ATHENS.- Maria Papadimitriou’s installation, Why Look at Animals? AGRIMIKÁ is a shop, a vestige of the past that sells animal hides and leather, transferred from the central Greek city of Volos, where it operates. This presentation of the relationship of humans to animals sparks series of concerns ranging from politics and history to economics and traditions, ethics and aesthetics, fear of the foreign and the incomprehensible, and our profound anthropocentrism that allows us to define ourselves as non-wild, different from all other animals.
From Aristotle to Plutarch, Aesop, La Fontaine, George Orwell’s anxiety for a human species whose most horrible traits dominate its evolution, the myriad myths and fairytales encountered throughout civilization, the Lascaux cave paintings, to preschool children’s drawings – humankind regards the animal kingdom with a combination of awe, fascination, trepidation, and uncertainty. Above all, however, we humans see in animals the reflection and expression of our own features, behaviors, and manners – the awareness of which permits separation by contrasting the human with the animalistic. As the beast ends up as embodying the divergence from the human norm, the image of a democratic society is deconstructed, and part of it degraded: rights no longer exist for all and in the same measure.
The AGRIMIKÁ of Papadimitriou’s concern, along with the shop in Volos, are those animals that tenaciously resist domestication. They coexist with humans in a condition where the roles of prey and predator are constantly switching – but the human hunter usually prevails with the animal prey as a trophy. Nonetheless, these are the animals that feature in most foundational cosmologies and mythologies. A wolf was responsible for the creation of Rome, and was the forebear and protector of the Turkic people; a she-goat nursed the infant Zeus and shielded him from the predator Chronos.
The little shop in Volos is an “objet trouvé” resituated inside the Greek pavilion. The reality of the shop is the expression and documentation of the unique personality of its owner, who has witnessed a great part of the history of modern Greece and kept a critical attitude towards it. The AGRIMIKÁ shop appearing unchanged by time and place, is analogous to the surrounding space of the neoclassical pavilion, also left unaltered.
The pavilion creates the context that charges and reveals this spatial “objet trouvé”. In the “ruined” landscape of the Greek pavilion, the non-domesticate-able animals – the agrimiká – become the vehicle for a contemporary allegory of the dispossesed, and attempts to galvanize our instinctive resistance to the decadence that surrounds us.
The archive research for AGRIMIKÁ is a result of collaboration with students of Thessaly University, Department of Architecture.
Maria Papadimitriou was born in Athens in 1957. She lives and works in Volos and Athens, Greece. She is known as an artist for her ability to investigate participatory projects and collective activities that highlight the interconnection between art and social reality. A major part of her work has been developed through collaboration with artists. For 4 years she had a continuous dialogue with Martin Kippenberger, who had put her in charge with the realisation of MOMAS, Syros Island She is Professor of Art and environment at the Dept. of Architecture, University of Thessaly and she is the founder of T.A.M.A. (Temporary Autonomous Museum for All) 1998. In 2003 she won the DESTE prize for contemporary Greek Art.
Her most recent solo shows include exhibitions at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens; the Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens; Mercato Coperto, Regio Emillia, Italy; Espacio Uno, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid and Olivetti Foundation, Rome.
Papadimitriou’s works have been presented in group exhibitions at: Benaki Museum, Athens; DESTE Foundation, Athens; the 4th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki Greece; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK; 10th Lyon Biennial, Lyon, France; Teseco Foundation, Pisa, Italy; Kunsthaus, Graz, Austria; Bâtiment d’Art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; Pavilion of Contemporary Art, Milan, Italy and Manifesta 04 Frankfurt, Germany.