The Thickness of Time is a group show exhibited in The Former Correspondents Center in central Athens curated by locus athens, independent contemporary arts organization based in Athens. Artworks and location create spaces for a dialogue about time and images.
Artists: Yto Barrada, Aikaterini Gegisian, Dor Guez, Jumana Manna, Naeem Mohaiemen, Didem Pekün
Architectural intervention: Diplomates
Interview with Maria-Thalia Carras & Olga Hatzidaki, directors of locus athens
Francesca D’Aria: First of all let’s talk about the title, what does The Thickness of Time mean?
Maria-Thalia Carras & Olga Hatzidaki: The Thickness of Time unfolds at a moment when the density of information, newsfeeds and visual content produced is so vast that it is almost impossible to view and digest by the human mind; The Thickness of Time as a title therefore reflects on this accelarated pace of events where the past, present and future somehow become syncopated and compressed to the point where time seems opaque. The exhibition aims to both emphasize this density by inviting people to watch a series of films that take time and demand attention and in parallel counter this opacity by looking at alternate narratives and stories that shed light on history, making unknown and undiscovered stories apparent.
FD: As a group show there is a narrative development, how did you select the artworks involved and which is the link among them?
MTC / OH: The Thickness of Time is an exhibition that explores the medium of moving images – film and video. The spartan curatorial choice of limiting the project to solely one medium devoid of installations means that the exhibition does not make for easy viewing instead it is a long durational process, intense, as one delves deep into each artist’s worlds.
All the works selected investigate history through personal narratives. They untangle the past through different strategies, with a variety of voices and a broad spectrum of perspectives. History in all the works selected feels vulnerable. It appears wrought, discontinuous, de-stabilized, perhaps even groundless. Each film however speaks on its own terms evolving at times through a critical dimension, at others through an equally persuasive but personal direction. They appear to be presenting alternate versions of each other, in dialogue, concerned with their particular personal differences but in essence dealing with similar issues.
FD: Can you explain what makes interesting each individual work?
MTC / OH: Let’s start with Didem Pekün’s who at the exhibition opening presented “A Soliloquy: 7 thoughts on Inhabiting Purgatorium” a talk based on a film about Bosnia whose production was postponed due to last summer’s coup in Turkey and the ensuing state of emergency. The urgent issues raised in the talk form a key subcurrent throughout all the works in the exhibition – reminding us that the desire for memory is a need for history and an important step to coming to terms with where we are now.
Hard to pinpoint in a few words what make each work interesting but we could say that Yto Barrada’s work “Hand-Me-Downs” suggests a cultural dissonance between the mesmerising archival images from home videos of colonial Morocco and their political implications. In Dor Guez’s work the story of a painter D. Guez traumatised by the Yom Kippur War just pulls you straight in as the narrative unfolds making the personal deeply political. While in Aikaterini Gegisian’s film “My Pink Notes” a filmic collage of the city of Yerevan is a tender portrait of the city. Naeem Mohaiemen’s ‘Afsan’s Long Day (The Young Man Was, Part II)’ ambulative narrative takes you on a complex multifarious journey through multiple locations and political moments tracing the Left’s trajectory from revolutionary activism onwards. Finally Jumana Manna’s “A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch’s Last Masquerade)” has a sense of foreboding of a historical tipping point and an atmospheric and melancholic premonition of an uncertain future. Displayed together in the cavernous room of the Foreign Correspondents Center in Athens they talk about history as a constant process full of failures, repetitions, restarts and rewrites.
FD: The Former Correspondents Center in central Athens, where the exhibition takes place, has changed its use several time since it has been built. Have you established a dialogue beetwen this space and the show?
MTC / OH: Yes, the building itself functions as a key element of the exhibition – its architecture has been used as a suggestive sub-current hinting at the moving image’s use of theatricality, drama and fiction as narrative tools.
Designed in the 1920’s by the architect Vasileios Tsagris as a residency of Greeks of the diaspora, later used as the center of diplomatic services of the Third Reich, more recently as the Former Correspondents Center and now an emptied out structural shell awaiting re-use, the building has survived large-scale epochal shifts throughout the last century – the building’s very own thickness of time made it an apt shell for this exhibition.
Walking through the exhibition space visitors come across the films on display projected on screens that seem to cut through space, like frames in time. Simultaneously as the images flicker, lighting up the darkened spaces, they seem to re-ignite past stories or shadows of the building’s haunting past.
FD: The Thickness of Time is curated by locus athens, can you describe the aim of this curatorial project?
MTC / OH: locus athens is a non-profit curatorial platform based in Athens which since 2004 has organised exhibitions, talks, workshops, performances and community projects. locus athens is not tied to any one space instead Athens is its platform – it has over time brought contemporary art into dialogue with small museums, abandoned buildings and forgotten monuments and public spaces. In this sense The Thickness of Time is one more step in the kaleidoscope of interventions in Athens by locus athens’ curatorial team, adding another layer of history to a public space, inhabiting it and bringing it back to the city’s consciousness.
On another level The Thickness of Time is one more step in locus athens’ attempt to constantly evolve and pose questions that are relevant to our cultural and political context; where we are now.