Tuesday 30 September 2008

CULTURE COUP in Aristotle Square, Thessaloniki

The opening night of CULTURE COUP in Aristotle Square, September 19th.

A Steinway grand piano is installed in the centre of Martin Pfeifle's SPLASH for a concert by pianist Maria Gavron.(see below)

Martin Pfeifle inspects FAMILY HISTORIES.

See his SPLASH installation here:

For more images of the opening night click on this link:

FAMILY HISTORIES: more images.

The family faced the sea, the mirror faced Aristotle Square.

Leading to FAMILY HISTORIES, a trail of the absent faces: and Christodoulos Mantzaris' poem, in Greek and in English:

Wednesday 17 September 2008

aristotle square

The site for the CULTURE COUP installation is Aristotle Square, which faces the sea.

The artists start to explore the space, to work out where each piece should be placed.
Martin Pfeifle asks for a caravan, to use as his studio in Aristotle Square. The Municipality kindly provides it:

Photograph by Christoph Westermeir.

The artists LOVE their caravan: from left to right, Nicola, Benjamin, Shahar, Martin and Christoph.
Photograph by Christoph Westermeir.

The caravan IS glamorous! Photograph by Martin Pfeifle.

Autumn weather arrives, to delay work:

Caravan interiors...by Christoph Westermeir.

Nicola and Martin.

Shahar Kazara.

All the materials arrive, the caravan fills up and work begins:

As I worked on installing my piece, I was called over by this gentleman (below), one of many sitting on the benches surrounding Aristotle Square, including gypsies and 'illegals' selling DVDs, watching with interest as the artists worked on their mysterious objects.

He asked me for a kiss; and with Shahar translating, told me his name was CHRISTODOULOS MANTZARIS, that he was 96 years old, born 1912 in Istanbul, another survivor of ‘population exchanges’ who left Istanbul for Thessaloniki in 1939. Then he recited a poem he had written long ago, that he said had been broadcast on the BBC:

Give me land without borders, without barriers, without sour lips…

Give me sweet smiles.

Give me sweet smiles...

I work on my piece until the last possible moment: the opening is the next day. As always, adrenalin and anxiety.

The day ends with a celebratory dinner with our sponsors, Shahar Kazara,Thessaloniki's Vice Mayor and others from the Department of Culture:

From left to right: Shahar Kazara, leader of the Thessaloniki Symphony Orchestra, the Vice Mayor.
Benjamin Lee Martin, Martin Pfeifle.

Nicola Lane.

Martin Pfeifle and his Man Fan.

artists at work

The artists gather in Thessaloniki, to create their work for the CULTURE COUP installation in Aristotle Square, opening on September 19th 2008 as part of the City's annual DIMITRIA FESTIVAL.

Martin Pfeifle, young artist from Düsseldorf: creating SPLASH, a giant installation...

Christoph Westermeir, young artist from Düsseldorf, assistant and partner of Martin.

Benjamin Lee Martin, French/American artist creating a tower constructed from magazines:

Benjamin's hotel room fills with magazines, which he folds and stacks...

Nicola Lane, London-based artist: my first night in the Hotel le Palace, Thessaloniki, my home for 10 days. I have proposed a life-size enlargement of a family group photograph from the Thessaloniki Photographic Museum archives, choosing this one:

The photograph is an icon for those millions of families who leave their land and their culture for a new life; posed against a painted backdrop, painted with the dark clouds of war and battleships from the Macedonian Campaign in which my grandfather Mickey Gallagher served. The faces are to be cut out , as in those painted backgrounds found in fairgrounds and sea-side resorts, where the public play with their identity, and are photographed as strong men, or astronauts, or beauties in bikinis. The public are invited to play with the image.

On the verso of the image will be a mirror, also with the absences of the cut-out faces; the mirror reflects today’s city and its people, but with absences that remind us to question who we are. We reflect on ourselves, on the city.

Shahar Kazara, pictured left, director of Start Direct and creator of CULTURE COUP: organising the time, the place,the money, the fabricators, the bubble wrap, the gaffer tape...pictured with Solon, smoking, drinking coffee, and discussing fabricating my piece.

I go with Shahar and Solon ( above) to inspect my work at the printers. But it has been made too small. I have to install it anyway, as there is not enough time to re-make it before the opening on September 19th. I have to trust that the work's original concept survives this problem.

It is taken to the Municipality's workshop for the supporting frame to be constructed...

Pictured above is YIANNIS NOUSIAS, master carpenter at work .

The Municipality workshop is a graveyard for retired or injured public sculpture:

Shahar contemplates a retired hero's facial hair and the lessons of history.

At the end of the day we retire to drink ouzo beneath this wonderful whirling dervish mobile, in our favourite bar in Thessaloniki's market. Photograph by Christoph Westermeir.