Greek Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
“Why Look at Animals? AGRIMIKÁ”
Artist: Maria Papadimitriou
Curator: Gabi Scardi
Deputy Curator: Alexios Papazacharias
Commissioner: Hellenic Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs
Venue: Pavilion at Giardini
In 2011, a small 19th-century villa in Athens, long owned by the family of artist Maria Papadimitriou, was vacated by its tenants, their mechanics business a casualty of the debt crisis ravaging Greece’s economy. Rather than let the empty structure stagnate and decay, Papadimitriou instead employed found and repurposed materials to transform the space into a vital social nexus, where she hosted dinners, performances, exhibitions, and dialogues. This unlikely cantina represented a new, beating heart in an anemic Athens hollowed by recession and austerity.
Papadimitriou, an associate professor of art and environment in the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly, has a long history of staging social interventions through temporary or ad hoc spaces. The Greek pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale is just such a space.
Papadimitriou’s installation, “Why Look at Animals? AGRIMIKÁ,” takes the form of a rustic shop, selling hides, furs, and leathers, transplanted bodily from the Greek port city of Volos. Like the animal skins that adorn the neoclassical walls, the shop itself is a preserved relic, evidencing an unspecified past both wilder and more comfortable than the contemporary Greece of technocratic austerity, direct action, and right-wing protests. Juxtaposing fur (a luxury commodity) with uncanny taxidermy and hanging carcasses, Papadimitriou presents a vanitas for the aliens of late capitalism.