Art Athina Virtual – Talks & Performances
Marina Fokidis Interview
We are in the middle of autumn 2020, the second wave of COVID-19 is upon the world and plenty of fairs and festivals have been cancelled, hoping 2021 is going to be a brighter year for all of us. While there have been some digital native organisations for quite some time, such as KROMA Art Magazine, digitisation is a new reality for many. The “pivot to digital” of traditionally live events has been seen more like a needed compromise than an aesthetic choice.
However, Art Athina, the international art fair of Greece has opened its doors in 2020 with a daring leap to the digital world. Thanks to the platform Αrt Athina Virtual (www.aavirtual.gr), people from all over the world can see for free about 970 artworks from 59 participating galleries and 300 international artists. In fact, on the first days of the launch, the platform received about 70% of visits from Greece while the international interest for Art Athina reached as far as South America and the Far East.
In addition, Art Athina Virtual presents for free a virtual series of independent art spaces under the title Projects and provides access to the parallel programmes of Videos (curated by Stamatia Dimitrakopoulou), Talks and Performances, both curated by Marina Fokidis, one of the most prominent and active curators from Greece.
Performance: Panos Charalambous, Aquis Submersusus (Hail), 2008-2014
KROMA Art Magazine had the pleasure to discuss with Marina Fokidis the future of art, the state of the world and the challenges artists must face in these unprecedented times.
What rises above all is the nature of the human body, the need for proximity that cannot, should not be erased.
I N T E R V I E W
- As of now, the world is witnessing tremendous changes in the way people behave in their day-to-day lives. In the times of social distancing, isolation (literal and metaphorical) has taken new dimensions. An important percentage of artists have been producing work as members of collectives, partnerships, communities etc. and find themselves in a deadlock. Art as a way of production has taken a hit. Do you consider this pandemic a serious threat to artistic production? Or is it a necessary step for rebirth?
All of what you are writing is true and because your question covers me I will just add briefly:
I consider the pandemic a very serious threat to the art world. Also, a threat to the positive side of globalism and a risk to any kind of community, togetherness, and gathering around art. Maybe not such a threat for the blue chip galleries and the art commerce at large, since works are being sold through the internet quite well (as clothes do as well). But this renders the art world to a mere commercial interaction and not an experience that carries knowledge for a better world.
- In many countries, also in Greece specifically, livelihoods of artists are under threat due to the pandemic. We are witnessing a great debate in terms of the priority art should have in societies when in state of emergency. What do you think would be the best approach to battle this issue?
What I think would be best, is to face the facts without trying to change their meaning. Also to comprehend that this virus, this pandemic, besides separating us in such a violent way, also brings us symbolically together under a community based in fragility: The fragility of the human body.
I think that we have to find a way to balance in these dark waters between where we left and where we are going, even if there is not a sign of land right now. As philosopher Michel Serres writes in his book the Times of Crisis, it is a whole world of possibilities beneath these waters that we might discover…. For the moment, our positions is there though: in what lays between the actuality and potentiality (as per Aristotle)
Performance: Mary Zygouri, The Future, 2019
- As a curator for Art Athina 2020, what has been the biggest challenge so far? In your opinion, what would be the most important question art has to ask the world right now?
I knew I was going to do the programme online – so there were no surprises on that level
What is really challenging is the Talks programme and any zoom talk. You are discussing in front of an audience that you do not see. You see only numbers of participants. And even if there are 200 people in your talk there is not a way to get the “temperature of the room“. This is really a huge pity and a great challenge. It is the undoing of what we understand as “methexis“ *(Methexis, from ancient Greek, means to share within a group, to partake) in Greek language and I think this also poses a huge question: How can we restore our soul-to-soul communication and togetherness for the long, as it seems by now, time that we will have to be apart?
- Due to lockdowns, social distancing, travel bans etc., a new light has been cast onto New Media. Truth be told, the digitization of art can help bring the audience closer to experiencing and appreciating artistic expression regardless of geographical restrictions. Do you see digital art emerging triumphant?
No, not really, I do not see that …. People are going to be trying to find ways to assimilate the digital space with the tactile as never before. In that way, yes maybe something new and hybrid might emerge.
- A lot has been said about the locality of artworks and how this functions for getting art appreciated abroad, giving birth to the portmanteau “glocality”. However, as art is becoming more and more independent of place and time –thanks to technology- do you think there will be a tendency in the future for the divide between the Northern and the Southern mindsets to get reduced?
I do not think at all that art is independent to time and place, quite the opposite:
Bad art is independent to time and place. Really important contemporary works are quite rooted to the environment from where they were produced. Time, place, weather, memories, histories are very apparent even in the most non formal art works.
I think if they were not apparent, then art would be something like ZARA clothes in uniformity – wherever you are. And we have quite a bit of this but it is so apparent when artists are trying to imitate works that are produced in another climate environment, light, locality. This shows in a rather silly way. Even if this is digital art. So to summarize in one line: Good art is an amalgam of global knowledge in a local condition.
- How did the pandemic affect your work process in terms of accessing the necessary archives and coordinating an international group of artists?
Archiving and coordination is not a problem – actually it might be even easier now as there are many more archives open and people are accustomed even more due to these conditions to be in email communication. What is missing is the body and the soul and this is lethal in some ways.
- Many researches have pointed out that the pandemic functioned as an accelerator for the digital transformation of many industries. Do you think the art market is capable of thriving in such a climate?
Facebook, Instagram, Google and etc. are thriving and this is very scary for our lives.
- You have curated a series of talks for Art Athina 2020 which take place online. What would be the three most important points you would like for the audience to take with them from these talks?
That it does not matter if you are artists, collectors, museum directors, and gallerists. We all are struggling for the same causes and we are hit by the same meteorite right now. So it will be great if we generate new and stronger ways of supporting each other in a co- agonistic and not antagonizing way.
- What is the most important thing you have learned from this roller-coaster that is 2020
Patience – and the limits of the human body.
Marina Fokidis is a curator and writer based in Athens Greece and a member of AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art). She was the commissioner and the curator of the Greek Pavilion at the 51rst Venice Biennial (2003), one of the curators of the 3rd Thessaloniki Biennial (2011) and was appointed Head of the Artistic Office, Athens and curatorial advisor for documenta 14 (2014). She has founded the cultural institutions Oxymoron and Kunsthalle Athena as well as a biannual arts and culture magazine South as a State of Mind. She has written essays for artists and exhibition catalogues, international art magazines and publications and has also participated in many conferences and discussions internationally. Her most recent work is the curation of the programmes of Talks and Performances for Art Athina 2020.
A R T A T H I N A – T A L K S P R O G R A M
FRIDAY, 16.10.2020 19:00 – 20:00
And now that our collectivity is being tested, as never before, how can we move forward? Four conversations selected and moderated by Marina Fokidis. (Part 1)
WEDNESDAY, 21.10.2020 19:00 – 20:00
Spotlight on the Digital: Daata X Art Athina Virtual
THURSDAY, 22.10.2020 19:00 – 20:00
And now that our collectivity is being tested, as never before, how can we move forward? Four conversations selected and moderated by Marina Fokidis. (Part 2)
FRIDAY, 23.10.2020 19:00 – 20:00
Collecting through changing times
THURSDAY, 29.10.2020 19:00 – 20:00
And now that our collectivity is being tested, as never before, how can we move forward? Four conversations selected and moderated by Marina Fokidis. (Part 3)
FRIDAY, 30.10.2020 19:00 – 20:00
And now that our collectivity is being tested, as never before, how can we move forward? Four conversations selected and moderated by Marina Fokidis. (Part 4)
SATURDAY, 31.10.2020 16:00 – 17:00
Annual Talk of Education Programme of the Hellenic Art Galleries Association and The J. F. Costopoulos Foundation in the context of Art Athina.
Media Sponsor: KROMA Magazine
By Velissaria Doka ©KROMA 2020