At our wits’ end

During the art residency in Kunsthalle Athena in Athens, together with Tessel Brühl and Jaroslav Toussaint we initiated a collaboration with greek artist Maria Tzanakou. At that time, Maria was creating many “éphémère text sculptures”, through which she was commenting on the social situation in Athens. The technique of her sculptures was limited only to a gentle pencil hatching on the walls, stressing the ephemeral nature of the written messages.

In the year 2014, you could still feel the economic crisis aftermath everywhere in Athens. Some parts of the city were worse than the other, Kerameikos being one of the worst at that time, with its heroine consumption and prostitution. Kunsthalle Athena, beautiful old building “squatted” by local artists organising various cultural events and exhibitions, is located directly in the middle of this district.
After long discussions about the situation in Athens and the overall mood of the locals, we agreed everyone there is at their wits’ end. We translated this into another “ephemere text sculpture” and together transferred it on one of Kerameikos’ walls.

writing on the wall in Kerameikos, Athens

After returning to Amsterdam, we made the dutch version of the writing (“Aan ‘t eind van ons latijn.”) and placed it on the local City Hall.

the dutch version of the writing on the walls of Gemeente Amsterdam, Waterlooplein

In Athens this intervention in the public space triggered social interaction with women around. Tessel Brühl made this huge headless cardboard female body and placed it in front of a brothel’s doors. Suddenly, the whole happening got more complex meaning. We wanted the cardboard lady to be standing proud, but her construction didn’t allow that. In a second, a man was rushing from a shop next doors, bringing ladder. People passing by started taking pictures. Mostly women. Nobody intervened, nobody called the police. Beautiful sunny spring day, people standing there peacefully, expressing silent agreement with our act. The indifferent female torso was left sitting by the writing on the wall, helplessly and in silence, when we were leaving.

Few hours later everything has changed. With the sunset, there comes a van with heroine. Few minutes later another van, this time a hospital one with clean needles. Afterwards, everyone disappeared.
What was a shock in the beginning, turned into a strange numb feeling. Jumping in between used needles was suddenly performed with unusual lightness and dexterity. How easy it can be, to isolate yourself from the surroundings… Suppressed anger calling for an action, which you know from the beginning is pointless. Being aware of this, you go to get another double hipster espresso and wallow in pretentious artsy projects closed in between the walls of the kunsthalle. Later on, you publish an art project, but instead of any strong message it’s more or less just a sigh. Without any vision, saying nothing. What is there to be said anyway, when it seems that the society, we all are, at our wits’ end.