Maria Papadimitriou‘s (b.1957, Athens) installation, Why Look at Animals ?Agrimikà is a shop, a vestige of the past that sells animal hides and leather, transferred from the central Greek city of Volos, where it operates. This presentation of the relationship of humans to animals sparks series of concerns ranging from politics and history to economics and traditions, ethics and aesthetics, fear of the foreign and the incomprehensible, and our profound anthropocentrism that allows us to define ourselves as non-wild, different from all other animals.
From Aristotle to Plutarch, Aesop, La Fontaine, George Orwell’s anxiety for a human species whose most horrible traits dominate its evolution, the myriad myths and fairytales encountered throughout civilization, the Lascaux cave paintings, to preschool children’s drawings – humankind regards the animal kingdom with a combination of awe, fascination, trepidation, and uncertainty. Above all, however, we humans see in animals the reflection and expression of our own features, behaviors, and manners – the awareness of which permits separation by contrasting the human with the animalistic. As the beast ends up as embodying the divergence from the human norm, the image of a democratic society is deconstructed, and part of it degraded: rights no longer exist for all and in the same measure.
The Agrimikà of Papadimitriou’s concern, along with the shop in Volos, are those animals that tenaciously resist domestication. They coexist with humans in a condition where the roles of prey and predator are constantly switching – but the human hunter usually prevails with the animal prey as a trophy. Nonetheless, these are the animals that feature in most foundational cosmologies and mythologies. A wolf was responsible for the creation of Rome, and was the forebear and protector of the Turkic people; a she-goat nursed the infant Zeus and shielded him from the predator Chronos. The little shop in Volos is an “objet trouvé” resituated inside the Greek pavilion. The reality of the shop is the expression and documentation of the unique personality of its owner, who has witnessed a great part of the history of modern Greece and kept a critical attitude towards it. The AGRIMIKÁ shop appearing unchanged by time and place, is analogous to the surrounding space of the neoclassical pavilion, also left unaltered.
- Maria Papadimitriou, Agrimiká. Why look at animals, Venice Bienal 2015
- Maria Papadimitriou, Istallation View