michalis Katzourakis – Site-Specific Works” at the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece (MIET) in Thessaloniki
Our visit to the exhibition agreeably blended with interesting details on the history and architecture of the space –a wealthy bourgeois family house built in late 19th century– given by the director of the MIET Thessaloniki Centre, architect Giannis Epaminondas. Thanks to this, the discussion moved across issues such as site-specificity, minimalism and the relation between art and design on the one hand, and the building’s rich history, on the other.
Curated by Christophoros Marinos in collaboration with the artist, designer and sculptor Michalis Katzourakis, the exhibition was a retrospective of the artist’s public and site-specific works. Commissioned by public bodies or private individuals and enterprises, most of the works presented were produced as interior design for private apartments or public spaces, such as the state television building in Athens or a line of popular cruise ships – including decorative and functional elements, lounges, wallpapers, reception areas etc. With strong graphic elements, the works’ patterns and colors are vividly reminiscent of the years when they were created, the late ‘70s-early ‘80s, and built with an impressive variety of materials, to serve their function, such as soundproof material or tapestry. Fitting their original purpose, some of the sculptures were installed outside, in the building’s courtyard, eliciting an interesting dialogue with the natural and built surroundings – the building’s eclectic architecture, the traditional sculptures permanently exhibited in the courtyard, and the tall tress around them.
From the oldest to the most recent work –the latter being the 2006 neon lights installation commissioned for Panormou metro station in Athens– the exhibition presents the case of an artist who uses design to transgress space and time, translating the aesthetic movement of a certain period –70s minimalism– into works to be consumed by the masses anywhere, anytime, then, there, here, now. (Characteristically, many of the works reminded Stéphanie of Montreal metro’s decoration.)
The exhibition was particularly valuable in showcasing works that have been destroyed, due to their site-specificity, preserved now only through photographs, preparatory drawings or smaller works and models. Even so, the installation did succeed in conveying something of the works’ scale and liveliness, especially thanks to their dialogue with the space, a building with strong history and aesthetic identity, very far from Katzourakis’s works’ minimalist aesthetics – the distance of taste, time and visual language producing an engaging effect. Also relevant to another interesting point of discussion: the future of the only site-specific work created for the exhibition – a large print on canvas installed in front of the monumental staircase window. Should the work be preserved or removed, thus destroyed, after the exhibition closes? Will it interestingly interact or annoyingly interfere with future exhibitions?
1. Huge thanks to the Director of the MIET Thessaloniki Centre, Giannis Epaminondas, for showing us around the exhibition and the building.
2. This is a long-due post. Despite the long silence, société anonyme has not been inactive… a few more posts will follow soon to bring us to the present!