ANNI KALTSIDOU: VISUAL INTERSECTIONS AT THESSALONIKI’S ROMAN FORUM
In this, her third solo exhibition, Anni Kaltsidou enriches and develops her previous work. As in her earlier works, nature and materials play a crucial role, but in her new exhibition the artist endeavors to address a particular challenge: how to develop her work and adapt it to one of the most important archaeological sites of the city, situated right in the heart of the urban landscape. Deeply influenced by the archaeological and historical background of the area, Kaltsidou presents two works at Thessaloniki’s Roman Agora.
Her large installation at the Cryptroporticus is made of clay and ormolu (gilded bronze) leaves. The central part of the composition reveals a clay figure in the fetal position. The virtual steps formed by the suspended leaves of mosaic gold lead to the figure. We can see here the “duality” that characterizes the works of Kaltsidou: the earthy tones of the figure are contrasted with the unearthly (by virtue of its supernatural dimensions) gold surrounding it; the leaves, spread out as they are along the length of the portico, are contrasted with the huddled up body, their movement set against the immobility of the whole. The figure could be interpreted as a symbol of life, but also of death, with the steps surrounding the body alluding to the natural course of human life. The other parts of the archaeological site feature masks of people of various ages, who become one with the earth, denoting the ephemeral, and hence vulnerable aspect of human nature: the inescapable fact that no one can live forever. They acquire a double meaning, symbolizing the beginning and the end, joy and sorrow, the presence and parallel absence of human existence. The artist is not interested exclusively in the final work of art; instead, she insists on the importance of the creative processes, “planting” the faces and uniting them with the earth, thereby highlighting her attempt to connect human existence with nature. According to the artist herself, those faces allude to “human ruins”, identified with the faces of the people who once inhabited the area.
Past installations created by Kaltsidou –human figures, faces and body parts, made of clay, gold leaves, or grass– find their “natural” environment in the Roman Agora. One feels that the artist has finally discovered the perfect “host” for her work. Kaltsidou draws inspiration from childhood memories and visits to the city’s museums and monuments, which helped shape her dialectical relationship with elements of the ancient and Byzantine eras. The figure in fetal position, the steps, the faces, they all illustrate the course of the city and its inhabitants through the ages. The materials allude to the practical functions of the site: clay to the ceramic workshops of the Byzantine era, gold to the ultimate medium of exchange.
The performance brings “life” to the steps, the faces and the central figure of the installation. Young women are walking and singing in the different languages of the various communities of multicultural Thessaloniki. Eventually they reach the marble doors of the Odeon, where they stop and remain still, alluding to Las Incantadas (the “Enchanted ones”); in silence, the artist approaches them and places a black scarf next to each one, moving the audience visually, acoustically, kinetically and emotionally. The scene is ripe with allusions; Kaltsidou makes a comment about the “Enchanted Ones”, the monumental relief figures that used to decorate the general area of the Roman Agora until the 19th century and are still “violently expatriated” at the Louvre, condemning their loss and stressing the need for their repatriation, but she also comments more generally on multiculturalism and the co-existence of the different communities in Thessaloniki, and on the young Greeks forced to flee the country because of the crisis. The performance can be interpreted as a continuation of the artist’s “political” commentary, first articulated with her work Αρπαγή/Abduction (2014) – a metope inspired by the Parthenon sculptures, on which the artist had placed a black cloth, as a reminder of the loss and the mourning it entails.
Each element may be independent, but the different parts of the work are interconnected. The visitor, upon entering the archaeological grounds, is immediately grabbed by the visual stimuli of the modern works of art presented. Interpretation and meaning are left to the visitor: he or she may see them individually or as whole, or can interpret them as part of the city’s but also of his or her own history.
Through the presentation of the work and the correlations it gives birth to, the cultural heritage and history (the “old”) intersects with the new (the work of art created for the exhibition), aptly echoing the main message of the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art: “Old Intersections – Make it New!”.
24.06.15 – 30.09.15
Ancient Agora Square
Τ: +30 2310 221266
Curator: Dr. Maria D. Kagiadaki, Art Historian, Ephorate of Antiquities, Thessaloniki