Last time I visited an exhibition was in Tate Modern. I went to see Kusama’s retrospective exhibition where I combined it with Alighiero Boetti’s “Game Plan”. Highly intrigued by his conceptual work within the Arte Povera movement I went on to an exhibition of a Greek conceptual artist, Jannis Kounellis. Even though called the patriarch of Arte Povera it wasn’t the reason that led me to his exhibition, but the purpose this brand new installation served.
While the situation in Greece is something new to Kounellis, it is not unfamiliar. He left Greece in 1956 due to the consequences of the on-going political clashes. Kounellis went to Rome where he studied Fine Art. Later was introduced to the Arte Povera movement which was not so known till the late 60’s. Its literal meaning is poor art. Arte Povera was a modern art movement, which had a different stance towards the establishment of the government, the industry and culture.
Kounellis has introduced new materials in the movement such as fire, gold, bed frames, windows, smoke even live animals and performing people. Each one of the materials symbolised something particular in his work.
As in previous installations he deliberately questions the contemporary way of living. By using antithetical media and juxtaposition in his works expresses the tension and alienation in our society. I guess he always wanted to express his feelings in that manner for Greece.
His exhibition in the Museum of Cycladic Art was not a collection of previous works. Brand new works, inspired by the issues haunting Greece for the past four years, made by local material found in flea markets and junkyards of Athens. Old and used materials, like marble and coal, burlap sacks and newspapers, hats and overcoats, shoes and soil not only served as the media for the message but as the media carrying the history and memories of a city and its people. Combining them resembled the process of putting pieces of a puzzle together, which ultimately presented the issues that currently strike the people of Greece, have roots deep in the past.