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martedì 11 dicembre 2018

Miltos Manetas: an Interview on the Athens Biennial and more

My Art Guides, Dec 11, 2018

Miltos Manetas on his project for the Athens Biennial, never exhibited but visible to us all


Mara Sartore: This year you participated in the Athens Biennial, without setting foot in your hometown, can you tell us about how you managed this?

Miltos Manetas: I was contacted by Poka-Yio, the founder of the Athens biennial, he was an emerging artist when I was beginning to become well-known in Athens. The biennial had so far been a great success, with each edition better than the next, I had previously participated in the 2013 edition. And taking part in this edition, after Documenta 14, seemed like a good opportunity. I was also interested by the title "Anti", which in general for the Athenians is significant because it alludes to a historical left-wing magazine called "Anti".

The first thing that came to mind was to make a piece with Yanis Varoufakis, leader of the transnational Diem25 movement, with whom I'm also collaborating with on a political idea. The idea is to start a campaign in May from Montenero in Sabina, where I am based, it is a very small but beautiful place, lost in nature. The village has donated its castle to me where I currently live and work. Citizens are very interested in Varoufakis, and for this reason I am using #Overreality, projecting his image with an application on my smartphone simulating his presence amongst citizens, so that when he arrives, he will actually be returning. In this way, and by other creative means, we attempt to bring democracy to Europe, we want to spread the spirit of Diem25 because Varoufakis has seen for himself the absence of democracy ….

This is a premise to stress that my idea for the biennial was precisely to bring political art, or rather anti-politics, but the biennial was opposed to my proposal. So I asked if they were interested in a project which derived from Documenta. In fact, during Documenta, Marina Fokidis, editor-in-chief of "South Magazine", one of the most interesting art journals, in my opinion, was swallowed by a whale, that is, by Documenta itself. The journal was extremely powerful, with very real content, nice graphics … it represented what I call the "middle-south" that is a south that accepts being north but without wanting to become so totality … a spirit that pervades Italy from Rome downwards, just as in Greece and the Mediterranean. Marina had captured this spirit perfectly. But when during Documenta 14 Adam Szymczyk asked her to create a magazine specifically for this edition, she created a new one, redesigning the graphics and the concept behind South. Under the direction of Documenta, this became a "Nordic" magazine, like Adam Szymczyk's curatorial idea, with his character atypical to that of "South". Marina then succeeded with her determination to get me out because I began to vent with her and to express my frustrations with the idea of handing over her magazine to Documenta, for me it was a failure. From there, in short, our friendship became complicated, however the only remaining bitterness in me is to have lost a journal of great quality like "South as a State of Mind".

From this experience my second proposal for the Athens Biennial came about, this consisted in relaunching "South", perhaps collaborating with Marina, if she wanted to. An attempt to try again, as in a love affair, where we try to make peace with the past and live in a new eternal future. An attempt to restart Documenta, I regretted that the magazine had lost its #NeoUmile "middle-south" spirit, and was not as moving as it was before. I had also proposed to Documenta 14 to work on #MedioSud with a project based outside of Athens, in Derveni, where I grew up and which is a melting pot of different cultures. The project had been rejected by Documenta that wanted to remain central to Athens …maybe Marina hadn't help me in this. So I expelled myself from participating.

Above image: Miltos Manetas Looking at Athens Biennale. Courtesy of the artist

Read the full interview on My Art Guides.

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