Athens from an Artist’s Perspective: an Interview with Angelo Plessas

by Carla Ingrasciotta
March 23, 2017
Carla Ingrasciotta
Plessas Angelo

On the occasion of our Special Issue dedicated to documenta14 in Athens, we interviewed artist Angelo Plessas (born in 1974, based in Athens) to share with our readers his perspective on the city’s art scene.

Angelo is one of the participating artists of this edition of documenta and is having two group shows in the city: “Si Sedes Non Is” at The Breeder and “Deste Prize: An Anniversary Exhibition 1999-2015” at the Museum of Cycladic Arts.
A self-taught artist and a college drop out, Angelo’s main body of work consists of websites. He is the founder and curator of The Eternal Internet Brotherhood, a collaborative annual residency/ summit/ project realised in different parts of the world (Anafi, 2012, Xilitla, 2013, Dead Sea, 2014).

Carla Ingrasciotta: Let’s start with your participation in documenta 14. Could you tell us a bit about the project you will be presenting on this occasion?

Angelo Plessas: First, I am organising two residency programmes which both happen before the official openings of Athens and Kassel. Then, when documenta 14 opens, I will have post-experiences of these two residencies inside the venues: the Fine Art School of Athens and the Workshop factory in Kassel.
The Athens part of the project is a residency called Experimental Education Protocol  and it has already happened in Delphi with people I invited and shortlisted students from the Athens Fine Art School. This residency is an alternative educational model taking place each time in a different place and is structured around experiential and communal learning. Each time it refers to a specific case study which is combined with a person and a place to generate different educational scenarios. The case study for the Delphi edition was my neighbor and friend Maria Zamanou-Mickelson who recently confided in me she was a World War II spy. Ms. Mickelson was “reading” aircrafts during the German occupation and was giving answers for wars  to the Allied Forces in the same manner that Pythia of Delphi was reading the movement of birds and giving omens and predictions.
The second residency programme is called the Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood  which will happen at the end of April/beginning of May. I have been doing this residency independently since 2012. My guests and I will be hosted in a commune outside of Kassel in a Paleolithic setting in nature. This residency is about the liberating potential of technology and presents different scenarios of labour and leisure, from post-capitalist dreams of universal communalism to local particularisms of all kinds. For this edition, I am inspired by Hercules park in Kassel, as well, which is all based on Greek mythology.
In both installations, I will show material from both programmes including my case studies, the persons and the places using archival material, interviews, self-published books all produced for the occasion. In addition, I will also include other participants’ work and collaborations involving 5 local communes of Kassel that have been invited. I want both installations to act like promotional stands but also nostalgic memoirs from each case study, journey and experience.

C.I: On this occasion you are also having a group exhibition with The Breeder gallery. Which artworks are on show? Could you tell us about the creative process behind these works?

A.P.: I am doing a series of Malismans as neon sculptures for the show, which is curated by Milovan Farronato. I have made thirteen symbols that should be considered both sacred and powerful, the same way talismans are. They resemble something between unicode and early Cycladic and Mesopotamian symbols. These Malismans are curses to save mankind as obviously our civilisation is moving towards dark times. We are governed by the wrong structures and people who are leading us into total chaos. These Malismans intend to reverse energies backwards to the exterior  and are “dedicated” to those who wish to do bad things and create the following: 1. Extinction 2. Oppression 3. Recession 4. Segregation 5. Εxhaustion 6. Corruption 7. Aggression 8. Desperation 9. Degradation 10. Rejection 11. Destitution 12. Intimidation 13. Depression. Come and stare at them and a metaphysical action can happen to your enemy.

C.I: Your art deals with concepts of freedom and identity within the context of social media and the internet. Could you tell us more about this idea and how you translate it in your artwork?

A.P.:  My work goes way beyond the context of the Internet and not just how the Internet has changed each one of us or how we express ourselves nowadays. It’s more about structural alternatives as we are wrestling with the implications of all of the above. Does our current post-technological life shift our perceptions, weaken or strengthen our attachments, stimulate or restrict our participation? The ever-evolving Internet is “constructively entangled” within our society? Through an exploration of these questions, my goal is to create more participatory, direct and inclusive art ranging from websites, residency programmes, written statements, self-produced publications, happenings and performances.

C.I: This year, documenta is taking over two different locations, Kassel and Athens, the city you belong to. What are your hopes and expectation as an artist for the city?

A.P.: Although deeply atmospheric opposites, Kassel and Athens are interesting and risky interactions. I don’t know if there is any “prescription” about the future though. I don’t know if Athenians expect some sort of Marshal plan, although d14 has been generous both financially and creatively  to the artists and also to the local institutions. We already had an amazingly rich cultural dissemination of queer, feminist and direct democracy issues through the Public Programmes of Paul Preciado and his team. I think we Athenians are winning by having documenta 14 shared with Kassel because we will enrich our experience of creating art in critical contexts in a society that, until recently, was diffused with a big sense of failure and inferiority.

C.I: Could you tell us about your relationship with the city? What do you think about the contemporary art scene in Athens? Do you think it is a stimulating place for an artist to live?

A.P.: Yes, if you don’t expect financial gains here, it’s definitely the most interesting place for cultural practitioners. There is plenty of inspiration, space, it’s cheap. It’s more human and fun, with great food, plenty of things to discover. I think the mental sanity of the artist is very important. I don’t know how artists can live in places like New York, London or even Berlin these days. And, of course, everybody prefers the mild winter of Athens to the freezing temperatures of other European cities. The remaining contemporary art scene is ok, it is starting to realise that it didn’t make a mistake by not moving out, because the idea was to move out, which I found totally wrong from the beginning. Some people are getting a bit mad about the influx of new artists in town but I just find it great. I advise people who want to move here to come here and work, hang out in the sun and help the Greek economy.

C.I: Could you tell us 5 five places you would suggest to someone who loves art and to those coming to Athens for the exhibition?

A.P.: Apart from the documenta venues I would suggest taking a walk to Mount Lycabettus to get an idea of the scale of the city. From there, take a walk towards the Deste Prize retrospective exhibition at the Cycladic Art Museum – a show with all the previous Deste Prize winners. The museum itself has an amazing permanent collection of Ancient Cycladic Art. Of course head to The Breeder which is one of the few remaining commercial galleries with an international activity Although we are in difficult times it still exists and offers an International perspective on Greek artists. Then I would suggest the artist-run space 3 137 in Eksarheia that always has something interesting and then head towards the beach and let yourself discover the chaotic Athenian urban sprawl.

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