CULTURE

An artist challenges his role and mixes wit with criticism

A year ago, artist Dimitris Antonitsis had the unusual idea of mounting a solo exhibition in three parts, held in three different Athens venues at the same time. It was a rather eccentric act, perhaps a bit provocative and attention-seeking at a first glimpse but self-critical and probing on contemporary issues – in this case, the excess of the contemporary art scene – when considered with more care. One almost had the sense that Antonitsis was staging a performance, casting himself in the role of the artist-curator and being sarcastic not just about the art market but about himself. There was humor but also skepticism, extroversion as well as self-criticism and self-containment. Both in his work and his profile as an artist, Antonitsis is constantly exploring roles and identities. His art blurs the distinctions between various realities (kitsch aesthetics and high art, politics and consumer culture), explores the hybrid quality of contemporary life and culture and shows reality to be fluid, multifaceted and hard to define. His profile as an artist is just as fluid and varied. The artist’s interest in exploring identities and hybridity also comes through in «Dimitrios Antonitsis, Show Hungry» a book-catalog on his latest three-part exhibition. Again, Antonitsis has come up with a completely unconventional project. Something between a catalog and a book, this beautifully designed publication (Minos Zarifopoulos is in charge of the art direction) is modeled after the idea of the artist’s latest Athens exhibition – the title, «Show Hungry,» refers to the excess that the exhibition criticized. The book includes not one text but essays from various curators: international curator George Armaos, NYU professor and Artforum art critic David Rimanelli and writer Theophilos Tramboulis. Also included is the last interview that Jacques Derrida gave (in 2004) to the Le Monde correspondent Jean Birnbaum. The effects of globalization that are examined in the interview are also a topic that Antonitsis addresses in his work. At the end of the book there is a short story by Japanese writer Yasushi Inoue. Again, there is a distinct connection to Antonitsis’s work «Some Prefer Nettles,» an installation of videos and silk banners that explored sexuality and violence in contemporary Japan. Both the essays and the images manage to convey some of the underlying themes of the artist’s work and a general sense of his direction. There are images from the «Family Matters» series of the late 1990s, in which Antonitsis explored sexual hybridity through the photographs of transvestites as well as images from «Asian Sleaze,» and «Dirty Soap,» a work on our perception of history and politics. The latter work combined a political statement about the Holocaust with the trivialization of critical issues through media sensationalism. There are also photographs – taken by Jeffrey Apoian – from the performance of «Imitation of Christ» (a cutting-edge, New York-based fashion label) held on the island of Hydra. The catwalk performance was held in the context of the «Hydra project,» which Antonitsis launched five years ago by organizing an annual exhibition on contemporary art each summer on Hydra, where he has his summer home and studio. The exhibitions have brought to Greece some of the hippest names in contemporary art, including Jessica Craig-Martin, Brice Marden, Tracey Emin, Candida Hoffer, Michael Bevilacqua and Nate Lowman. Through the Hydra project, Antonitsis has also become known as a curator. Besides the shows held in Greece, he has also curated international shows, including «New York City Blink-Blink,» a show commissioned by the city of Modena in 2004, and is curator of a show currently held at The Flat, a gallery in Milan. In the book on his work, Antonitsis places himself again in the role of a «curator» by actually editing his work and placing it in different contexts. Seen together with the rest of his activities, «Show Hungry» is not only the reflection of an artist’s work but also of an artist’s profile. It shows a versatile and experimental artist with international exposure (he will participate in two New York group shows, one of them at the Chelsea Art Museum), an artist who is also a manager of his own work and a curator of other artists’ works as well as a teacher (he is associate professor on video art at the University of Patras). Antonitsis is somebody open to new ideas and ready to broaden the scope of the visual arts to areas such as fashion, design and architecture as well as the activities of the artist himself. He is an artist whose work provokes, but also raises issues on the state of art today. «Show Hungry» is available at the Taschen showroom (Delfon & Skoufa, Kolonaki).