CHRISTOS PAPOULIAS// 25 February – 26 March 2014
curated by Maria-Thalia Carras & Olga Hatzidaki
Christos Papoulias’ project 1966, A Child’s Attic and other Antics, hosted by Rebecca Camhi Gallery, centers on a premise that is prevalent also in his architectural work, that of the value of returning to the site (of the crime) and delving deep into its shadows. And Papoulias takes pleasure in shadows.
In this case, the site is the Athenian ‘quartier’ of his childhood, Metaxourgeio. The shadows are his childhood memories of the place. A series of sketches and maquettes, and a fantastical remapping of Metaxourgeio, will attempt to decipher these vital experiences, depicting an ambiguous world caught somewhere between light and dark, romanticism and drudgery.
Metaxourgeio in the 50s and 60s constituted a vivid cross section of urban life: Athenian middle class society rubbed shoulders with prostitution, small-time mafia, modernization, infidelity and a transvestite or two. All of this thrilled the imagination of an inquisitive child whose shutters were closed shut as night fell, a safety of sorts – but ultimately who is safe from the darkness of their own mind?
Papoulias literally returns on site, to try and pin down the core of his memories. Through the tricky process of remembering, he transforms his experiences from memories to objects, raising questions regarding identity and our experiences of place whilst investigating our relationship to our primordial space of experience: a childhood home. His project looks into the construction of urban narratives and how the personal and the public writing of histories are necessarily interlinked. It reminds us of the importance of digging deeper, in a city which is all too happy to shed the layers of its past.
Of course, this process of anamnesis is fraught with difficulties. Listening to Papoulias talk about Metaxourgeio, anecdotes gush out with verve and ample humor. Metaxourgeio in his words is not quite gone but also not exactly there. So, this is what happens when memories are inscribed onto cityscapes. They change surreptitiously, in an underhand way – while you are focusing elsewhere. That building that you played in is gone, but the one where your father met his mistresses is still there.
So the questions remain: is it possible to return and retrace the processes of this mythical space in our mind, our first place of understanding, a childhood home with all its inherent ambiguities? What impact can one child’s imagination have on the way we construct the world around us? Can we distill such potent feelings and translate them into something new? Or are such attempts doomed to failure? Who knows? Maybe a child’s attic only knows…or an irreverent inclination to cause a little bit of mischief.
Christos Papoulias (1953) was born in Metaxourgeio, Athens. He is a highly acclaimed architect whose proposal for the Acropolis Museum drew much attention and whose work has been included in numerous international exhibitions like Documenta and the Venice Biennale, where he was invited by Harald Szeemann.