“The Ephemeral Project”

27-29 Sep 2019

Keramikos Archeological Site, Athens.

Text: Professor Sozita Goudouna, CUNY City University of New York

Clay is an artistic medium that allows exploration, experimentation, direct expression and, often, promotes collaborative practices. Importantly, its use denotes and emphasizes land, landscape, history, human touch, and primary instincts and impulses.

In contemporary art and in artistic movements such as minimalism, sculptural language transforms and shifts the ways clay is used. The revival of clay as a material for contemporary artists is evident since clay and ceramics have in recent years been elevated from craft to high art material.

In her sculptural installation “The Ephemeral Project” at the cemetery of ancient Athens, Kerameikos, the visual artist Paulina Cassimatis traces the ephemeral nature of existence through the multiple transformations and fragility of clay. The artist conceives and conveys through the medium of clay, human formations from the beginning of life and presence to non-existence.

By placing the sculptures in the public space of the Kerameikos cemetery at daily weather conditions, the artist observes the fluctuations of nature and their impact on fresh clay that is altered by nature and gradually returns to its original condition. The clay transformed into a volume of soil can only be a metaphor for human nature.

The human form becomes the main architectural site of the museum installation, it is the focal point from which the other elements, the light, the environment, the sound, and most of all the viewers’ perception, are oriented.

The visual artist through the use of clay ‘incarnates’ these diverse characters, active citizens who through their shape, physiology and materiality compose the form of an experience, the place and the sign of the subjectivity of character in public space. Expressions, movements, emblems contribute to the composition of characters / citizens and direct the museum space and the subjective, physical awareness of the viewers.

Understanding presence is a key theme in Cassimati’s work, which is expanded on “The Ephemeral Project”, with her research on the perception of the living body, the human form, and the physical presence as an artistic medium.

The vitality of the forms in this exhibition is not technically mediated through video, animation and technology. By applying ancient and timeless artistic practices, Cassimatis manages to make the artistic space physical and bodily through the presentation of clay bodies, that manage to become not only an object of perception, but its place of origin, its zero point.

Photographs © John Carnessiotis

The aesthetics of the clay sculptures, from the simplest visual medium, are perfectly intertwined with antiquity, since they clearly refer to the timeless material of the past that remains in contrast to the monumental treatment of art.

These ephemeral sculptures are placed in situ at the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos so as to become part of the landscape and be incorporated into the natural environment of the archaeological site. The sculptures will leave their contemporary footprint on the ancient site.

The ever-evolving form of the sculptural installation reveals the sensitivity of the artist’s approach and interest in the interrelations of contemporary art and archeology. The sculptures are embedded in the space, provoking the notion of being created from fragments of the excavation.

Alluding to art installations including the icebergs of Olafur Elliason, Cassimati’s artistic practice reveals the uninterrupted continuity of art and technique from antiquity to the present day and is in line with the expanded  broader strategy of the Ministry of Culture and the Ephorates to different approaches to archeology, as it stresses the need for a new approach to the Greek cultural heritage that combines the timeless values ​​of art, from antiquity to the present, and the importance of the presence  of contemporary art in ancient archaeological sites such as the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos.

Production: Out Of The Box Intermedia

The nonprofit Out of the Box Intermedia was founded in 2008 in London and Athens and specializes in research and production of intermedia projects with the collaboration of universities, art collectives and scientific institutions. The company is supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Tourism, Onassis Foundation, the European Cultural Foundation, the British Council, the French Institute, the NEON Foundation and private companies. Out Of The Box productions have been exhibited at EMST National Contemporary Art Museum, Benaki Museum, the Byzantine & Christian Museum, Shunt Vaults London, Hunterian Museum London, French Institute, ICA, Historical Archives Museum, Place-London, Frieze London, Tate Modern, Beirut Public Space, the Delos Archaeological Museum, the University of Athens Historical Museum, the Greek Consulate in New York among other cultural venues. For more information visit: http://www.outoftheboxintermedia.org