A planet, a satellite and a star are magically aligned. A rare cosmic coincidence that changes the perception of the ‘real’ takes place, inviting people to participate in a collective ritual process where everyone’s eyes simultaneously gaze at the sky. During an eclipse, darkness conquers the light for a few minutes, triggering anxiety and fear of the unknown until the awareness of change is spread.
A few days ago, the Athens Biennale, in partnership with Onassis Culture, successfully completed the full circle of AB7: ECLIPSE, which lasted two months in three iconic buildings in the historic centre of Athens – the former Department Store Fokas, the former Santaroza Courthouse in Justice Square, and the Schliemann-Mela Hall, as well as in Onassis Stegi.
Curated by Omsk Social Club and Larry Ossei-Mensah, under the artistic direction of Poka-Yio, the 7th Athens Biennale, titled “ECLIPSE”, gave a condensed picture of the world we live in by summoning transformative powers in order to transport us beyond the current era into a space of thought and reflection through narratives that have always been sidelined and potential parallel worlds that have not yet been revealed.
ECLIPSE: FROM QUEERING THE HISTORY TO THE METAVERSE
In ECLIPSE, narratives from contemporary Black, queer, speculative, and radical artistic voices converse with practices of rituals, worldmaking, and interdependence, presenting a translocal chapter of contemporary thought that champions a revisiting of identities and a queering of history. By counter-offering radical care, virtual, and fluid alternative states through sonic and immersive strategies, the 7th Athens Biennale orchestrated an experiential shift in art viewing, opening up possibilities of an alternative future for contemplation.
More than 80 contemporary artists and collectives from North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe presented more than 400 artworks. manuel arturo abreu, Zebedee Armstrong, as they lay w/ Abdu Ali + Markele Cullins*, Sanford Biggers, Billy Bultheel*, Judy Chicago, Contemporary And, Zuzanna Czebatul, Simon Denny, DETACH (Voltnoi & Quetempo)*, Alexandros Douras, Christoph Draeger, Claude Eigan, Awol Erizku, Doreen Garner, Miles Greenberg, Happy New Tears*, HellFun (Josefin Arnell & Max Goran)*, Jack Hogan & Trakal*, Deborah Joyce Holman & Yara Dulac Gisler*, Klara Hosnedlova*, Satch Hoyt, Hypercomf*, Yinka Ilori*, Astrit Ismaili*, Tomashi Jackson, Huntrezz Janos*, Olalekan Jeyifous*, Evi Kalogiropoulou, Samson Kambalu, Lito Kattou*, KAYA (Kerstin Bratsch & Debo Eilers), Navine G. Khan-Dossos*, Nuri Koerfer, Ndaye Kouagou*, Aristeidis Lappas, Kris Lemsalu & Kyp Malone*, Marissa Malik & Yeshe Bahamon-Beesley*, Rodney McMillian, Steve McQueen, Ana Mendieta, Moor Mother*, Petros Moris, Zanele Muholi, Nascent*, Kayode Ojo, Omsk Social Club*, Zohra Opoku, Vasilis Papageorgiou*, Nektarios Pappas*, Ebony G. Patterson, Primitive Art*, Yorgos Prinos, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Andrew Roberts, Victoria Santa Cruz, Jacolby Satterwhite, Jonas Schoeneberg*, Erica Scourti, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Juana Subercaseaux, Valinia Svoronou*, Taka Taka*, Ayesha Tan-Jones*, Filippos Telesto, The Critics Company, the Mycological Twist*, Hank Willis Thomas, Iris Touliatou*, Tourmaline, Suzanne Treister, Theo Triantafyllidis, Wu Tsang, Eugenia Vereli, Cajsa von Zeipel*, Julian Weber, YESSi PERSE* shaped the vision of ECLIPSE, 32 of which presented new productions commissioned by the Athens Biennale (the asterisk denotes the new productions).
A special mention should be made of the End Credits (2012-in progress) by the Oscar-winning director of Shame and 12 Years a Slave and winner of the Turner Prize, Steve McQueen, a co-production of Onassis Culture presented at the Onassis Stegi as part of the 7th Athens Biennale. On the occasion of his work in AB7: ECLIPSE, Steve McQueen participated in an exclusive online discussion on the art of unearthing collective traumas and marginalised human stories.
THE PROGRAMME & SIDE EVENTS
During the 7th Athens Biennale, more than 40 live events took place, in the exhibition spaces as well as online: Performances, live video gaming, board game nights, open mics, viewings, performative lectures, lectures etc. deepened the immersion in the kaleidoscopic futures and activated the search for alternative ways of co-existing in the here and now.
Simultaneously, a series of creative partnerships shaped the parallel programme. Cinema ECLIPSEd, a collection of films by the 27th Athens International Film Festival, the New Infinity Athens, a production of Onassis Culture in collaboration with the Eugenides Foundation and the support of Berliner Festspiele, the Cinobo Film Club of ECLIPSE, a collection of ten films conversing with the exhibition’s concept, the pop-up space in the display window of KAKTOS BOOKSHOP on the ground floor of the Schliemann-Mela Hall with one of the works from Yinka Ilori’s workshop, as well as Bios.ECLIPSE, a pop-up open-air project in the yards of both the former Santaroza Courthouse and the Schliemann-Mela Hall that hosted a new generation of artists and DJs from Greece and abroad curated by Bios.
THE CATALOGUE: A MULTI-SENSORY GUIDE
The catalogue of the 7th Athens Biennale presents a world between darkness and light. The first part of the edition, as another diary, captures thoughts, recalls memories and constructs new realities. From essays to recipes and from poems to soundtracks, ECLIPSE Diaries unfolds a multi-sensory universe, like the world of the exhibition. In the second part, the curatorial team deepens the practice of the participating artists and their featured works in AB7, forming a guide for the ECLIPSE experience.
The writers of the AB7 catalogue are Jackie Abhulimen, Georges Bataille, Walter Benjamin, Franco Berardi, CAConrad, Leonora Carrington, Eddie Chambers, Francesca Gavin, Happy New Tears, Deborah Joyce Holman, Banu Khapil, Francesca Lisette, Mum Social Club, Negros tou Moria, Thomas Oberender, Omsk Social Club, Larry Ossei-Mensah, Poka-Yio, Primitive Art, Nat Raha, Erica Scourti, Kostis Stafylakis, Valinia Svoronou, Ayesha Tan Jones, the Mycological Twist, Eugenia Vereli, Julian Weber, Simone Weil, while Ayshel/Waiting Room, Devika, Entropia Records, GRΞTA/Waiting Room, Ioannis & Foukodian Rhythms, Yorgia Karidi, K.atou, MMMD, Joseph Mouzakitis/ATH Kids, Olenxaa (Carina Obukhova), Grace Ow, Sugahspank!, Teranga Beat, and Noff Weezy present sonicECLIPSE, the full moon soundscapes.
THE EXHIBITION VENUES: FROM THE PAST TO A POSSIBLE FUTURE
The exhibition spaces where AB7: ECLIPSE took place, the former Department Store Fokas, the former Santaroza Courthouse in the Justice Square, and Schliemann-Mela Hall, as well as Onassis Stegi and the online space, functioning as a reflection of various historical and cultural aspects and periods but also as symbols of a possible post-era, enhanced the sense of flux and change that exists today and the visitors’ transition from the past to the future.
Closely related to the ECLIPSE concept, the light sections on the facades of all three buildings, designed by IFI, prepared visitors for the experience that would follow before entering the exhibition. As an integral part of the narrative, the exhibition spaces were in constant conversation with the works, inviting visitors to be part of the experience either choosing the ascending or the descending chapter to start their navigation.
THE ECHO OF THE ECLIPSE: FROM THE SOCIAL NETWORKS TO THE PRESS
Nearly 40.000 visitors participated in the ECLIPSE experience in the emblematic, neighbouring, exhibition spaces in the historic centre of Athens, the former Department Store Fokas, the former Santaroza Courthouse and the Schliemann-Mela Hall, at the Onassis Stegi, where Steve McQueen’s work was presented, but also where some of the live-action took place, both in the public square of Justice Square and on the internet.
The ECLIPSE experience exceeds the space, as it expands beyond that. The created echo, every discussion that exists and takes place inside and outside the Biennale, becomes part of the narrative. The ECLIPSE universe was constantly expanding and experienced by thousands of people in the digital space: From Facebook and Instagram to TikTok, more than 2.500 visitors shared their personal experience from AB7: ECLIPSE on the social networks of the Athens Biennale, highlighting an entire community of people who turned their gaze to the eclipse.
At the same time, the Athens Biennale has been a point of interest both for the local and international Press. The Greek Reporter‘s prophecy in September, “the international Press in Athens for the Biennale”, was confirmed by the Elephant Art feature that included AB7 in “the exciting art events you won’t want to miss” and sealed in November by Frieze, which highlighted ECLIPSE as one of the “shows everyone’s talking about in Europe”, but also the ArtForum, according to which The Critics Company video that presented in AB7 was one of the 2021 highlights.
Some of the most important media of the international art press reviewed the 7th Athens Biennale, discussed with the curatorial team and highlighted points and works, including Flash Art, Artnet, Monopol, Ocula, Art Review, Sleek Magazine, Port Magazine, Kolta, Spike Art, Daily Art Magazine, Exibart, BMW Art Guide, Art Map. The local media also highlighted the various aspects, the people and the significance of the 7th Athens Biennale, such as EuroNews, Amna, Kathimerini, LiFO, Athinorama, EfSyn, Ta Nea, Avgi, Athina 9.84, in, news247, Documento, VICE, CultureNow, The Art Newspaper Greece, OZON, Beaute, Antivirus, Monopoli, elCulture, Provocateur, Flix, in2life.
The 7th Athens Biennale could not have been realised without its team, collaborators and supporters. So, first of all, we would like to express our gratitude to the curators of AB7, Omsk Social Club and Larry Ossei-Mensah, who shaped ECLIPSE’s vision, as well as the artists who have trusted us all these months.
We also thank the galleries, the collections, and the studios of the artists for their support and overall collaboration: Nir Altman Gallery, Munich, hunt astner, Prague, Allouche Benias Gallery, Camus Collection, christian berst, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York, Anezka Chalupova, Chapter NY, New York, Company Gallery, Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, Simon Denny Studio, DOCUMENT Gallery, Chicago, Marian Goodman Gallery, Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, JTT, New York, Annely Juda Fine Art London, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin, Galerie Lelong & Co., New York and Paris, Lokal 30, Warsow, Kate MacGarry, London, Martos Gallery, New York, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago, MARUANI MERCIER Gallery, Belgium, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, National Gallery Singapore, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, NOME Gallery, Odin Teatret, P.P.O.W. Gallery New York, R + S COLLECTION, Salon 94, New York, Deborah Schamoni Galerie, Jack Shainman Gallery, Paul Mpagi Sepuya Studio, Jessica Silverman, San Franscisco, Stevenson Gallery, Jakob Kudsk Steensen Studio, Martin Subercaseaux Sommerhoff Collection, T293, Rome, Temnikova and Kasela Gallery, The Breeder Athens, The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC, Thomas Dane Gallery, London, Hank Willis Thomas Studio, TRANSFER Gallery, Vielmetter Los Angeles, Gallerie Lars Friedrich, Berlin, as well as our supporters: Prohelvetia, Mondriaan Fund, ifa, Goethe Institut Athen, Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού της Τσεχίας, Flanders State of the Art, Beowulf.
Warm thanks to the institutional entities that supported us and kindly made available these emblematic buildings to host the 7th Athens Biennale ECLIPSE: the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and e-EFKA for the concession of the former Department Store Fokas and the Schliemann-Mela Hall, as well as the Ministry of Justice and the Court Building Fund (TAXDIK) for the concession of the building of the former Santaroza Courthouse and the Justice Square. We also warmly thank the Ministry of Culture and Sports which had the 7th Athens Biennale under its auspices and the City of Athens for our support and continuous cooperation throughout the preparation and duration of the exhibition. The overall project of the 7th Athens Biennale could never have existed if the Region of Attica had not supported us through the Regional Operational Programme of “Attica” in the framework of NSRF 2014-2020.
We would also like to thank our sponsors: Aegean, our official carrier sponsor, Akular, experience sponsor, our hospitality sponsors, New Hotel, Athenaeum InterContinental, Perianth, St. George, Athens Plaza, Radisson Blu, Polis Grand Hotel, Selina, Achilleas Hotel, Arion Athens Hotel and Pallas Athena, our supporters NetSmart, Perrakis Papers, and Isomat, as well as our international and local media sponsors: Mousse, Texte Zur Kunst, Flash Art, Spike Art, C&, Selections, ΕRΤ, Kathimerini, EfSyn, LiFO, KOSMOS, Sto Kokkino, Athina 9.84, Pepper 96.6, Nostos 100.6, Amna, news 24.7, VICE, Popaganda, CultureNow, Monopoli, Ozon, deBop, Archisearch, Shedia, Antivirus, Ladylike, Join Radio, City Contact, Athens Walking Tours.
Last but not least, a big thank you to our close associates, the Onassis Foundation, for their unwavering support, guidance and creative contribution. The close partnership with the whole team of Onassis Culture was invaluable throughout the preparation and conduct of the 7th Athens Biennale.
Finally, our gratitude goes to the team, the dozens of collaborators, and the volunteers of the 7th Athens Biennale who made this demanding project come to fruition, with creativity and commitment against all odds and adversities during the past year and a half.
The date of this great celebration of contemporary culture, the Athens Biennale, is renewed for 2023. The latest information about the thematic and curatorial team of the 8th Athens Biennale will be announced soon.