PROXY ATHENS GALLERY
FEBRUARY 20 - MARCH 20, 2017
Opening Reception: Wed. March 1, 2-4 pm
Through a reworking of flags, maps, national anthems, and foreign languages, Renee Petropoulos has long mined the questions of nationhood and national identity. Her sculptures, painting, performances and installations show how symbols communicate; but she finds miscommunication equally interesting and revealing : what we say and what we hear are usually not in sync, and in that disjunction perhaps we can locate the workings of ideology and the formation of subjectivity.
In her video installation in Proxy Athens, Petropoulos approaches a new territory: through a large circular opening we see a digital vertically-split screen that is also divided by a crude chain supporting it in the air. The looping video is of uniformly booted feet dancing in sync and silence. The first jarring disjunction here is dance without music. Depending on our position, we might know that this is a Pontiac dance. It is a traditional masculine dance (no hip movement) originating in the Pontus region in the Black Sea, with its own roots in war dances.
The relation to military warlike precision is inevitable: many men acting in unison as one. Herein lies the “risk” of showing work about heritage in the context of its origination. The idea is precisely to disturb the relationship one has with one’s own cultural history and its “place” or “non-place” in the present time. It displaces classical antiquity (the “official” narrative) for another kind of identity and recognition of nationhood.
Silence removes the video from the familiar, and this defamiliarization creates a distance between what this is and what it represents, coded as cultural heritage in terms of national and nationalistic pride.