For his new work Throw Hands for the Thessaloniki Biennale, Antonis Pittas’ intent is to create a “performative” space in which the past can be
reactivated and the present addressed. The exhibition space hosts four large hands made from a faux-leather material in four different colours:
red, blue, yellow and white. The objects are a cross between furniture and sculpture, and are intended for use: people can sit or lie on them. The hands, in turn, serve as a stage for the presentation of other works Pittas presents: a number of oldfashioned clipboards, reproduced in very expensive materials such as marble, bronze and other metals,
materials usually used for government buildings or public sculpture, with bureaucratic or “official” connotations. Attached to these are various
collages of images showing hands of politicians and other political actors as represented in online and offline news media – gestures that are supposed to underline the importance of what is said, expressing
anger, power or even sometimes, fear. Whilst the work evokes the art historical past, including both pre- and post-war avant-gardes, the present it represents is associated with violence and the rationalization of violence. Photomontages of the German and Russian avant-garde often employed the hand of the artist as a sign of a new time to come: a time, in which the artist-engineer would have a crucial role in building society and realizing utopian ideas. Obviously, this hope was already frustrated back then and very violently so, but the force of the hand and the gesture remains interesting as a sign of political influence or defeat,
or ideological instrumentalisation. Pittas’s view of the exhibition space –a former convention centre– as a very “toxic”, contaminated political environment, which might recall civilian protest and upheaval
as well as the (violent) reaction of military and police forces to the state of apparent chaos. The colours of the hands indirectly refer to the colours
of the image that is found together with hazard warning labels on tear gas cans, which indicates the toxicity of the gas thrown by military and police. For Pittas this ideogram strikingly resembles certain modern art forms, and can be seen as a kind of détournement of Bauhaus and De Stijl aesthetics into something quite different, more politically charged and confrontational. And of course, there are the obvious references to Barnett Newman’s work series Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue
(1966-1970) and Gustav Klutsis’ photomontage of Lenin flanked by four hands depicting the pillars of Soviet society. Though Pittas does not see
himself as the “artist-engineer” that the early twentieth century avant-garde had envisioned, he strives at least to create conditions for critical thoughts to be triggered, while eschewing any overt
propagandistic messages. He sees himself as an observer, confronted with a reality of new collective movements, of tensions arising within societies and between regions, of complicated references and
unresolvable contradictions. In this context, he is especially interested in capturing public or collective memory in the making as well as the dynamics of monumentalization that accompany this process, whereby his work becomes a kind of protester’s memorial.