A project that takes place in three different private apartments in Stockholm: At Maria and Viktor´s in Högdalen, at Malena´s in Södermalm and at Klara and Viktoria´s in Vårberg.
Seven artists or art collectives, each with a connection with Greece, give their comments and points-of-view on the notion of utopia: Georgia Sagri, Photoharrie, THREE NUBS (Alkmini Petraki, Sotiris Vasiliou, Tassos Govatsos), Signe Johannessen, Antonis Choudalakis, Etten and Lefteris Kiourtsoglou.
As a project that started somewhere in last year´s turbulences around the world, took a shortcut through Greece and ends up in Sweden, it reflects on how the social structures we live in once started as a single thought and suggests that as the word utopia is a negation and a paradox in itself, it is all about filling one´s life with meaning on an entirely personal and subjective level, aiming towards a “perfect state of being” on an everyday basis.
It is a project about belonging - to a community, a system, a way of living. We are all part of something, or in search of something to be a part of. We all form our lives differently as we want different things from it, and we live with the consequences of the choices we make. Both as whole societies and in our individual lives.
In these apartments throughout Stockholm you get a glimpse of other people's lives in their own homes, in the places where they spread themselves out most and in their own private spheres of a structure where a home also is a politicized issue, in a country still mostly outside of the economic crisis. It is a project where Sweden and Greece are placed beside each other only as a starting point for a discussion about nostalgic times, dilapidated visions, grand dreams, power, dependence and reality versus illusion.
This project is not about tangible visions of future social structures. It is inspired by the world wide turbulence and protests, where people in Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Madrid, Athens, London, Tel Aviv, Mexico, Chile, New York, Moscow and dozen other cities, demonstrated against dictators or questionable democracies in systems that seemed corrupt and ineffective. The process for this project started from Athens that literally was being torn down and where questions such as “what can be idealised today?” were asked.
The more I travelled between Sweden and Greece, the bigger the gap between these two countries grew, much due to the economical crisis, with its epicentre in Greece. A focus on utopian theories is common in state of crisis, if not always, since the human’s desire for a better life is a most powerful force. Without even formulating a concrete structural change, one person’s thought can end up changing many persons way of thinking. The power and the political force of visionary thoughts are unquestionable. The discussion of utopias is usually a critical tool for looking at our society, where ideas are set to change the present for the future, dealing at the same time with history, since history has given us the tools for all that we are today.
This project is about belonging. All societies are constituted of people belonging to a community, a system, a way of living. We all want to be a part of something; it can be geographical, cultural, or ideological. To examine utopias is to analyse the notion of belonging and what citizens manage to create within an area, a city or a society according to their visions for themselves. It is to think about the future from a present perspective, having yourself and your life as a natural starting point.
Great ideas always start somewhere as a single thought of a dream, a hope, or a belief for something different. As the word utopia is a negation and a paradox in itself, and therefore an impossible unreachable dream, it is also about understanding that this subjective search is about filling one´s life with meaning by aiming towards shaping it however it suits one best, targeting a "perfect state of being" as much as possible.
To spread the exhibition spaces for this project to three different private apartments in Stockholm, gives you as a visitor the opportunity to visit places you probably would never had gone to otherwise. Doors are opened to others’ private spheres in your own city. It gives you a chance to get a glimpse of personal lives, look around, talk to the inhabitants and get a feeling of how they are living their lives, that is, trying to form their life so it will be meaningful, on an entirely personal and subjective level, as we all do. We all form our life differently as we all want different things of life, and we live with the consequences of the choices we make.
A home is an important place. Except of functioning as a roof over one´s head it can also be an extended part of us, and create or express an identity. Stockholm is a city with one of the world’s largest number of solo-apartments. It is also a city facing huge problems in the housing market, leaving people without the ability to purchase a home to the uncertain, expensive and many times black sublet market, with people jumping from one two-month lease to another, from one part of the city to the next. This is part of what forms the city of Stockholm.
Seven artists or art collectives that all have a connection with Greece in different ways, will through their work give their own comment and point of view on the notion of utopia: as subject for conversations, dialogues or reflections in the apartments. The artists contrasting interpretations raise different topics within the subject, illustrating how the concept of utopia is individually perceived.
The two examples, Sweden and Greece, are put beside each other only as a starting point for a discussion about nostalgic times, dilapidated visions, grand dreams, power, dependence and reality versus illusion. Stockholm, being ”The Capital of Scandinavia” as the profile slogan goes, is a city within Europe but still mostly outside the economical crisis. The “Swedish system” is looked closely at by other societies trying to unlock the secrets of a successful society. When Greece plummeted into financial peril, The Prime Minister of Greece, Papandreou, talked of the Swedish system as an ideal to strive for. Papandreou himself lived in Stockholm in the late 60’s, during the time of the military dictatorship in Greece.
Whose dream has managed to influence the conditions we live in? And are we content with it? To have a house and to live in a society is to belong somewhere, but that does not necessary mean that we feel that we belong there, or that we are not searching for something else. Are we ever satisfied?
As a visitor, you are allowed to quietly judge and compare while entering these strangers’ homes. Possibly, it will also make you think about your own dreams, hopes and practical attempts for your own life, or some of the dreams you have already given up on.
Except of the artists participating in this project, I also invited a political scientist, a cultural anthropologist, an artist and an architect to further reflect on any perspective of this project they wish for this publication.
Curation and texts by Sofia Mavroudis.
Additional text in the catalogue by Johanna Bruckner, Hanna Husberg, Malena Norlin and Klara Lundholm.
With support by CuratorLab/Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm and Fontana Food.
The black and white photo blog “Hangover Diaries” by Photoharrie has been a part of “Lifo”, the biggest free press in Athens, since 2011 and depicts his current life in the city and his recent experience in the Greek army. Artist, fashion editor, art director, DJ and freelance photographer, Photoharrie’s pictures from the blog recently participated in Naff Athena and Amateur Boyz party “Queers in Crisis” in London.
THREE NUBS (Athens/London)
The three architects Alkmini Petraki, Tassos Govatsos and Sotiris Vasiliou are the team THREE NUBS, whose interest in exploring the interplay of constructed environments, crafting, research and social studies, sometimes result in critical projects, written or visual, addressing contemporary or historical issues about design and social instances. In their project presented here, Athens is depicted as a city on the verge of total physical dilapidation, as a city of ruins. Simultaneously, it becomes a place to fly away from in search of a future, and a place to fly to in search of a picturesque antiquity. It is an imaginary story where time goes backwards visually, in search not of a future but also of a present to live in.
Signe Johannessen (Stockholm)
With sculptural objects and drawings, Norwegian artist Johannessen examines evolution, the human race and the life on our planet in general, by looking at our coexistence in order to interpret the behaviour of our culture. To re-connect and close a circle of a childhood memory, Johannessen offered to put a friend’s stallion out of its misery after a time of sickness. In a ritual where man’s power over nature is clearly pronounced, she decided to keep the head, which is depicted in the sculptural portrait, as a fallen monument over the ambivalent and paradoxical relationship man – nature. Can a society or life not exist without something predominating over something else? Or maybe nature is required as a sacrifice for our human existence? Using a perspective that extends beyond the personal construction of meaning in our lives, Johannessen reflects over a future farther away, with questions around moral, power, balance and dependence. Signe Johannessen recently exhibited in Botkyrka Konsthall and will be the premier artist of the Museum of Science and Technology´s opening of new an exhibition space. Johannessen was the first artist-in-residence of Curare art´s new residency program in Chania, Crete in August 2012.
Lefteris Kiourtsoglou (Athens)
With inspiration from the manifesto of the Futurists, Italo Calvino’s book “Invisible Cities”, origami, and Japanese animation from the 90’s with its spaceships and moving cities, Kiourtsoglou creates transparent sculptural installations as well as detailed ink illustrations as presented here, interpreting cities, societies and dreams. Lefteris Kiourtsoglou is a recent graduate from Athen’s School of Fine Art and was selected for participation in StartPoint Prize in Prague.
Georgia Sagri (New York/Athens)
Sagri works on performances and installations using various media (video, sound recording, text) that often deal with issues of displacement and the condition of the subject in search of social engagement. Her piece in this project is ten tracks of live recordings made during the performance Gardens in May 2012 at MelasPapadopoulos Gallery in Athens. Through movement, sound sampling and the use of her voice, she presents a variety of characters located individually though share heterotopias and raise questions on the current social and political state. Sagri offers the theories of French philosopher Alain Badiou´s text “What is love?” as a perspective for addressing the situation differently. According to Alain Badiou, love is the space for negotiation of the paradoxical. Georgia Sagri was one of the organizing forces behind the Occupy Wall Street movement. She has recently been exhibiting at the Whitney Biennial 2012, Guggenheim in Bilbao and at the MoMa.
Antonis Choudalakis (Stockholm/Chania, Crete)
With research around memories of places, trying to understand the present through the past, Choudalakis examines the history of a place and how it shapes our lives today. After recently having moved partly to Stockholm, he has been observing the society, the culture and the structure of Sweden from a critical point of view. Using the creation of the modern nation states in Europe in the middle of the 1800 as a starting point, a new series carried out in Stockholm, combines poses of cabinet portraits of Swedes from the 1890s from the Nordic Museum’s archive with random faces from today's Swedish press. His approach, rather spiritual than rational, scratches the surface of the successful model of Sweden and forms a question on the notion of national and cultural identity, especially on the one of the Swede. Antonis Choudalakis received a scholarship by B & M Theocharakis Foundation for his drawings and is also working organizationally with Curare art´s residency in Crete.
The sound project by Etten (accessible throught the catalogue) is an exploration of a possible vocal soundscape similar to what we would experience if different people’s thoughts were revealed simultaneously to us, synchronized around something which is considered ideal but unsynchornized conceptually. People's common need for something ideal, not only as a general concept, but as the pure and involuntary act of thinking about it itself, occurs uncontrollably in our minds. Almost being able to pronounce it and almost getting there, Etten’s sounds pulsate like heartbeat in a feeling that is most certainly a bodily one. As a performer and as part of the established electronic music scene in Athens, Etten has released two solo albums since 2009, the second one, “Lappuggla”, was released in October 2012.
Photos by Sofia mavroudis and Photoharrie