Home Digital art Andreas Angelidakis mixes antiquity and digital culture

Andreas Angelidakis mixes antiquity and digital culture


In 2003, the Athenian artist Andreas Angelidakis found himself in Paris with Olivier Zahm, founder of Purple magazine. At Zahm’s suggestion, he visited the French Communist Party headquarters building, designed by Brazilian modernist Oscar Niemeyer as a gift to the party. A trained architect himself, Angelidakis found it nothing less than “sensational and transcendent”. So this year, when Denis Pernet, curator of the traveling art foundation Audemars Piguet Contemporain, invites him to create an installation in his auditorium, Angelidakis seizes the opportunity. He decided to extend his series gentle ruins, the modular display furniture he designed the very year he first saw the building, to form “a disco monastery building site.” An example of how the Brazilians worked organic forms in modernism, the roof of the auditorium protrudes through the front lawn of the premises like a dome inspired by the belly of a pregnant woman. Inside is a womb of grass-green carpet and diffused white light that will house the artist’s multimedia fantasy titled Center for Critical Appreciation of Antiquity.

Studio Andreas Angelidakis. Photo credit: Vassilis Karidis. Courtesy of the artist

In conversation, Angelidakis is patient and precise. “There’s a mystical geek vibe to this exhibit,” he says when we meet in Athens in August, dressed in leopard-print shorts and sitting on a sofa block digitally printed with an ancient photo of a Greek column. His top-floor apartment next to the National Archaeological Museum is an Aladdin ordeal cavern. In 30 years of career, Angelidakis has participated in numerous biennials, panels with Hans Ulrich Obrist, stands at Art Basel, conferences at Columbia and published a book entitled Internet Suburb. He was an architect, teacher and curator. “I don’t see exhibitions as a display but as an active ingredient to play with.” He remembers that in 2017, when he showed soft ruins at Documenta 14, security guards called him because visitors were moving parts of the facility: “I said, ‘Perfect!'”

In today’s version, its gentle crumbling columns are accompanied by daybeds printed with archaeological pamphlets, scattered around a column of scaffolding rising through shadows of smoke and light. On the auditorium screen, an infinite tunnel video extends the space like a portal. A metal container – resembling those used in ships, shipyards and refugee camps – houses a “souvenir shop” of Greek figurines and tourist items.

Studio Andreas Angelidakis. Photo credit: Vassilis Karidis. Courtesy of the artist

He calls this conglomeration “a system for a gentle stylite house”, explaining that a stylite was a monk seated in prayer on top of a pillar (pens) to be closer to God. He says that on top of the Temple of Olympian Zeus – the largest temple in ancient Athens – there once stood a hut housing a stylite. It was removed in 1870, when the modern Greek government, barely half a century old, pursued an archaeological policy aimed at eradicating nearly 2,000 years of historical adaptations with the aim of producing an idealized Greek aesthetic that would support a unified national identity in stride. of Ottoman rule.

Along with other elements of the temple’s social ecosystem (including coffee huts, commerce, and various ceremonial practices), the hut was erased, not only from physical existence, but also from documentation. Photographs of the 19th-century ruin were doctored as part of this national branding exercise that sought to paint Greece as a whitewashed monocultural fantasy, embodying the classic architectural ideals adored by the West.

Studio Andreas Angelidakis. Photo credit: Vassilis Karidis. Courtesy of the artist

At the center of Niemeyer’s auditorium, Angelidakis’ stylite pillar takes the form of a scaffolding tower with its signature digital impression of an Ionian column draped on one side and a construction chute suspended from the other. Athenian buildings have recently undergone many repurposings, to which the chute refers. At the top of the pillar is a metal hut in a signal yellow color to match the chute.

And what about the monk who would be in the hut? “It could be any of us doing our YouTube meditations on the couch,” the artist says. Angelidakis appeals to clubby elements, pointing out that people have turned to ancient temples and modern nightclubs in search of high rituals. “You can be on a column or on medical cannabis or antidepressants, social media, coffee, wine – there are different ways to escape reality.”

Studio Andreas Angelidakis. Photo credit: Vassilis Karidis. Courtesy of the artist

The artist recalls the days when the Temple of Olympian Zeus sailed the land, and the video for the installation evokes the classic gay club aesthetic that combines the idealized male forms of Greek statues with the evasive positivity of disco. . Angelidakis ordered 3D-printed figures online, with Ionian column tops (“the gayer column, flower-based, with swirls”) positioned as hats, collars, skirts or pedestals on their bodies in white plastic. “Ken the stylite,” he jokes about these kitschy miniatures, which he filmed spinning on tiny catwalks before superimposing them in the club portal video that airs the bittersweet coverage of the countertenor Klaus Nomi of Donna Summer. I feel love – as emblematic of club culture as the columns are of architecture. “Nomi released this track as he was dying of AIDS.”

The dive into the Angelidakis archive is executed with intellectual expertise, but his motivations for pursuing it are more personal. “I also search myself. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m so preoccupied with antiquity with my psychoanalyst. His father, a building engineer, showed him around archaeological sites when they received guests in Crete. He is not immune to the pervasive nostalgia for Greece, nor the melancholic mythologies of the queer, wound-healing community.

Curator Denis Pernet with Andreas Angelidakis. Photo credit: Vassilis Karidis. Courtesy of the artist

By retrieving stylite from history’s scrap heap and blending it with other repressed cultural elements, Angelidakis brings aspects of the urban environment out of the shadows and into them again – while you have fun! Lie down on columns! Remember the club tops! Espace Niemeyer is often referred to as retro-futuristic, an early vision of today’s space age. Angelidakis’ style is also retro-futuristic in its own way, citing the little utopias clubs of the 70s and 80s provided, including their historicist impulses. by Kubrick 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is a permanent reference, as is Superstudio. “I like to mix science fiction with antiquity.”

One of the booklets in the “gift shop” container is titled Future Memory Club. He covered pages of ancient archaeological pamphlets with his own sketchy musings, featuring current-day keywords like Ukraine, monkeypox and micro-dosing. “I asked the Archaeological Society if I could reprint the original pages but they said no.” Maybe they were nervous about his approach. “People idolize ancient Greece as the birthplace of democracy, but you had to be a rich man over 35 to be an Athenian citizen and vote.”

Angelidakis is interesting for many reasons – his progressive treatment of Athenian conditions, the funky DIY furniture in his apartment, the “queer brutalist” island home he just built, the intense relationship he shares with his fierce Pomeranian. , Lupo. He was studying architecture at Columbia when it first abolished the use of hand tools and required students to design only on the computer. “I was lucky to be part of it. The beginning of virtuality.’ Texture mapping, rendering, and video compositing produce his style, and he’s been “in digital archeology” for 20 years.”

Studio Andreas Angelidakis. Photo credit: Vassilis Karidis. Courtesy of the artist

It was 1965 when the PCF (French Communist Party) tasked Niemeyer with imagining an inspiring headquarters from which to lead the left-wing future they thought they saw. A member of his Brazilian counterpart, the architect had just left Rio de Janeiro for Paris in voluntary exile from the right-wing government of his native country. Located on the Place du Colonel Fabien, named after a hero of the French Communist resistance of World War II, the headquarters opened in 1981, one of seven buildings in France by the architect, the last of which is no only opened this year at Château La Coste in Aix-en-Provence. Espace Niemeyer combines the formal clarity and clean lines of the larger modernist vision with freeform curves and expressive flourishes, resulting in a building that is both modest and charismatic.

The Espace Niemeyer foundation was created after the building was classified as a historic monument in 2007 to ensure its maintenance, raising funds by renting its refined design environments. Arts organizations, media companies and luxury brands have staged productions here, including Netflix and Prada. The interest of the curator Pernet is both aesthetic and philanthropic: paying to exhibit there contributes to its preservation and opens it to the public. “I wanted to bring Angelidakis’ Athenian perspective on cities and culture to a Parisian audience,” says Pernet. “The way he uses urban planning and the digital to comment on society means you don’t have to be an art world insider to understand his work.” Angelidakis’ preoccupation with utopian fantasies and architectural ruins fits perfectly with how we have come to look back at the visions of mid-century architects, including Niemeyer, and the dilapidated state of many of their buildings today.

Space Niemeyer, Iimage credit: Dimitri Bourriau

That Audemars Piguet, the last family-owned Swiss watch brand, invited a contemporary deconstructivist Athenian artist to exhibit at the headquarters of the Paris Communist Party, designed by Niemeyer in protest exile, as contemporary European governments increasingly lean to the right, perfectly reflects the collapse of the meaning in which culture is immersed today. This irreverent shuffling creates a sublimely entertaining presentation of decadence, interpreting Angelidakis’ theme of ruin and reflecting a post-ideological condition. “The crisis was one of my subjects,” says the artist. “Postmodernism was the beginning of our current notion of crisis as something recurring that is part of our civilization. In constant crisis, what is right and wrong? Might as well go all the way and make a niche temple with a Stylite monk in the Niemeyer cupola. §