The grounds of the Athens National Observatory have been turned into a ‘jungle’ by artist Adrian Villar Rojas as part of a campaign linking the Greek capital’s historical and archaeological heritage with contemporary culture.

Titled ‘The Theatre of Disappearance’, the impressive installation located on the Hill of the Nymphs opposite the Acropolis poses questions surrounding disappearance and extinction, along with the passage and volatility of time.

Established in 1842, the observatory was the first research institution established in Greece and according to director Professor Manolis Pleionis, in recent years has been endeavouring to highlight the link between art and science.

Known for his large-scale sculptural installations, Villar Rojas worked on the 4,500 square metre site for months. He sowed 46,000 plants of 26 species including watermelon, artichoke, and pumpkin, which over time started to grow and take over the hill, covering statues and will continue to grow and evolve through the exhibition, until it comes to an end on 24 September.

Among the scenes on display are a replica of the Victory of Samothrace that lies horizontally, and one of NASA’s unmanned space rovers that arrived on Mars in 2012 to assess if the planet has ever supported life.

“What does it mean to have the soil beneath our feet?” is the question Villar Rojas poses to visitors.

“I come from Argentina, where essentially soil is a means of production … the strongest features of our national identity are our crops and cattle.
“When I arrived in Greece, I immediately understood that for Greeks what is below their feet was as constitutive of their national identity as it is for Argentineans, but in a completely different way. What was beneath their feet was culture: thousands of years of human civilisations.”

Commissioned by not-for-profit organisation Greek NEON, it is the first time Greek authorities have permitted a major project to take place on an archaeological site.

The installation is part of four separate exhibitions taking place across Europe and the US by Villa Rojas in 2017.