documenta 14 introduces institutional partners in Athens — and venues of the exhibition
documenta 14 is founded on several important institutional partnerships in Athens and Kassel. Each of these individual relationships with institutions—and the people who make them work—results in specific programming, research, and collaborative projects. Working together with partner institutions, documenta 14 points to a public sphere that is non-exclusionary and defined by encounters and possibilities—a public sphere in space and time.
Four years in the making, documenta 14 has gradually established a presence in Athens— and it now becomes visible, audible, and otherwise palpable through the multitude of voices that sustain the continuum of the exhibition during its one hundred days. Spaces and places of documenta 14 in Athens include museums, cinemas, theaters, libraries, archives, schools, television, radio, university auditoriums, public squares, streets, clubs, shops, parks and paths, and residential buildings—in short, all that comprises the great city in its density, richness, and strange beauty.
A major portion of the exhibition of documenta 14 spans the following four institutions:
Athens Conservatoire (Odeion Athinon)
The Athens Conservatoire, commonly referred to as Odeion Athinon, is the only completed structure of an otherwise unrealized urban plan for the Athens Cultural Center designed by architect Ioannis Despotopoulos as part of a competition in 1959. The project was one of the most compelling propositions of modern Greek architecture: Despotopoulos envisioned a national theater, congress center, museum, library, and an open-air theater in close proximity in the city center. As a musical institution, the Athens Conservatoire was founded in 1871 by the Athens Music and Drama Society. Originally, instruction was given in just the flute and the guitar, in respective correspondence with Apollonian and Dionysian aesthetic principles; Despotopoulos cited the guitar neck as his inspiration for the design of the building.
In the documenta 14 exhibition at Odeion Athinon, the willfully mystic and modernist Greek composer Jani Christou plays a central role. Whereas his notion of the “continuum” provided an early experimental framework for working sessions between artists, curators, and the documenta 14 team, Christou’s idea that “music can be silent” and his methodology of “metapraxis” are relevant to a consideration of other composers like Pauline Oliveros, the Scratch Orchestra of Cornelius Cardew, and the new generation of artists presented at this venue.
Another aspect of the partnership between documenta 14 and Odeion Athinon has been the process of restoring the EMS Synthi 100, a rare analogue synthesizer built in a limited edition by Electronic Music Studios, London, in 1971 and later purchased by the Contemporary Music Research Center (KSYME). Four commissioned compositions on the instrument are being performed at Megaron for documenta 14, forming a relationship between the now “antique” machine and a new generation of Greek and international electronic musicians.
Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA)—Pireos Street (“Nikos Kessanlis” Exhibition Venue)
ASFA, which has its origins in the Royal School of Arts established in 1836, moved its departments of Fine Arts, Art Theory, and the History of Art into the former textile factory of the Sikiarides family in 1992.
ASFA was the first institution to partner with documenta 14 in the Greek capital, and here Learning from Athens is manifested as an exploration of creative formation and educational experimentation. Since the fall of 2016, Arnisa Zeqo of aneducation (the public education program of documenta 14) has led Elective Affinities, a seminar inviting students from various departments to engage with documenta 14 artists. The exhibition in the lofty galleries of the N. Kessanlis Exhibition Hall reaches beyond Athens, examining work from Ciudad Abierta, or “Open City,” founded outside Valparaiso in Chile, from Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan school in the Bengali countryside near Kolkata, and from Matanzas, the “Athens of Cuba”—to name just three key schools and sites of learning that documenta 14 examines.
The Benaki Museum was founded in 1930 by the collector Antonis Benakis. Born into an important family of the Greek diaspora, Benakis donated his entire collection to the Greek state. The resulting Benaki Museum remains one of the most important museums in the country. Its collection consists of more than 500,000 objects spanning the spectrum of Greek art and culture and including works of Islamic, pre-Columbian, African, and Chinese art.
documenta 14 enters into a dialogue with four of the museum’s branches: the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art; the Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery; the Mentis Center for the preservation of traditional textile techniques; and the Pireos Street 138 Annex, located in the once industrial Rouf area. With its inward-looking architecture and spacious inner courtyard, the 138 Pireos St. Annex offers an opportunity for investigating untold, unfinished, or otherwise overshadowed histories—and proposing novel museologies, instantiated by the newly commissioned and historical works included in this major portion of documenta 14 exhibition.
EMST, National Museum Of Contemporary Art
The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), which collects Greek and international art from the postwar period to the present, moved to its permanent home in the former Fix Brewery on Syngrou Avenue in 2014. The brewery was completed in 1961 by the visionary Greek architect Takis Zenetos in collaboration with Margaritis Apostolidis. Abandoned in 1984, the brewery was repurposed by the state metro company Attiko Metro S.A. in 1994, and the building’s northern half was demolished to make room for a metro stop, which opened in 2000. The EMST signed a fifty-year lease in 2002 and subsequently held a competition to turn the factory into a museum. 3SK Stylianidis Architects won, and in collaboration with Kalliope Kontozoglou, I. Mouzakis & Associate Architects, and Tim Ronalds Architects, they refurbished the eastern façade and interior of the building for exhibition purposes.
documenta 14 asks what (kind of citizen) can this factory still produce? The figure of Diogenes—the Cynic, cosmopolitan, and self-proclaimed citizen of the world—serves as our guide, whom we encounter on the ground floor in the copper engraving of Nicholas Poussin’s painting Landscape with Diogenes. Known for his austerity, Diogenes dispenses even with his cup after observing a youth using his bare hands to drink water.
Other institutions and sites that host the exhibition of documenta 14 include:
Megaron, The Athens Concert Hall
The outcome of extended efforts by an association of eminent social figures, musicians, and music lovers, the monumental project of the Megaron was inaugurated in 1991. The concert hall was built and has since operated on corporate, private, and state funds, and the campaign for its completion was spearheaded by Christos Lambrakis, a key figures in shaping Greece’s political climate following the fall of the military junta and the restoration of democracy. Notwithstanding its costly maintenance and operation, the Athens Concert Hall brought Greece into the international music circuit and has continually drawn diverse audiences. As of 2017, the Megaron is now owned by the Greek government—and hence the public. During the one hundred days of documenta 14, figures by artist Apostolos Georgiou’s pay a visit to the Megaron through a series of paintings scattered throughout the building’s empty anterooms, which are decorated with heavy and ornate golden chandeliers. These lights are only switched on only during concerts, reveal the paintings’ protagonists as endlessly entangled in paradoxical and menacing social rituals of the recent past, and perhaps the surreal present.
documenta 14 Music at Megaron
The extensive music program presented by documenta 14 takes center stage at the Megaron concert hall complex. Major works such as Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) and Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated! are being performed along with pieces by singular contemporary composers such as Julius Eastman, Éliane Radigue, and Jakob Ullmann. Joaquín Orellana premieres his new work Sinfonía del Tercer Mundo (Symphony from the Third World), a culmination of years of experimentation with choirs and orchestras as well as his own invention, the “utilés sonoros” (sound utensils), which is on display at the Megaron at the time of his performance.
The music program at the Megaron brings attention to crucial sociopolitical moments expressed through or exemplified by musical compositions and their makers. As an extension of the regular programming at the Megaron, the series brings about alternate ways of listening and an encounter with sound’s dissident and defining mechanisms. In addition to the concert program, a set of spatial interventions makes use of the Megaron’s architectural features and engages the building’s foyers and various other interstitial spaces, while questioning the “ideal” musical conditions for which such institutions typically strive.
Parko Eleftherias, Athens Municipality Arts Center
Museum of Anti-dictatorial and Democratic Resistance
The Athens Municipality Arts Center in Parko Eleftherias (Freedom Park) and the Museum of Anti-dictatorial and Democratic Resistance belong to a nineteenth-century complex of military barracks whose recent history is linked to the repressive military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, sometimes called the Regime of the Colonels. The building of the Arts Center, currently occupied by documenta 14, was used to house the military police headquarters; the museum building just behind it was a detention and torture facility. Both buildings still belong to the Greek Ministry of Defense.
These two sites represent divergent approaches to history, memory, and collective trauma. The Museum of Anti-dictatorial and Democratic Resistance is operated by the Association of Imprisoned and Exiled Resistance Fighters. Lacking funding, it is run on a nonprofit basis by some of the victims, who personally relate their experiences. The interior spaces have been preserved as they were during the 1960s and 1970s and include archival and documentary material.
In contrast, the building of the Athens Municipality Arts Center was transformed into a public art gallery and traditional “white cube” in the 1980s, effectively imposing a “de-historization” of the space. documenta 14 invited Greek architect Andreas Angelidakis to transform the architecture of the Athens Municipality Arts Center into the site of the Parliament of Bodies (the name given to the Public Programs of documenta 14), which subsequently serves as an exhibition venue. In an act of “investigative restoration” Angelidakis carried out a series of minor yet crucial interventions. First, paneled walls were partially cut away, allowing the stone walls and the material history of the building to emerge. Second, a direct connection to the museum behind has been created by reopening the back door of the building. Third, Angelidakis has covered the windows with black curtains, which suggest mourning “widows” or shrouds between the buildings. Finally, Angelidakis designed Demos, a soft architecture consisting of sixty-nine blocks of fake concrete “ruins” that can be assembled and reassembled in multiple ways to reorganize the inner structure of the space. For eight months, the building has been the site of the Parliament of Bodies, a space for public debate and collective performance, and it continues to have this function throughout the exhibition. In this context, we ask what does it mean to be public? Who can narrate history? Who is allowed to speak? Can the museum be used against its own colonial and patriarchal regimes of visibility? The Museum of Anti-Dictatorial and Democratic Resistance also serves as one of the sites of the exhibition by hosting a film by the Syrian collective Abounaddara.
Agricultural University of Athens (AUA)
Greece’s third-oldest university, established in 1920, is situated on either side of the Iera Odos. This ancient “sacred way” was established some four thousand years ago, serving religious processions and stretching from the Sacred Gate in Kerameikos to the Sanctuary of Demeter—the goddess connected to the earth’s natural rhythms and the growing of grain—near the Port of Elefsina. Demeter’s likeness serves as the emblem of the university. Working with the school’s faculty, artist Aboubakar Fofana introduces a flock of fifty-four lambs into one of the orchards on the east side of the Iera Odos—one for each country in Africa, all dyed in indigo.
Amerikis Square, Stavropolou 15
The area near Amerikis Square, once an upper middle-class district, is today a multicultural neighborhood. Notable for its architecture, Stavropolou 15 is located on a quiet and pretty street. It is a typical Athenian stone building built in 1928 in the style of neoclassical revival and notable for its architectural value. Maria Eichhorn’s work at the site consists of converting the building into an unowned property, which is to remain unused and protected against gentrification, real-estate speculation, and acquisition for commercial purposes.
Ancient Agora of Athens, Odeon of Agrippa
Central to ancient Athenian democracy and justice was the Agora, a place of assembly for its citizens. At the center of the Agora was the Odeon of Agrippa, an auditorium with seating capacity for 1,000 people. Punctuating its architecture were large columns carved with giants and tritons set on high pedestals. Today these figures exist only as fragments: a torso, a gesture, a symbol. The two artists of Prinz Gholam appropriate these ancient forms and write their history anew by orchestrating a movement score of correspondences between the statues and their own bodies.
Archaeological Museum of Piraeus
This significant museum contains a number of extremely rare finds, including famous bronze statues dating from the fourth century BC and the Salamis Stone, a carving that indicates the various units of measurements used in ancient Greece, which enabled Greek craftsmen from different regions to calibrate their measuring instruments so that they could work together. Presented at the museum is Collective Exhibition for a Single Body, a proposal formulated by documenta 14 curator Pierre Bal-Blanc in collaboration with Greek choreographer Kostas Tsioukas and dancers Myrto Kontoni and Anastasio Koukoutas. A body is dissected into distinct parts, as in an anatomical study. Each part, limb, muscle, or organ becomes the medium of an action overseen by the curator and the choreographer and created by selected artists participating in documenta 14. The proposed gestures are translated into scores and performed amidst museum visitors by three dancers in an aleatoric fashion, repeated continuously.
The industrial district of Moschato is characterized by workshops, tavernas, wholesale shops, and low-income housing blocks. It is also home to the Athens School of Fine Arts, Pireos Street campus. Not far from the school are two adjacent spaces sharing the same address. The first, a former print shop with high ceilings and concrete floors, houses Otobong Nkanga’s production of new soap recipes inspired by different regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe. Next door, in a former taverna, Nikhil Chopra stages a three-day performance in which he makes a wall drawing of the open sea, before setting off for a road trip to Germany through Eastern Europe. The road trip is punctuated by performances with public drawings and collaborative events, with the cycle concluding upon his arrival in Kassel.
Between the Athens Conservatoire (Odeon Athinon) and the Sarogleio Building (Armed Forces Officers Club) lie the foundations of the ancient Lyceum of Aristotle, established by the philosopher in 335 BC with a focus on peripatetic learning. The ancient Greek word περιπατητικός (peripatêtikos), or “given to walking,” signals Aristotle’s key notion of learning as a movement of the body in tandem with the movement of the mind. In the installation by Postcommodity, movement takes the form of sound at the archaeological site. Transmitted through highly precise military-grade speakers, stories of forced displacement, imposed journeys, and transformation are broadcast—sometimes sung, sometimes spoken, and at times merely indicated by silence.
Founded in Delphi in 1985 by Theodoros Terzopoulos, the Attis Theatre is dedicated to performing works of ancient Greek tragedy. The theater collaborates with international festivals and theaters to bring attention to the tragic drama and revitalise the knowledge of its form. It was the wish of playwright Jannis Kontrafouris (1968-2007) that his Jocasta, completed shortly before the author’s death, would be directed and staged by Terzopoulos. A meditation on human suffering, the play explores the margins of speech and barest leftovers of meaning. The protagonist here is the language itself, as it carries the traces of the once glorious past into the world of contemporary atrocity.
A harbinger of industrialization in Athens, the silk company of Athanassios Douroutis once dominated the working-class neighborhood of Metaxourgeio (silk plant) and gave the central square its original name (Douroutis Square). The neighborhood still features a high concentration of production-oriented businesses, from metal and wood workshops to printing shops and mechanics—some still active, others obsolete. The former factory of the silk company, one of the oldest neoclassical buildings in the city and now the Municipal Gallery, once employed more women than men; the women were paid less than half the average male wage. In response to these and other not-so-distant histories of hard working conditions and inequality, Sanja Iveković reimagines Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Monument to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht as a public stage for workers’ rights, women’s rights, and class struggle.
Byzantine and Christian Museum (Garden)
The museum now devoted to showing the Greek national collection of religious art and artifacts from the third to the twentieth centuries is housed in what was originally known as the Villa Ilissia. It was a winter palace built by the Greek architect Stamatis Kleanthis for Sophie de Marbois-Lebrun, Duchess of Plaisance, soon after the Philadelphia-born Hellenophile took up residence in Athens in 1837. The adjacent gardens stretch towards the banks of the ancient Ilisos River, now dried up or underground, but in the fifth century, when this area was named Frog Island, it was a marshland. Here we make space for the reverie of recently departed Fluxus artist Benjamin Patterson, who came to Athens at the invitation of documenta 14 and dreamed of realizing a “sonic graffiti” using frog sounds.
Along the southern slope of the Acropolis runs the pedestrian street Dionysiou Areopagitou, named after Dionysius the Areopagite. Extending from east to west, the street begins at the Arch of Hadrian and leads to the archaeological site of the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. First mapped in 1857, it was reconfigured by Dimitris Pikionis between 1951 and 1957 as part of his project of new landscaping of the Acropolis and Philopappou Hill through a “sentimental topography” of footpaths (paved all along the way with intricately arranged compositions of stones), that followed those that had already existed in the area. On April 9, horses and riders set out on The Athens–Kassel Ride: The Transit of Hermes, in a procession that begins at the midpoint along Dionysiou Areopagitou. The procession celebrates the horses and riders as they depart on a 1,850-mile journey on horseback to Kassel, taking place over approximately 100 days. Inspired by the Swiss-Argentine horseman Aimé Tschiffely’s trek from Buenos Aires to New York (1925–28) on two Argentine Criollo horses, The Athens-Kassel Ride is conceived by Ross Birrell and developed in collaboration with Peter van der Gugten, founder of the Annual Tschiffely Memorial Ride. The ride is being carried out by Tina Boche, Peter van der Gugten, Zsolt Szabo, and David Wewetzer in accordance with the Charter of Reken.
Elpidos 13, Victoria Square
From this storefront on a pedestrian street, it is a short walk to Victoria Square, a low-key crossroads for people of myriad nationalities, who have recently settled in or are passing through Greece. In spring 2016, Victoria Square made the news when it became a makeshift refugee camp, mostly for people fleeing violence in Afghanistan and Syria. More recently an Iraqi-Kurdish restaurant has opened on the square’s northwest corner, and in the Café des Poètes across the way, you may hear stories of film shoots in this once posh neighborhood or learn how the central historical statue of Theseus rescuing Hippodamia was fired at during the Civil War of 1946–49. In this zone marked by the coming together of many peoples, artist Rick Lowe works with local initiatives to forge connections, initiating dialogues that link arts and culture with small businesses and support networks for immigrant and refugee groups.
This museum, founded in 1885, is filled with inscriptions dating from the eighth century BC to the late Roman period: economic accounts, treaties, decrees, sacred laws, funerary steles, and ancient graffiti. Some, known as “boustrophedon” (ox-turn), reverse the usual left-right order of text every second line, generating a rhythmic mirroring within the act of reading that echoes the movement of a plough pulled by an ox.
First Cemetery of Athens
Under the shade of pine and cypress trees in the First Cemetery of Athens are buried some of Greece’s most prominent politicians, writers, and artists. Established in 1837, it holds a varied collection of mausoleums, including key examples of neoclassical sculpture, such as the tomb of Heinrich Schliemann, designed by Ernst Ziller, and the famous sculpture I Koimomeni (The Sleeping Girl) by Yannoulis Chalepas. It is also one of the sites of Pope.L’s Whispering Campaign.
In close proximity to the Mentis Center for the preservation of traditional textile techniques at Polyfimou 6, Aboubakar Fofana has installed his vats of indigo dye in a former microbrewery as part of his workshop for documenta 14. In late 2016, Fofana began a working collaboration with the Mentis Center, a part of the Benaki Museum that houses the Mentis family’s donated textile manufactory (which still produces passementerie). Setting up an indigo vat in the courtyard of the “living museum,” Fofana dyed cotton thread in various shades of indigo, which were subsequently woven by Mentis machines into the ribbon used to make the bookmarks included in The documenta 14 Reader.
In 1922, diplomat and bibliophile Joannes Gennadius offered his 26,000-volume library to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. The collection’s home, designed by the American architects Van Pelt and Thompson, was built on a site provided by the Greek government and inaugurated in 1926. The collection, among the most important in Greece, traces Hellenism from antiquity through the periods of the Ottoman Empire and the 1821 Greek Revolution and includes works on major aspects of political, social, and cultural life in twentieth-century Greece. It also contains a unique group of nineteenth-century travel journals as well as donations by Nobel laureates Giorgos Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, the writer and urban historian Elias Petropoulos, and the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. During documenta 14, the library hosts Learning from Timbuktu, a project by curator Igo Diarra involving artists from the network he has built up as the founder and director of the art space La Medina in Bamako, Mali. A film by Ross Birrell, dedicated to the recent destruction by fire of the library of the Glasgow School of Art, originally designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, provides a counter-narration. In the peaceful gardens of the Gennadius Library, another library is created: 145 slabs of lithographic limestone bear all words of a diary, which was once published as a book and has now been condemned to vanish. As Mikhail Bulgakov famously said, “manuscripts don’t burn.” What has been written, will remain.
Greek Film Archive, “Tainiothiki”
Founded in 1950 by the Athens Association of Film Critics, this nonprofit cultural institution assumed its current, more formalized structure in 1960s at initiative of Aglaia Mitropoulou, whose close collaboration and exchange with the French Cinémathèque was significant to the archive’s development. Such relationships continue, and the Greek Film Archive remains committed to the research, collection, conservation, and promotion of Greek and international film heritage. With its strong tradition of introducing, discussing, and analyzing films and other relevant documents, the Greek Film Archive hosts the premieres and special screenings of works by documenta 14 filmmakers in Athens.
Hadjikyriakos-Ghika Gallery (Benaki Museum)
This house, which belonged to the modernist artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, is a typical example of interwar Athenian architecture. The mansion was a meeting point for the Athenian intelligentsia of the era and was often photographed for international magazines. Today a visitor can see Ghika’s studio on the fifth floor, where some of his most representative paintings are on display. Presented for the first time in conjunction with documenta 14 are silver prints by Ghika from his travels in Greece during the 1930s. Other permanent exhibitions are dedicated to themes from modern Greek cultural history, ranging from the Smyrna Catastrophe of 1922 to the junta’s dictatorship of 1967–74. A small selection of paintings from the holdings of the National Gallery of Art in Tirana introduces an alternative modernity as a foil to the largely Greek-themed collection.
Isadora & Raymond Duncan Dance Research Center
In 1903 Isadora Duncan and her family arrived in Athens, where they resolved to remain and establish a place where dance could be experienced in a fluid relationship with everyday life. Designed according to the specifications of the ancient Mycenaean mansion, this building is one of the very few venues worldwide to have been created specifically as a space for dance. One hundred years later, it is still serving this purpose—and Duncan’s utopian vision—as a research center and school for dance. Kostas Tsioukas, a dancer and choreographer from Athens, presents a lecture performance introduced by Penelope Iliaskou, Director of the Duncan Dance Center on Isadora Duncan and Nelly’s with Anastasio Koukoutas in which school students act as volunteer performers.
Karaiskaki Square, Piraeus
The central square at the port of Piraeus takes its name from one of the most famous leaders in the Greek War of Independence, General Georgios Karaiskakis. The square became well known in 1922 when many of the Greek refugees from Asia Minor took shelter here. During this period, it also served as a gathering point for many famous rebetes (performers of rebetiko), including the great Markos Vamvakaris. In January 1929, the square was devastated by a large fire that coincided with the state’s decision to remove temporary settlements from the site. Negros Tou Moria, the well-known Greek-African rapper, performs a concert on Karaiskaki Square as part of his project Black Odyssey. Based on the tradition of the rebetes and the legacy of hip-hop, the performance draws a number of parallels between the site’s histories of immigrants and expressions of underground music, past and present.
The square situated in front of the City Hall of Athens has changed names many times throughout the turbulent history of the Greek state. Its current iteration pays tribute to the Greek politician Konstantinos Kotzias, who served as Mayor of Athens between 1934 and 1936 and is known for developing the projects on nearby Alexandras Avenue to house returning Greek refugees from Turkey. Once a vital meeting point—flanked by the Municipal Theater of Athens, the National Bank, and the central post office—Kotzia Square has become deserted due to the recent decline of the city’s commercial center. For documenta 14, Rasheed Araeen presents an open structure that reflects the environmental dynamics of the square and revitalizes it through a gesture of hospitality. Under a set of canopies inspired by the Shamiyaana (a Pakistani traditional wedding tent), Araeen invites people to sit together and enjoy a meal while reflecting on possible scenarios for social change. The food served is based on recipes from around the Mediterranean and is prepared on-site by the kitchen Organizing Earth.
Museum of Islamic Art, Benaki Museum
From the fall of Constantinople in 1453 until the revolution that created modern Greece in 1821, the Greek peninsula was under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. Housed in a restored neoclassical villa, the Museum of Islamic Art was founded in 1931 from the collection of Antonis Benakis, whose family of Greek merchants lived in Alexandria, Egypt—where many of the objects were originally gathered—until the early twentieth century. The holdings of the museum he founded, part of the broader Benaki Museum complex, now span twelve centuries of Islamic art. At the Museum of Islamic Art, Mounira Al Solh exhibits an embroidered tent that hangs from the ceiling—an offering to and shelter for those lost in war and its violent displacements. The tent features embroidered floral elements, texts, natural leaves, and other fragile materials that serve as links to traditional decorative elements originating from Antiquity and the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Inside the tent a low table offers a book filled with stories from displaced people whom the artist has met in Athens, and Kassel over the past year.
Monument “Madra Blokou Kokkinias”
On August 17, 1944, Nazi troops executed seventy-four members of the Greek Resistance at the old factory of the British Oriental Carpet company in the neighborhood of Kokkinia (known also as). Hundreds more men and women from the area similarly lost their lives. At the site of the massacre now stands a museum and monument encouraging visitors to revisit this tragic period in Greek history and engage in conversation with the ghosts of the past. Based on the iconic performance titled Kokkinia, which was carried out on the site in 1979 by the late Maria Karavela (1938–2012), and her resulting censored film, artist Mary Zygouri stages a long-term project in close collaboration with the local community—and local ghosts—addressing the climate of economic and social crisis in Greece and throughout the world. Like Maria Karavela, Mary Zygouri presents the results of her work in a performance and an accompanying film during documenta 14.
National Archaeological Museum
Originally designed in 1866 to host finds from nineteenth century archeological excavations, the museum’s collections—the most extensive in Greece—date from the sixth millennium BC to late antiquity. The building’s neoclassical façade was designed by Ernst Ziller, an important architect of imperial buildings under King George I. In the 1940s, when Nazi troops invaded Athens, archaeologists in Greece (in a gesture similar to those of colleagues around the world) chose to protect ancient objects by reburying them. Daniel Knorr references this act in his (unrealized) proposal to bury the sculpture Boy with a Dog from the collection of the National Archeological Museum for the duration of the exhibition. His second proposal involves setting up a hydraulic press to print a book, in which each edition includes objects found on the streets of Athens pressed between the pages—an archeology of today, preserved for the future.
Numismatic Museum Athens
This museum is housed in a former private home designed by Ernst Ziller for the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Its interior—once the height of opulence—reflects the influence of archaeological excavations in Pompeii on the evolution of neoclassicism. Established in 1834, it is one of the oldest public museums in Greece and is dedicated to the study and collection of currency. Transforming the Numismatic Museum into an improvised theater, Israel Galván, Pedro G. Romero and Niño de Elche reflect on the relationship between the sacred and the profane, money and sexuality, and the body and the coin.
Hellenic Olympic Committee
Built in the fourth century BC during the archonship of Lykourgos in the ravine between Ardettos Hill and Ilissos River, the Panathenaic Stadium was reconstructed into the horseshoe from we know today during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian. The stadium was once again reconstructed in 1896 for the first modern Olympic Games, using Pentelic marble but remaining true to the Roman design. It was here that the Olympic Hymn, whose lyrics were written by the Greek national poet Kostis Palamas, was first sung during the opening ceremony, that. During documenta 14 the Panathanaic Stadium will be a venue for Pope.L's Whispering Campaign.
Pedion tou Areos
Named after the military exercises that took place during the reign of King Otto, Athen’s largest park was designed in 1934 to honor the heroes of the Greek Revolution (1821–32). They are represented in a parade of twenty-one marble busts lining the park’s avenues. Pedion tou Areos became the main recreational area of the central city, and its café, Green Park, became a gathering point for locals. Years of gradual decay and the closing of the café followed, but in 2015 an artistic collective took over the café, borrowing its name and using the space for political discussions and performances. It is also one of the sites of Pope.L’s Whispering Campaign.
Philopappos Hill, Pikionis Path and Pavilion
Philopappos Hill takes its name from Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a consul and administrator under the Roman Emperor Hadrian, although it is perhaps better known as the Hill of the Nine Muses. This is where Plutarch locates the battle between Theseus and the Amazons. Between 1954 and 1957, the area was redeveloped by the architect Dimitris Pikionis in collaboration with his students and local stonemasons. Together they improvised in the existing topography without recourse to paper plans. Plants indigenous to Attica were reintroduced, a pavilion constructed, and paths laid using stones salvaged from local buildings.
The pavilion, adjoined to the Church of Agios Dimitrios Loubardiaris, combines techniques gleaned from the stone foundations of the Acropolis with a traditional Japanese building aesthetic. It has become the temporary home for Elisabeth Wild’s small, brightly colored collages, whose surreal landscapes defy any predictable visual logic. Nearby are Vivian Suter’s paintings made in the crater of a volcano on the island of Nisyros; some include direct traces of the natural environment—dirt, mold, and seawater. Further up the path is another monument to vernacular architecture, a hand-carved marble tent by Rebecca Belmore that looks straight onto the Acropolis.
Piraeus Municipal Theater
A prime example of nineteenth-century public architecture in Greece, the Piraeus Municipal Theater was designed in neoclassical style by Ioannis Lazarimos and completed in 1895. As a cultural meeting point in the city, it has temporarily assumed different functions. After the First World War the theater was used as a garrison headquarters; it also housed the Piraeus Labor Center and other trade unions. In 1922, after the Asia Minor Catastrophe, the theater was transformed into a school, and refugees camped in the theater boxes. Working with rebetiko music from the 1940s and 1950s, Alexandra Bachzetsis presents Private Song. The piece uses framing as a perceptual strategy to question the spectator’s decodification of gender and affect on stage. Different acts of reframing produce a phantasmic staging that ultimately transforms the position of the viewer.
“Polytechnion,” Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA) and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA)—Patission Street Complex
The National Technical University of Athens, or Athens Polytechnic, is among the oldest institutions of higher education in Greece. It is also a symbolic, historical locus of contemporary Greek resistance. From November 14 to 16, 1973, the students of the Polytechnic barricaded themselves inside the school and began broadcasting a pirate radio transmission, calling on the people of Athens to resist the Greek military dictatorship. On the evening of November 17, an AMX-30 class military tank broke down the main gate upon orders from the junta. More than twenty people were killed in the ensuing struggle, and the uprising was quelled, although it ushered in the fall of the dictatorship in the following year. Three of those students, leading members of the 1973 uprising and occupation of Polytechnic (Dionysis Mayrogenis, Giorgos Oikonomou, and Titika Sarats), revisited the site and shared their experiences during an initial working session with the artists, curators, and team of documenta 14.
A main work on view at the Polytechnic is a model proposed by artist Rainer Oldendorf, which is inspired by the Functional City exhibition mounted in Athens in 1933. The exhibition was the culmination of the fourth Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM 4) held on board a ship traveling from Marseilles to Athens. Congress participants included the avant-garde of the international modern movement—such as Alvar Aalto, Cornelis van Eesteren, Sigfried Giedion, Le Corbusier, Ferdinand Léger, Charlotte Perriand, and Josép Lluis Sert. Ten years after CIAM 4, Le Corbusier brought the ideas of the Congress together in his “Charter of Athens”, laying the groundwork for the reconstruction of European cities after the war in the spirit of functionalism. Inspired by these events, Oldendorf’s model borrows from the format of the CIAM exhibition and has been developed in collaboration with students and professors of the Athens School of Fine Arts, the National Technical University of Athens, the University of Thessaly, the Institut Supérieur des Beaux-Arts de Besançon/Franche-Comté (ISBA), and the University of Kassel.
On March 20, 2017 artist Sokol Beqiri planted a tree in next to the Prevelakis Hall at the historical campus of the National Technical University of Athens as part of his work “Adonis” (2017), based on the idea acquired from the artist Lulzim Zeqiri: a local oak species with grafted branches of a German oak.
“A spring morning in the early 1950s, an excited group of young graduates crossed Avenue, heading down to their favorite café on Polytechniou Street. The wars were over, the sun was out, Athens was in full bloom, and they had just gotten their civil engineering degrees from the Metsovio Polytechnic School. And now they were ready to start building Athens.” During documenta 14 Polytechniou 8 will be a venue for Andreas Angelidakis' installation.
Near the Athens War Museum one finds a green oasis of exclusively Mediterranean flora situated between two busy avenues. The plants were bequeathed in 1844 by Georgios Rizaris, a member of the Society of Friends (Filiki Eteria), perhaps the most important secret association formed in the struggle for Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire. Rizaris’s wish was to create a garden in the city center for the recreation of its youth. David Harding has taken two lines from Samuel Beckett’s poem Cascando (1936) to evoke the spirit of the park: “if you do not love me I shall not be loved/if I do not love you I shall not love.”
Romantso meaning “novel” was the title of a popular Greek magazine that featured novel-length stories in each of its issues. Although first launched in 1934, when it reduced its price from six drachmas to three in 1956, the magazine began selling three hundred thousand copies a week, reaching Greeks all over the globe and reflecting the lifestyle trends of an emergent postwar middle class. Today the building that printed Romantso hosts a bar, club, gallery, and place for various other cultural activities in the historical center of Athens—and goes by the same name. It temporarily serves as home base for the peripatetic sound and music program of documenta 14, Listening Space, curated by Sound and Music Advisor Paolo Thorsen-Nagel. Listening Space programs are also featured in other locations, including the Megaron concert hall, the Athens Conservatoire (Odeion Athinon), and various outdoor sites.
Seaside Location, close to Thymari
Cecilia Vicuña completes the Athenian chapter of her documenta 14 project by way of a ritual offering to the sea gods of ancient Hellenic lore. The sacrifice consists of Vicuña presenting the gods with the remnants of red, homespun wool used in her installation of knotted threads, “quipu”, installation at the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST). Ashes to ashes, wool to water.
Stella Municipal Cinema
Located in Kypseli, a neighborhood to the north of central Athens, the open-air cinema Stella has the appearance of a blank frame set into a dense urban environment. Named after the strong-willed character played by Greek screen legend Melina Mercouri in the film Stella (1955), this municipal cinema was one of more than 600 open-air cinemas that operated in Athens during the 1960s; relatively few now remain.
Screening here is Douglas Gordon’s I had nowhere to go (2016), which draws from the diaries of Jonas Mekas. Gordon’s film uses only a few images. Instead, Mekas’s voice, recounting his daily life as a young immigrant, fills the air.
Stoa tou Vivliou
Known as the Stoa Arsakeiou when it was built in 1900, this central yet somewhat hidden arcade assumed its current name, which means “arcade of books,” in 1996, when the Society for the Promotion of Education and Learning began hosting book presentations and cultural events in the terrace café and auditorium, which were often co-organized by the publishing houses concentrated in the area. One unused storefront within the arcade hosts paper rubbings of marble steles engraved with the incorporation documents of Yugoexport, a “blind, nonaligned oral corporation” created by the artist Irena Haiduk in the United States, where corporations are invested with the same rights as people, and headquartered in Belgrade. The documents appear in Serbian and English. A live reading of the texts in Greek takes place periodically over the course of the documenta 14 exhibition.
Due to its prominent location in front of the Greek Parliament, the central square of Athens has long served as the starting and ending point for many assemblies and demonstrations. Its original name was “Palace Square,” but after the Revolution of September 3, 1843, when a military uprising supported by the people forced King Otto to establish a constitution (syntagma), it was renamed. Since then Syntagma Square has been occupied numerous times by various social and political movements that have demonstrated for human rights and protested living conditions. Interested in uncovering the historical and political realities, economic ties, and social relations embedded in specific sites, Ibrahim Mahama engages in an intervention on Syntagma Square that involves repurposed jute sacks, once used for transporting commodities, to reveal the layers of political action performed on this square over time.
Temple of Olympian Zeus
One of the largest temples of the ancient world, the Temple of Olympian Zeus was first planned in 515 BCE by the tyrant Peisistratus. Construction, however, stalled for more than 600 years and only resumed in the second century AD under the command of Roman Emperor Hadrian. During the Byzantine era, the marble of the temple was used for building the city’s nearby houses and churches. Of the temple’s 104 massive Corinthian-style columns, only fifteen are still standing today. The duo Prinz Gholam performs at this archaeological site, moving their bodies in geometric constellations as a human inscription annotating the architecture and its present state.
Tositsa 5, Exarcheia
The artist-run space Center for the Fine Arts, founded by an independent artist group (Kleopatra Digka, Thymios Panourias, Yannis Psychopedis, Yannis Valavanidis), was active from 1974–76 at Tositsa 5. Since the 1980s the storefront has served a retail space, first as a store for audiovisual equipment and later for parquet floors. For the past three years the space has remained closed. Now Georgia Sagri presents a continuum of performances and sculptural forms that extend from this site out into the city. Her interventions in Athens are also being performed simultaneously in Kassel.
The Trianon Cinema opened with the premiere of the Greek film Never on Sunday in August 1960. Once a favorite meeting point, its conversion from a local café and pastry shop into a cinema in the 1960s reflected the shift toward popular entertainment at the time. Today, the cinema continues to screen films but has expanded its program to present performances, concerts, and interdisciplinary events, catering to the city’s growing multicultural audiences. On April 27, 2017, the Trianon hosts the premiere screening of Marina Gioti’s film Invisible Hands, accompanied by an exclusive performance by musician and ethnomusicologist Alan Bishop and his band The Invisible Hands from Cairo. Unfolding between the two critical elections that marked the period following the Arab Spring in Egypt, a time of alternating hope and disillusionment, Gioti’s film is a tragicomedy of politics and art-making in a troubled periphery.
Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation
Internationally renowned as a stage and costume designer, Yannis Tsarouchis (1910–89) also painted prolifically in a style both modernist and sensual. Openly gay, Tsarouchis collaborated on theatrical productions with Maria Callas, Katina Paxinou, Christina Tsingou, and many others. In 1977, he staged Euripides’s The Trojan Women in a parking lot in the center of Athens, translating the play into Modern Greek, overseeing the production and designing all the sets for a project that epitomized his investment in the city of Athens and its real-life dramaturgy. In 1981, Tsarouchis made his house and studio in Marousi, a northern suburb of Athens, the home of the foundation that bears his name. documenta 14 has initiated basic repairs to the house, in anticipation of a much-needed full renovation in the future.