Sozita Goudouna Speaks with TNH about Greece in USA

NEW YORK –The nonprofit organization Greece in USA made an impressive opening amid the pandemic, launching, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Culture, the group exhibition “The Right to Silence?" presented at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York (CUNY), with the participation of 43 Greek and Cypriot Artists. The exhibition runs until July 31.

More information is available online: https://shivagallery.org/featured_item/the-right-to-silence/.

Greece in USA was founded in New York by Sozita Goudouna, the internationally renowned Greek visual artist and assistant professor at CUNY. She spoke with The National Herald about the Greece in USA platform which promotes Greek culture abroad as well as international cultural cooperation.

TNH: Did you always want to be a curator?

Sozita Goudouna: I studied Philosophy in London and directing at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). My intention was to have an expanded and integrated knowledge in the humanities and arts but without necessarily thinking that I would become a curator. It was during my PhD on the interfaces between the performing and visual arts that I understood the importance of curatorial strategies in contemporary art. The role of the curator is relatively new and there are different schools of thought about curation depending on the generation and the artistic orientation. In the past, good degrees in art history, politics, or the social sciences could cover a broader education for a good career as curator, and most curators did not have specialized studies in curation.

Today, excellent postgraduate courses are offered internationally in curating, therefore, following a good first degree there may be specialization in specific areas of curation such as: public space, digital arts, performance, politics and art, anthropology, environment etc. In Greece, similar educational programs are currently being developed but have not yet been established.

The Performa Biennial in New York, in which I specialized, focuses on the role of the curator as producer — commissioner — developer. Performa also inspired me to establish Greece in USA. The Biennale has showcased the work of some of the most significant artists of our time – including Cindy Sherman, Francis Alÿs, Shirin Neshat, Robin Rhode, Francesco Vezzoli, Tamy Ben-Tor, Jesper Just, Marina Abramovic, Gelitin, Laurie Simmons, and Mike Smith. The Biennial takes place in different parts of the city, from Times Square and New York Customs to MoMA and BAM. For a month, Performa is changing the way New Yorkers experience and perceive the city, especially after 9/11, which transformed the relationship between residents and the public space. The Biennial aims to “reclaim” public space and spaces that have changed use due to the dominance of Real Estate.

However, the nexus of curator- artist has preoccupied me a lot. We both participate in the creative process with a synthetic and analytical approach. Roles shift in contemporary times and the artist becomes a thinker, even a “scientist,” in the sense of detecting and evaluating asymmetric knowledges, the curator is like a “metteur en scene,” as we would say in French, and I use this term to give the broader perspectives of curation. I see curation as a practice based on scientific-technological and philosophical developments to explore new temporal and spatial interactions, new forms of artistic intervention, to unfold the wide range of scientific, theoretical and artistic positions that shape the curator, spectator / artist, performance / event / exhibition and intervention / cultural production.

TNH: How has the pandemic affected your work?

SG: During the pandemic, I had to work daily in the financial district and it was a very intense experience and it seems we are already starting to forget how stressful it was, but, thankfully the pandemic has only affected my life, like everyone else, but not my work so much. I write on art theory, teach at the University online and I work in person with Raymond Pettibon in Manhattan. Pettibon is perhaps the most prominent contemporary American artist to concentrate on drawing as his primary medium. It is a great privilege and art history lesson to work with him as head of operations of his studio and with the galleries that represent him such as David Zwirner Gallery, New York, London, Hong Kong, Regen Projects in LA and Sadie Coles in London. With Raymond, we worked for the inaugural exhibition of Zwirner’s first outpost in continental Europe, the Paris gallery that also hosted an event for Dior with Pettibon’s art pieces that inspired Kim Jones on his fall men’s collection for Dior. Currently, we also worked on his show at Regen Projects LA and currently for a Sadie Coles show in London. Pettibon’s work is widely admired among the contemporary art audience and has avid devotees in the international field of drawing connoisseurs, nevertheless, fewer people are aware of his influential writings, scripts, and videos. Being affiliated with Performa Biennial in New York, as the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon curator, my main concern was also to highlight the textual and performative aspect of Pettibon’s oeuvre by initiating and producing a project at New Museum for Performa Biennial in collaboration with Massimiliano Gioni and RoseLee Goldberg and with the participation of musicians and artists including Kim Gordon, Oliver Augst, Frances Stark, Young Kim, Marcel Dzama, Juli Susin, Veronique Bourgoin, among many other artists that will also be presented at the Getty Museum in LA.

TNH: What made you decide that this was the right time to launch Greece in USA?

SG: The Greek art scene, like Greece itself, is unpredictable, exciting, and undisciplined. I consider that lately, it has evolved into a more international scene owing to the broader interest of foreigners in Athens. That is partly a result of the financial and social crisis, and of art initiatives by younger, local and international artists and curators who understand the importance of experimentation and who aren’t afraid to fail. This approach has caused a cultural shift from the significance of galleries in the 1990s to the prominence of non-profit art initiatives.

During the years of the Greek financial crisis in 2013, I returned from London to Athens for two years in an attempt to contribute to the local scene. I directed the first EU funded official Athens Art Residency, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture that I consider had a positive and long-term impact on the local art scene. The program hosted solo exhibitions by influential emerging and established international artists, including Lynda Benglis, Martin Creed, Marie Voignier, Miriam Simun and Santiago Sierra and collaborated with Marina Abramović for her production of “Seven Deaths,” a tribute to the life and death of Maria Callas that debuted in 2020 at the Munich opera house.

It was this involvement in the local scene of Athens and previously my attempt to present Greek artists in London, that made me decide that it was the right time to launch Greece in USA, as a non-profit that can provide a “third way” for cultural diplomacy between the state and large institutions, in good partnership with both parties.

Adding to this, while I was working at Performa Biennial in New York in 2015, I realized that Greek artists can have a fruitful dialogue with American and international colleagues, during the auction I organized for a charitable cause, with the participation of Greek artists such as Kostis Velonis, Mary Zygouri, Irini Miga, Nikos Papadopoulos, Georgia Sagri, Filippos Tsitsopoulos, and Versaweiss, among others. I understood that fellow curators liked to learn more about the contemporary Greek scene. Thus, a foundation like Greece in USA can be a catalyst for promoting the work of Greek artists abroad through osmosis with international artists and curators.

TNH: What can we look forward to with the Greece in USA platform?

SG: Greece in USA is launched with the exhibition “The Right to Silence?” (https://shivagallery.org/featured_item/the-right-to-silence/) that draws from the reversal of the “Miranda Rights” and the 5th Amendment. I am interested in paradoxes, when they illuminate profound meanings.

I was always impressed by the expression “you have the right to remain silent.” Silence is transformed into a right when what can be said might be legally binding for a citizen of a benevolent democracy. The paradox, however, is that some citizens remain silent because they are not given the opportunity to speak, therefore, the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In the group exhibition, “Miranda Rights” acquires a metaphorical sense in terms of exploring moral issues, but also aesthetic forms and artistic means, if we assume that silence is the culmination of abstraction. At the same time, we are confronting the confinement of the current pandemic, hence, despite the sensitive balance of drawing a parallel between the confinement and incarceration indeed we become more aware of the issue of mass imprisonment during the current condition that we all share.

TNH: What are you working on next?

SG: We are currently working with my colleagues Eva Kostopoulou and Antigoni Papadopoulou on the forthcoming exhibition, expanding on similar issues of social justice entitled “The Right to Breathe” and exploring the “politics of respiration” within contemporary society, as it has been formulated by philosophers, and social theorists. The artists will reflect on the “shortness of breath” derived from the experience of political pressure, social injustice and economic austerity, exploring its connection with live art, embodied politics and “I Can’t Breathe” movement.

The exhibition will take place at Undercurrent.nyc  in Brooklyn and GIRES and will include artists: Chloe Akrithaki,  Elaine Angelopoulos, Antonakis (Christodoulou), Athanasios Argianas & Hughes Rowena, Argyropoulou Yota/Michalis Konstantatos (Blindspot theatre group), Christos Athanasiadis, Manolis Baboussis, Rania Bellou, Benchamma, Abdelkader, Emmanuel Bitsakis, Angeliki Bozou, Christina Calbari, Rafika Chawishe, Thalia Chioti, Mat Chivers, Dionysis Christofilakis, Lydia Dambassina, Seeva Dawne, Martha Dimitropoulou, Dora Economou, Karen Finley Dimitris Foutris, Maria Georgoula, Eleni Glinou, Nella Golanda, Kyriaki Goni, Delia Gonzalez, Efi Haliori, Zoe Hounta, Ashley Hunt, Lakis & Aris Ionas The Callas, Elias Kafouros, Lizzie Kalligas, Eleni Kamma, Athanasios Kanakis, Eirini Karagiannopoulou, Ismene Karyotaki, Zoe Keramea, Ilias Koen, Vana Kostayola, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Sia Kyriakakos, Kouzoupi Aspasia, Karolina Krasouli, James Lane, Anna Laskaris, Jenny Marketou, Maro Michalakakou, Yolanda Markopoulou, Despina Meimaroglou, Fryni Mouzakitou, Elena Mylona, Margarita Myrogianni, Mariela Nestora, John Newsom, Aliki Palaska, Malvina Panagiotidi, Maria Papadimitriou, Euripides Papadopetrakis, Nikos Papadopoulos, Elena Papadopoulou, Natasa Papadopoulou, Ilias Papailiakis, Aemilia Papafilippou, Elli Papakonstantinou, Tereza Papamichali, Eftihis Patsourakis, Anastiasia Pelias, Elena Penga, Antonis Pittas, Tula Ploumi, Mantalina Psoma, Irene Ragusini, Duke Riley, Georgia Sagri, Nana Sahini, Ismini Samanidou, George Sampsonidis, Katerina Sarra, Erica Scourti, Martin Sexton, Christina Sgouromiti, Vouvoula Skoura, Evangelia Spiliopoulou, Danae Stratou, Vassiliea Stylianidou, Antonis Tsakiris, Filippos Tsitsopoulos, Alexandros Tzannis, Nana Varveropoulou, Alexis Vasilikos, VASKOS (Vassilis Noulas & Kostas Tzimoulis), Eugenia Vereli, Vassilia Vlastaras, Katerina Zacharopoulou, Theodoros Zafeiropoulos, Eleni Theodora Zaharopoulos, Lilia Ziamou, Dimitris Zouroudis among other participants.

More information is available online: https://greeceinusa.com/


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