Artist and Athens School of Fine Arts Professor Marios Spiliopoulos was faced with something of a quandary when approached to hold an exhibition at the Mosque of the Janissaries (Yiali Tzami) in Hania, Crete. How, he thought, could he create a show that was not overwhelmed by the historical importance of the site of worship?
The installation, “The 700 Names of God,” which runs to Sunday, is based on an earlier work by Spiliopoulos and consists of hundreds of pairs of shoes donated by Hania residents in response to an invitation from the city’s municipal gallery, which lead the visitor to the entrance of the monument.
The mosque’s entrance hall does indeed display 700 names for God printed in blue in an arched recess, while the floor has been covered in sand and a few pairs of shoes lead the way into the recess. The aim of the installation is to encourage viewers to think about the divine as a force that offers support, but also as the standard by which we live our lives.
The central idea behind the project was inspired by the 700 names given to God that were recorded by Byzantine Emperor Theodore II in 1254.
The journey of self-awareness on which Spiliopoulos invites the public is enhanced by a video project inside the monument showing waves meeting the sand, and more shoes. Here, visitors are also treated to phrases from Heraclitus, the 6th century BC Greek philosopher who was the first to shed intellectual light onto the then black-and-white understanding of the divine.
“Now, especially, when lifejackets and shoes wash up on our shores, from the sea, together with the bodies of small children, when ISIS is blowing up Palmyra, the mind appears to go silent and art seems too small to have a voice,” says Spiliopoulos.
The exhibition is on display at the Mosque of the Janissaries on Akti Tombazi through September 25. Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.