March 7 – March 27, 2015
FO KIA NOU 24/7, Athens
The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is important for a number of reasons, among them being the unprecedented number of visitors that came from around the world, the enormous urban space that was cleared to accommodate a huge range of dazzling exhibits and, not least, the construction of the Eiffel Tower itself. In a space of six months, huge crowds from the farthest reaches of the globe flocked to marvel at technological innovations, displays of hitherto unseen exotica and to familiarize themselves with an increasingly complex and interconnected new world.
In 2015, in Athens, the creative duo Extra-Conjugale – Irini Karayannopoulou & Sébastien Marteau – are moving in the opposite direction, creating their own Exposition Universelle. It is a ride around their own micro-universe, a wondrous world full of questions, quests, promises, twists, and betrayals, where the magical sits alongside the monstrous.
Reminiscent of a cross between mad scientists and collectors run amok, the two artists attempt to create a taxonomy of sorts for all the ‘loot’ they’ve gathered over the years, to analyse and connect it with the outside world through the hybrid visual language they have developed.
The imaginary display cases of the exhibition host various fragments from the shared pool of collected material, a number of references to the artists’ creative past, all sorts of vanitas hinting at the fragility of human nature, mixed perceptions and reminiscences with a touch of nostalgia, along with a wink at the viewer: things are neither as significant nor as random as they might seem at first.
Behind each colourful construction and each spontaneous gesture there is a bittersweet sense of the ephemeral and its associated angst about what remains when it’s all over, while at the same time there is an element of reaction that keeps sticking its tongue out at the establishment by proposing continuous action.
The Extra-Conjugale Exposition Universelle is a boisterous descent into the agony of futility and vanity, where everything that is dark and cursed rightfully earns a place in the limelight, while fear of death, in full knowledge of its inevitability, is treated tongue-in-cheek.
After all, until it comes, you can exorcise the end by dancing with it.