Exhibition: Nikos Navridis



11 minutos de lectura
Available resources

Nikos Navridis (Athens, 1958) is one of the leading exponents of the new generation of Greek artists. He represented his country in the international biennials of São Paulo (1996), Istanbul (1997), Santa Fe in New Mexico (1999) and Venice (2001), and he has participated in numerous international exhibitions held in Sweden, Korea, Mexico, Japan and Ireland. In his video installations and projections, Navridis makes use of elements that are lightweight such as latex, or ethereal like breath, in order to articulate the relationships of beings with the world. The main theme of his work is air, and his obsession centres on visualising the processes of human breathing as a basic ability of all living beings. What he does could be deemed as "breathe sculpture" given that his characters mould spaces, enact existential tensions and make the invisible visible through breathing. Conceptually, this objective corresponds with that of modern art which endeavours to reflect the impossible or the prohibited from a moral, psychological or physical viewpoint, while also presenting it as something which is possible. Set against the backdrop of ARCO'04, which has Greece as its guest country, ”la Caixa” Foundation's Madrid Exhibition Hall serves as the venue for an exhibition focused on Navridis' most representative artistic output over the last ten years, including the Difficult Breaths series which was especially created for the occasion. This exhibition, comprised of five video installations and forty-two photographs, has been curated by Rosa Martínez.The Nikos Navridis exhibition, organized and produced by ”la Caixa” Foundation, can be visited at the ”la Caixa” Foundation's Exhibition Hall in Madrid (C/ Serrano, 60), from January 30th to March 14th, 2004. This exhibition features the most significant works in the artistic oeuvre of Nikos Navridis over the last ten years. Emerging in all of them is a vision of his obsessions with space, the body and language. Navridis' interest in space developed while he was studying architecture. He was obsessed with the density of empty space, the differences between going through something and around something, the contrasts between what is light and what is heavy, the tension between what is present and what is absent. In this connection, between 1995 and 1996 he created a set of experimental works encompassed under the general heading of The Question of the Age of the Void. Dating back to this same period is the series entitled Drawings (1995), made up of twenty-two black-and-white photographs, which depict different exercises in which the artist squeezes an inflated balloon with his hands, shaping its mass into a bevy of different forms. Untitled(1996) is an installation dating back to the same period that articulates a photograph and two objects: a chair and a balloon. The black-and-white image depicts a face with a gaping mouth. The hands of the person portrayed pull hard on a balloon installed inside the buccal opening. For Navridis this image represents "the birth of a hole" and proposes a scatological descent into the depths of the individual. Appearing in front of the photo is a chair with a disinflated balloon on the seat. The empty balloon replaces the absent body and the immobile chair is a metaphor for time standing still. This work does already deal with themes and elements that will be developed in later projects: the human body, latex as a substitute for skin, balloons as containers, the expansion and contraction of the void, and underlying it all, time and references to birth and death. The static nature of photography and the fixity of black and white were transformed into colours and movements in the two videos of another installation created in 1996 for the Biennial of São Paulo, also under the name of Untitled and included as well within the set of studies on "the question of the age of the void". Two twin sisters inflated the same balloon using two mouthpieces located at opposite ends. The girls' faces appeared on the left and right of the image, while they pressed through the balloon towards the middle. They approached through the latex membrane, in profile, as if they wanted to kiss each other inside of a mirror of air. This action was, simultaneously, a way to communicate and to create a joint work. Interpretations about identity, otherness and narcissism get added to those about breath understood as an efflux for creating a work of art.In 1997, for the 5th International Istanbul Biennial, Navridis chose a highly unique way to condense his concerns into a new project. On Life, Beauty, Translations and Other Difficulties was a video installation comprised of four independent screens that were located in a spacious area of the Yerebatan Cistern. This underground construction, built in the Justinian epoch with scrap columns and capitals, was used to supply the city of Constantinople with water. Navridis hung the four screens on four different planes amongst the maze of the cistern's columns, thereby creating an ambience of sonorous echoes and luminous reflections that reverberated off the surface of the water. Appearing on each one of the screens was a person trying to blow up a balloon. In these images, taken from the inside of the balloon, the person's lips were disconcertingly similar to a navel, and suggested biological metaphors about birth. The four individuals were picked at random, which highlights the artist's intention to use them as generic beings. They are characters that move inside of an ethereal space, frozen in time. They do not tell a story; rather, they communicate affections, feelings and emotions that envelop the spectators and virtually enclose them within these uterus-balloons. Traps was presented in Stockholm in 1998. Facing each other on two parallel screens were the naked bodies of a man and a woman, whose faces are barely discernable. Each one hugged a balloon. A gender analysis would reveal clear differences of intensity and feeling in their relational expression. While the man encircled the yellow balloon in an embrace which is at once both protective and violent, yet extremely sensual, the woman translated the intensity of passion in its etymological sense (in Greek pathos means "suffering") and showed a non-conformism and a rage that ends up making her pop the balloon. Navridis has stated that in this work he wanted to express his own desire to "be the mother", and indeed the metaphors about pregnancy, transference and the difficulties of giving birth  whether in biological or creative terms  are once more present.Looking for a Place was created for the 3rd SITE Biennial of Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA), in 1999 and marks another qualitative leap. This video installation consisted of four correlative screens designed to be read as if they were a sentence. To enact this work, the artist used a theatrical stage and invited his actors to wander around on it. He set some starting conditions that would govern the reactions of these characters who are, once more, faceless beings, this time because their heads are inside latex balloons that make visible, in inflating and deflating, the enormous effort of breathing. The blindness of the seers in Antiquity was equated with visionary capacity. The blindness of the characters in Looking for a Place is an obstacle but also a chance to let their existential truths come to the surface. Of all of them, there is only one, at a certain instant, who removes his/her mask. It is a woman. The rest suffocate in their own breathing, fluttering between expectancy, isolation and incommunicability. On the last screen, two characters move about and suffer together, one constantly blowing air into the other's head, in a permanent act of devotion and intellectual and existential transfer. In 2003, the invitation to exhibit his work on Egina Island led him to create one of his most extraordinary pieces: With no Hands or When She Leans on Her Own Breath. In this video installation, a single screen displays two projections: standing out on the front side is a central black shape set against a whitish background, forming a beautiful abstract composition. This dark, organic form begins to move slowly and we can discern that it is a woman's body trying to perform some task. Little by little, the immense white balloon on which she rests gets filled up with her tenacious breathing. The plastic composition changes and the solid translucent sphere serves as a counterpoint to the black body that surrounds it. On the back side, the screen shows highly delicate rainbow-hued areas. They correspond to the inner atmosphere of the balloon filmed from a camera inside it. At certain moments, we are able to make out the shape of the mouth that inflates it or a strand of saliva. The overall narration is as slow as the exercise of blowing up this immense balloon. When the membrane is just about to pop, the woman abandons her excessive task and the air quickly escapes. The woman then lets herself collapse, giddy with relief. With no Hands… proposes a reflection on how the subject generates a problem, a worry, a monster with which he/she hybridises and depends upon. When it is swollen and about to burst, one decides to leave it and rests rejoicingly, having got rid of a load that one had burdened oneself with. This is a cathartic work, because the catharsis deals with pain and loss, and it is through crying or laughter that the therapeutic process culminates, following a set of dynamics in which joy is found as the device that helps us to carry on. The more recent work of Nikos Navridis, under the title of Difficult Breaths, has been created during 2004 and it has materialised as a series of snapshots that depict stunning breaths: a yoga master meditating, a street juggler breathing fire, a peasant blowing between the hide and flesh of an animal as if he were trying to inflate it, a lifeguard performing mouth-to-mouth on a drowning victim… These works are attempts to portray human actions in which breathing is extreme, as is the case in halterophilia, another one of his obsessions. Underlying these works is the desire to go farther, and to capture the proximity between life and death. Both for its conceptual concerns and formal rendering, Navridis' work obeys an ongoing search for a renewal of materials, techniques and languages, as it stabilises the interrelation between disciplines and puts the emphasis on the performative nature of his works. Nikos Navridis turns breathing into a primordial element and shows that, despite its fragility, it is capable of transmitting a bevy of intensities. Mise en scène as a representational strategy has been used since the advent of photography, but it was in the 80s when it has begun to play a special role in the visual arts. On another front, the placement of screens in space as syntactic and plastic elements has become a formalistic exercise representative of the 90s. Navridis, then, uses the languages of his era and although his work does not make reference to any specific cultural, social or political milieu, it does refer to the present time and to the place in which events reveal their meaning.The exhibition on Nikos Navridis has been curated by Rosa Martínez. Standing out among the projects recently organised by this independent curator are the Spanish Pavilion at the 50th Biennial of Venice and the "© EUROPE EXISTS" exhibition presented at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art of Thessalonica (Greece), both held in 2003. Rosa Martínez has previously collaborated with ”la Caixa” Foundation as the curator of the exhibitions presented at the Sala Montcada (during the 1991-92 and 1997 seasons), and as the head of the curator training course entitled "Passion and Tedium in Contemporary Art" (1997). She also served as co-curator for Manifesta 1 (Rotterdam, 1996); was artistic director for the 5th International Biennial of Istanbul (1997), the 3rd Santa Fe SITE Biennial (New Mexico, USA, 1999), and the EVA 2000 Biennial (Limerick, Ireland), as well as international advisor to the 2nd Echigo Tsumari Triennial (Japan, 2003). Nikos Navridis From January 30th to March 14th, 2004Official opening: Thursday, January 29th at 8 p.m. Place: ”La Caixa” Foundation Exhibition HallCalle Serrano, 60 (Madrid)Hours: from Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays and holidays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.Admission free of charge www.fundacio.lacaixa.es