photo: Mary Zygouri, Monika Kováčová
Greek artist Mary Zygouri deals with topics related to individual identity and social crisis of today’s world. She focuses on perceiving her position within the system, its censorship and constant surveillance. The core of her work is located in the public realm aimed at various forms of resistance towards the dominant power. She bases her work on examining historic facts and searching the archives, biographies and literary stories that she alternates and interprets, thus transporting them to and integrating them with contemporary contexts. Her work balances between performance and video. She composes actions executed in public premises. They invoke unpredictable responses in the public, soliciting audience’s critical participation. The setting of her performances has various forms and functions – ranging from natural environment, through a train station, a circus, a monastery, a square, all the way to a poultry farm. The artist transforms the physical movement in space into a political act, as well as into a self-definition by means of art. She attempts to critically redefine social conventions. Mary Zygouri uses her own body as a means for expressing a political standpoint, a field in which principles and normative standards of human behaviour are altered and inverted.
In the HIT Gallery, the author is exhibiting her Zoopetics trilogy, which consists of video works entitled Symbiosis (2007), Long Live the King (2010) and Decadenza (2008), together with her most recent video Endurance in Exile (2013).
Symbiosis (2007) takes place at a poultry farm in Turin. At first sight, the basic concept of this work appears to be contradictory: a reserved secretary is absorbed in her work at a typing machine, while being surrounded by thousands of nagging chickens. Through this work, the author is pointing to the political reality in Argentina. After being elected as the country’s leader in 1946, Juan Peron removed Jorge Louis Borges from his position of a librarian and made him a poultry inspector at a public market place in Buenos Aires, in order to repress Borges’s reactions to his anti-democratic practices of ruling the country. Here, the poultry farm is used as an allegory to repressive methods, but also a symbol of an unyielding critical thinking.
In the next video entitled Long Live the King (2010), the author is facing an elephant. The foundation for this work is the story of Loisel in the book Historie des menageries de l’Antiquite a nos jours (1912) – its key theme is the whim of Sun King (Le Roi Soleil) Louis XIV of France of importing exotic, unheard-of animals to Versailles. It is said the king wanted to see a live elephant, rejecting paintings of elephants by famous artists of that time. However, in the video, the roles have been exchanged – authority and power are represented by the elephant, which the author obediently accompanies. Being absolutely cocksure and unreservedly trusting the elephant, in the video the author thoroughly overturns the concept of man’s supremacy over animals.
Decadenza (2008) is a reference to a general’s military salute to an army from Thomas Mann’s book Royal Highness. Here, Mary Zygouri works with defining herself against the power systems. The old general’s salute to the heir to the throne was interpreted through a salute by a hieratical, as if mythological female character standing atop a fantastic vehicle (combining a rocket, an armoured vehicle and a parade float). The raised hand represents the intransigency of the archaic, decadent power; the empty salute is meant for no one, it does not command or rule anyone. This work is a contemplation of the will to retain political power, even though its effectiveness and real function have dissipated.
Endurance in Exile (2013) is a video, in which the author takes the point of view of chamoises inhabiting the almost abandoned Greek isle of Antikithira. The animals themselves do not actually appear in the work, but their ephemeral presence can be felt; the identity of the artist – who has lived on this inhospitable place for one month in a derelict house – has blended with that of the animals.
Mary Zygouri, lives and works in Greece and Italy, studied at the School of Fine Arts in Athens (1994-2000) and continued her postgraduate studies in Fine Arts (2001-2004) at the Chelsea College of Art and Design (Distinction), London (GB).
Selected exhibitions: 2014: The sound of the Property, Tuvixeddu, Sustainable Hapiness and TRW, Cagliari, Sardinia (IT); La Venere degli stracci – In Tranzit, in collaboration with Michelangelo Pistoletto, Aeschylian Festival, (GR); 2013: Laborintus, Gallery Dino Morra Arte Contemporanea, Naples (IT) 2012: Archive Rights 1, Opera aperta - Maria Karavela, ISET Contemporary Greek Art Institute, Athens (GR); 2011 Hotel Ariston, Symbiosis?, XV Biennale de la Mediterranee, Thessaloniki (GR); Relocate Project-Residency, 12th Istanbul Biennale (TR); The Stateless Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, (IT); 2010: Zoopoetics-Zoopolitics, Studio Stefania Miscetti, Rome (IT); Liquidations, IILA, Istituto Italo-latino Americano, Fondazione VOLUME, Rome (IT); 2009: 2nd Biennale of Athens and Thessaloniki; 2008: Fresco Bosco, curator Achille Bonito Oliva, Certosa, Padula (IT); 2007: She Devil 2, Studio Stefania Miscetti, Rome (IT); 2006 Protasis, Action Field Kodra, Thessaloniki (GR); 2005: Hacking Reality- Theatre Square, Locus Athens, Athens (GR); 2001: 10th Biennale of Young Artists, Sarajevo.
2013: Landeshauptstadt München Kulturreferat, Μunich (DE); 2012: A.I.R., Generazione Creativa, Compagnia di San Paolo, Turin (IT); 2011 The Stateless Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice (IT); Apartment Project, 12th Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul (TR); 2010: Fondazione Morra, Naples (IT); 2008: Macrame, Fondazione Fitzcarraldo, Tορίνο (IT), Borusan Foundation, Istanbul (TR).She is Founding Member of Group Filopapou (2000-2010)In 2012 Mary Zygouri was awarded by the ΑICA Hellas.