A Big Heritage with A Glorious Past | Eleana Antonaki and Marina Xenofontos
February 13–March 29, 2020
Curated by ma ma (Magdalyn Asimakis and Heather Rigg)
A Big Heritage with A Glorious Past presents the work of Eleana Antonaki and Marina Xenofontos in an inconclusive dialogue around the migratory experience. In their practices, both artists explore transnational feminist perspectives, honing in on the adversities of migration and strategies of settling and creating homes while in exile.
Antonaki’s film Haunting Is An Act of Love (2019) takes place in the distant future where women’s bodies have evolved so drastically to adapt to migration that they have become water. The video functions as a portrait of a woman, a block of water, who tells her story. Her name is numeric: 1,329,784. She explains that the process of evolving was the result of having to cross the Mediterranean habitually over hundreds of years. She speaks through subtitles about her name, how she is programmed to survive, and the bureaucratic power structures that continue to restrict her experience. She continues by speaking of a subversion: that the women in her family have the ability to haunt the places they once inhabited. Drawing connections between archaeology and displacement, which are both considered in their politically motivated sense, Antonaki’s character explains that the women of her time like to return to the sites they were excavated from. This is both their matriarchal heritage and an act of “cheating historical time.”
In Xenofontos’ work, she examines everyday stories that are inflected with insight into the power structures of civic spaces. For her documentary-style film Sunlight Vandalism (2019), Xenofontos presents two narratives woven together to reveal a diverse portrait of Cyprus and the intricacies of Mediterranean migration. This includes a conversation with a Kurdish mother named Ayşe, who requested asylum in Cyprus in 2007. Speaking in Turkish with her friend—who responds in a Greek Cypriot dialect—Ayşe is depicted swiping through images of her new home in Ankara, Turkey, where she has since relocated. The second portion of the film follows Ayşe in her space of work, where she is a cleaner in a local school, and in her living room, where Xenofontos interviews her in front of her wall of images of Abdullah Öcalan—a once prominent yet controversial leftist political figure. This exhibition also includes found images from the artist’s archive depicting the “lemon-dance.” This peculiar annual event was created by Greek-Cypriot immigrants living in New York City, where couples dance while balancing a lemon between their foreheads until it drops. Through these vistas, Xenofontos reflects on the labour of domesticity and the precarity of settling during politically motivated migration.
Through their work, both Xenofontos and Antonaki explore how notions of home exist in relation to the migratory subject. They ask: How can the body stabilize in the face of exile? How can women’s labour question the precariousness of borders? And, what are new forms through which we can understand dispossession? In bringing their work together, this exhibition reflects on strategies of adaptation, resourcefulness, and survival that occur as a result of, but not in direct dialogue with, political governance.
Join us for a celebratory reception with the curators on Thursday, February 13th, from 6–9 pm. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome.
An artist talk with Eleana Antonaki will be presented on Wednesday, March 11th, at 7 pm, in conjunction with this exhibition. Details to be announced soon — follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more information.
ABOUT the ARTISTS
ELEANA ANTONAKI is a Brooklyn-based artist. She holds an MFA from Parsons, The New School and has been a fellow at Ashkal Alwan HWP Program in Beirut and the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. She works with a variety of media such as drawing, sculpture, textile, and video. The concerns of her work stem from the politics of representational practices in connection to national identity, historical trauma, and displacement. Her research revolves around matters of postcolonial and transnational feminism in relation to domestic cultural practices amongst women in the refugee communities in Greece.
Recent exhibitions include HWP Open Studios, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, LB, Gardening, ma ma, Toronto, CA, Agean, AAA3A Gallery, NY, Cultural Transplants, Shiva Gallery, NY, Lack of Location is My Location, Koenig and Clinton Gallery, NY, Whitney ISP Studio Exhibition, EIizabeth Foundation for the Arts, NY, I Can Because you Do, Participant Inc., NY, BP Portrait Awards, Ulster Museum, Belfast, UK, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, UK, National Portrait Gallery, London, UK, Performing Likeness, TCU, TX and 4th Thessaloniki Biennale, State Museum of Contemporary Art, Gr. She is the recipient of the BP Young Artist Award from the National Portrait Gallery of London and the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for Painters.
MARINA XENOFONTOS’ work employs the mediums of video and sculpture to consider the inevitability of failure and the marginalisation of personal narratives within civic spaces. By shaping interpretations and meanings, she explores interrelated facets of simulations, objects, and translations that allow a diagrammatic approach to the remembrance of dysfunctional symbols. Within this approach, traditional methods and processes embrace the ephemeral individual position towards representations of collective memory. In order to unravel the mechanisms of canonical representations, Xenofontos researches vernacular processes related to architectural forms and specific social contexts. Power structures of civic spaces are reimagined by way of exploring anecdotal stories and coincidental epitomes that represent sardonic reflections on mechanisms of production and understandings of history.
Xenofontos studied at Goldsmiths, University of London and Sculpture at Bard College, Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in NY and she just completed a residency at Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam. In 2016, she self-published the archive of self-proclaimed inventor and architectural draftsman Christophoros Kyriakides “We are not alone – We are a fly in the milk of infinity.” She is a member of the collective Neoterismoi Toumazou (Neo Toum) that curates a fashion label, artists books and exhibitions. The group has exhibited at Glasgow International in 2016 and was selected as guest of honour by Jan Verwoert in the exhibition The Future of Colour organised by the Cyprus Pavilion in Venice for the Biennale Arte 2017.
ABOUT the CURATORS
ma ma is a roving contemporary art space and collective founded in 2018 by Magdalyn Asimakis and Heather Rigg. Asimakis is a curator and writer. She has organized exhibitions and programs in Toronto and New York and her writing has been published in art magazines such as Brooklyn Rail, Art Papers, and Artforum as well as exhibition catalogues for the New Museum and SFMoMA. She is currently a PhD student at Queen’s University where she is studying the display of global modernisms in museums. Rigg is a writer and is Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography. Recent published essays can be found in issue 96 of esse and 142 of C Magazine.
LOCATION and ACCESSIBILITY INFORMATION
Critical Distance is located in Suite 302 at Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street between Dundas and Queen Street in Toronto’s Queen West neighbourhood. Google Map. Artscape Youngplace and Critical Distance are fully accessible by Ontario standards, with a wheelchair ramp at the 180 Shaw Street doors, an elevator servicing every floor, and a fully accessible washroom on every level. The nearby 63 Ossington bus on the TTC is wheelchair accessible. All work in the exhibition will be captioned and have audio description. All events will have ASL interpretation. If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Critical Distance acknowledges the generous support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council. This exhibition is also made possible with the support of Charles Street Video.
image: Marina Xenofontos, Sunlight Vandalism, 8:44 min, single channel video, 2019