Ahead of the Greek War of Independence bicentennial celebrations, the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art has commissioned Greek sculptor Kostis Velonis to conceive an immersive presentation of eight funerary masks of the Greek Revolution heroes from the National Historical Museum of Athens’ collection. The exhibition, titled 199, was inaugurated on 27 June, 2020, and will be on view at the old Hydra Slaughterhouse through to 1 November, 2020.

The 199  show is an emblematic memento mori based on juxtapositions and unexpected associations of this special historical material in the setting of the old slaughterhouse and the distinctive topography of Hydra. Steering clear of the traits of a strictly celebratory exhibition or the conventional and moralistic approaches and ideological constructs around the subject, the artist invites viewers to re-examine their relation to the historic event and restore the role of art and artists in the social and cultural processes as well as in the re-evaluation of historical research.

View of the Hydra Slaughterhouse with Kostis Velonis’ Receiver, 2020. Photo: George Skordaras

If 1821 marks the start of modern Greece, 199 explores some of the consequences and implications of this prospect, the contemporary significance of artistic representation, the allegories, as well as the questions and emotional turmoil triggered by such a historical event.

Thus, the exhibition repositions the relation between inner experience and collective self-knowledge, identity, reality and imagination, man and animals. As Kostis Velonis puts it:

“The mourning of Cyparissus –whom Apollo turned into the evergreen cypress tree out of pity when Cyparissus was devastated by the loss of his beloved stag– is equated here with the loss of hundreds of animals in the Slaughterhouse and the sacrifices of fighters in the Greek War of Independence.

“The phantom that hovers over a rebellious Greece seems to set off from Pontikonissi, Kerkyra, which is almost the archetype for Die Toteninsel, the 1880 painting of Arnold Böcklin. The famous picture of the islet at sunset contributes to this peculiar time machine, traveling to arid Hydra and bringing some particular vegetation into the Slaughterhouse. This temporary sojourn brings together such contrasting concepts as the accessible and the inaccessible, the endless and the finite, the perishable and the eternal, paying tribute to the specters that seek their new place.”

More info about the exhibition: visit DESTE’s official website; visit Kostis Velonis’ solo exhibition “Ghost Beggar” (curated by Efi Falida) at Kalfayan Galleries (10 June – 26 September 2020); and visit the “Greece 2021” Committee’s official website.

Source: Greek News Agenda