ESR 2 Blog October 2021: Piu-Wai Chan

Thumbnail picture Courtesy of Vera Chotzoglou and State of Concept

Apparently, it was an unusually hot September even for Greece. However, the heatwave did not quite stop the crowd waiting outside State of Concept (SoC,) anticipating the ‘double’ openings for two solo shows—Vera Chotzoglou’s Bona-Fide and Metahaven’s Passphrases. Of course, there was a sense of longing and excitement driven by the easing of lockdown in Athens. Plus, it was also ‘the mega opening week,’ with many exhibitions opening alongside the launch of Athens Biennial 7. Many people said that they had a ‘post-opening burnt-out’ afterwards (Local friends of mine literally wrote down a precise, tight schedule to attend all opening events. Bless them.) Being a semi-tourist, I shared a fair amount of art fatigue. However, at the same time, I was eagerly seeking a sense of genuine locality, which is easily muzzled or manufactured by international mega-exhibitions. And, surprise, surprise… among all places, I found the aptly named Bona-Fide in the basement of SoC on a hot, sweaty weekend. Bona-Fide, literally means authentic, and is a new series of exhibitions presented by SoC, with works from young artists and curators.[1] The first edition featured artist Vera Chotzoglou and curator Christina Petkopoulou, showing  three  video pieces, Rausch (2018),

S W E A T (2020) and Monstera (2021.) [2] Oh, and did I mention feeling sweaty earlier? These three works centralised on the themes of queer communities, underground rave, drag shows and alien bodies, with sweat that was infused with pharmakon and glitter—raw, unapologetic and emancipatory.

‘Bodies captured by the lens momentarily, appearing from the darkness -as in one random unique Polaroid with flash-, instantly disappearing, relieved in the dark. Inevitably, adrenaline reaches the audience by proxy, through our agony to manage to capture with our eyes the overwhelming, rapidly moving images: dancing bodies, faces, colours, lights shining upon them…A population of wanderers that finds shelter just for the night, in a few acres in the centre of a city that flashes quietly, having put to bed all the threatening and dangerous elements of the day.’

–Curator Christina Petkopoulou on S W E A T (2020)

I certainly felt like heading down to an underground club as I submerged into the red-lighted basement, with dense electronic dance music rippling through (Cool Fact: Chotzoglou was also involved with the sound design, along with handling the camera work and editing) It felt symbolic as one descended from Metahaven’s show on the ground floor, which featured two highly cryptic, theory-driven video works, Chaos Theory (2021) and Hometown (2018)– with carefully arranged tapestry and benches around the screens, audiences sat neatly one by one, without making the slightest sound. In contrast, it requires one to cross the ‘theory’ off ‘chaos theory’ to enter the anti-rational, psychedelic, Dionysian underworld of Chotzoglou. Audiences were trembling their way down, along the tiny crowded staircase, and gasping for air at the warm basement, while their rationality was slowly stripped away by the fragmented, cinematic imagery in Rausch (2018.) There was this sense of melancholia as the film drifted in-between ecstatic dance scenes, followed suddenly by quiet, long-shoot of cranes in the sky, a pearl necklace on a chest, street boxing, and lions jumping on prey. This sadness lingered, as the video was ended with a dedication to the LGBTQ+ activist and drag performer Zak/Zackie Oh, who was murdered in Athens in 2018.

This paved way for audiences to embrace the principle of Tsiknotekno, a rave party movement that was the centre of S W E A T (2020)—‘Peace, Love, Unity, Respect.’ It sparked hope and courage for a queer future, while DJ FRO and performer Reject 001, the stars in S W E A T (2020), celebrated alien-hood as the authentic self. ‘Let a hundred sexes bloom!’ as proclaimed by The Xenofeminism Manifesto.[3] 

The last film Monstera (2021) was produced during the lockdown in Athens, featuring performers in previous videos in a dream-like, domestic setting (a particular scene looked as if it could have been shot in a Victorian dollhouse.) They were semi-naked and semi-dressed in their party outfits and looked straight into our crowded basement with burning desire—something is about to happen. It was at this very moment that I noticed an audience member turn around, lift up the black curtain behind our seat and curiously peek into the hidden part of the basement—and just like that, I became certain that many of us would be anticipating what Chotzoglou and State of Concept have in store for us next.

Bone Fide #1 by Vera Chotzoglou is showing at State of Concept until 20th November 2021.



[3] Cuboniks, L. (2018) The Xenofeminist Manifesto: A Politics for Alienation. Verso Books.


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