ARCAthens Virtual Residency May 2021
Sofia Dona is an artist and architect. In 2018 she was awarded with the City of Munich Prize for Architecture and in 2015 with the Fulbright scholarship. Her work is exhibited in various spaces such as the Μunicipal Institute of Art and Culture in Tijuana (2019), the Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbKin Berlin (2017), the Foundation Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torinο (2016) and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens (2013). In July 2020 she presented the work Macho Sounds/Gender Noise at the Staatsgallerie Stuttgart museum in collaboration with Daphne Dragona. In 2019 she presented her solo exhibition Voyageurs at the Kunstpavillon in Innsbruck, and the site-specific work Applaus at the Munich Central Train Station, in the context of the public art program of the City of Munich. In 2021 she is invited at the Bauhaus Residency Dessau. Since 2018 she is co-curating the Aphrodite* queer-feminist film festival in Athens. As a member of the Errands group, she has participated in exhibitions with projects such as the Epicurean Garden (Matera Cultural Capital, 2019), Summer Ladders (1st Istanbul Design Biennial, 2012) and Transporting Utopia (2nd Athens Biennale, 2009).
“Through a series of works, my artistic practice focuses on site-specific installations, videos and sound works that refer to specific places and each time reveal social, economic, political conditions that have been affecting and transforming those places. Exploring natural and geographical landscapes in the ‘ALTERNATIVE BRENNEROʼ multichannel video installation, connecting and retrieving two important historical events in the ‘APPLAUSʼ sound installation, and reflecting on the San Diego-Tijuana border through the construction of a large-scale door in the project ʼLA PURTA DE LAS CALIFORNIASʼ, all these elements form part of my artistic practice, which connects the space with the actions, the installations and the video documentations. In my works I often use the practice of defamiliarization, where familiar objects and architectural elements are doubled, transferred or scaled, in such a way that they are presented as unknown and different, revealing stories, facts and events. Using
different media each time, my artwork is characterized by the indirect way of revealing and commenting on critically important historical, social, and political conditions, correlating them each time with the specific space in which they occur. Through the years, other practices became part of my work-such as my active involvement in the city in squats and collective initiatives, teaching in various architectural and art schools, curating site-specific projects with invited artists and architects and contributing in the contemporary discussion via writing. All those practices have been embracing the question of what is the responsibility of art and architecture in contemporary times.”
Groana Melendez is a lens-based artist whose work explores hybrid identities through self-representation. Raised between New York City and Santo Domingo she holds an MFA in Advanced
Photographic Studies from the International Center of Photography-Bard Program. Groana has participated in group exhibitions in Guadalupe, the Leslie Lohman Museum for Gay and Lesbian Art, and currently at El Museo del Barrio. She’s also had solo shows at the New York Public Library, CUNY, and ICP-Bard’s studio in Queens. She works and lives in the Bronx in New York City.
“As a first generation American, I am interested in exploring hybrid identities through self-representation. I’m curious about the complex relationships between a family fractured by emigration. Unable to trace my heritage beyond my grandparents, I use the family album and images of the space my relatives occupy in New York City and Santo Domingo to trace who we are. I look at my relationship between my family, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.
In some of my images, I look at the space my mother has created for herself in Washington Heights. Her childhood was colored by a dictatorship, and as a result, she now buys in bulk. The apartment I grew up in is always cluttered, and rooms are full of trash bags of necessities to ship to the Dominican Republic. Other times I appropriate my family album photographs as a way to explore where I came from. Now I am looking towards the future by using myself as a subject. I perform in front of the camera alone to question my identity separate from my Dominican culture.”
Stamatina Gregory is a curator and an art historian, whose work focuses primarily on the interrelationship of contemporary art and politics. She has taught art history, critical theory, and writing at The New School, the School of Visual Arts, the University of Pennsylvania, the Steinhardt school at New York University, and the Sotheby’s MA Program, where she teaches currently. She has organized exhibitions for institutions including The Cooper Union, FLAG Art Foundation, Austrian Cultural Forum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Gregory was the curator of New York photographer and activist Brian Weil’s retrospective at the ICA, Philadelphia, and she was the Deputy Curator of the inaugural pavilion of The Bahamas at the 55th Venice Biennale. She is currently the Chief Curator and Director of Programs at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art.
“As a curator that has worked both in and outside institutions for the past fifteen years, I have organized projects across radically different contexts: traveling exhibitions, biennials, educational spaces, virtual spaces, and other sites both visible and marginal. Wherever projects happen, my practice always centers artists, who do the vital work of reimagining ways of being in the world. Ideally, curating creates a space where we can learn from artists–in ways that are intuitive, participatory, haptic, and unexpected.”
AVR Synopsis – A Cross Cultural Dialogue Between the AVR Fellows
Instagram Visual Conversation
Week 1: Balance
video still from the work ‘Gamekeepers’ coming soon at the exhibition in the Haus Gropius at the Bauhaus Masters’ houses in Dessau. The video captures a night of hunting with the city hunter of Dessau. City hunters are hired to preserve nature and forests, keeping the balance of animals living there. A list of the animals to be shot is prepared in the beginning of the year. The video is shot from the observatory tower, and shows the view of the forest with the full moon rising. A sound of a rifle shot is heard from far away. The city hunter whispers ‘Ein Wildschwein tot’ (One wild boar dead)
Post by Groana Melendez
‘The dowry of the daughter/La dote della figlia’ (Pisa 2010) focuses on an old tradition in the Mediterranean that connects the cypress tree with the birth of a girl. The plantation of a cypress tree when a girl was born became her dowry when she became 18. This tradition reveals a connection between nature, aging and the economic systems of society.
Drawing for the upcoming exhibition ‘Gamekeepers’, showing the precedence of land designated as landscape protection areas in the German states, 2017
‘Winterschlaf /Hibernation’ installation
One of the wooden covers protecting the fountain of Gärtnerplatz in Munich, was transported and installed in suspension inside the exhibition space. The structure was highlighted by the absence of the fountain and a new space was created as visitors entered underneath the cover.
‘Obligatory symbiosis’, a term mentioned by Donna Haraway in her lecture ‘From cyborgs to companion species’. Bacteria that live inside the belly of the squids making them shine like stars, confusing the predators who see the surface of the ocean as the sky.
AVR4 Curatorial Reflection #1 – Balance
Week 2: Amnesia
Video still from new work: ‘MOUNTAINS COME FIRST’. (Video 34’) #PostedBysofiadona
On a sandy beach Juxhin Kapaj (Jorgo Prifti) digs with a shovel and forms with the sand the mountains he walked through during his migration from Albania to Greece in the ‘90s. The rythm of the shovel and the waves create a sound landscape that overlaps with Juxhin’s voice, as he narrates his story walking from Avlona in Albania, through the Keravnia Mountains to Corfu and Athens in Greece. Towards the end of the video the narrative becomes more fragmented as Kapaj tries to remember the landscape and his route through the mountains, mentioning cities, rivers, geological features.
Produced as part of “Unfortunately, it was paradise”. Curated by locus athens and AIN.
Image from the series El Nombre Mío, Ajeno. The title originates from the poem, El Apellido/My Last Name, by Nicolás Guillén, a Cuban poet who worked towards creating a synthesis between ancestries and different cultures. The line loosely translates as “my foreign name” which denotes the history of colonization, fractured identities, and selective amnesia relative to African heritage that resulted.
Photograph from the upcoming exhibition GAMEKEEPERS at the Haus Gropius, Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau. Family picture showing my two aunts, one of them dressed up like a hunter with my grandfather’s hunting clothes.
Constructing a “mailbox house” which is an exact copy of the actual house, located in 621 Brooks ave, commented on the big transformation that Venice Beach has been experiencing the past years. After the establishment of Google Headquarters nearby, the area is being slowly transformed into a “Silicon Beach”. Oakwood, one of the few historically PoC districts in West Los Angeles, is turning into a white wealthy neighbourhood after a number of evictions that have been taking place some years now.
The old bungalows from the 20′s are being replaced by new, modern, overly designed houses with high fences, completely changing the character and erasing the history of the place. The mailbox house -apart from it’s functional use- has been installed as an attempt to save the identity and the history of Oakwood in west Los Angeles. #PostedBysofiadona
The old bungalows from the 20′s are being replaced by new, modern, overly designed houses with high fences, completely changing the character and erasing the history of the place. The mailbox house -apart from it’s functional use- has been installed as an attempt to save the identity and the history of Oakwood in west Los Angeles.
Lago Enriquillo (2005). The largest lake in the Caribbean named after the first Taíno cacique who successfully revolted against Spanish colonialists. This area no longer exists as the lake doubled in size between 2004-2009 for reasons unknown to scientists.
Photographs from the upcoming exhibition GAMEKEEPERS at the House Gropius. Transparent prints on the windows of the house. 198,5cm x 128cm and 318cm x 207cm
The photographs were shot at the Oskar Schlemmer’s living room during my residency at the Bauhaus master houses.
Based on the famous pictures of the Bauhaus student Erich Consemüller, the photographs depict the dancer of the Anhaltisches Theater Dessau Leonor Campillo wearing a pet play mask and seated in Marcel Breuer’s famous Wassily chair, one of the preserved furniture in the house.
The woman wearing one of the Oskar Schlemmer’s theater masks in the original photos of 1926 is left unknown, and thought to be either Lis Beyer or Ise Gropius.
One of Aesop’s fables, ‘The deer and the vineyard’, my chilhood’s first book, where I smudged with a pen the hunters. The deer was shot after eating the leaves of the vineyard and being revealed to the hunters. City hunters are killing the deers in an attempt to save the forrests from browsing.
Spread from the zine “Golden Flower.” The zine is reflection on the history of the island of Hispañola as told through my childhood memory of coming home from history class after learning about Anacaona. I came home outraged not understanding why the adults around me acted unfazed by the story of her execution.
AVR4 Curatorial Reflection #2 – Amnesia
Week 3: Staged
Post by Sofia Dona
The video installation ‘Voyageurs’ (2019) captures the moment of the release of thousands of pigeons during a pigeon race. Pigeon racing is the sport of releasing specially trained racing pigeons, which then return to their homes over a carefully measured distance.
It is taking place in various countries around the world, either as a hobby or as a competition. A specific breed of pigeon called the ‘Voyageurʼ enhanced with ‘homing instinctʼ is able to fly for hours navigating in response to variability in the earthʼs magnetic field, and to find its way home from great distances. Racing pigeons are transported to other countries in special modified trucks. There, they are released all together from the trucks, and start their voyage back home. Shot in the border between Germany and Poland, ‘Voyageurs’ talks about crossing borders, seeking alternative routes, arrival and deportation and forcible journeys. #PostedBysofiadona
#sitespecificvideoinstallation #maximiliansforum #sofiadona
It is taking place in various countries around the world, either as a hobby or as a competition. A specific breed of pigeon called the ‘Voyageurʼ enhanced with ‘homing instinctʼ is able to fly for hours navigating in response to variability in the earthʼs magnetic field, and to find its way home from great distances. Racing pigeons are transported to other countries in special modified trucks. There, they are released all together from the trucks, and start their voyage back home. Shot in the border between Germany and Poland, ‘Voyageurs’ talks about crossing borders, seeking alternative routes, arrival and deportation and forcible journeys.
Video stills from the work ‘Greek Flag alteration’
A greek flag is altered in a clothes alteration store. The 9 white and blue stripes that represent the sky and the sea are cut off and sewed together again connecting all blue and all white together in order to create a landscape. After the alteration, the 9 stripes that correspond to 9 greek syllables e-le-vthe-ri-a-i-tha-na-tos forming the phrase ‘freedom or death’ are merged together and not discernible any more.
‘Twinning Towns: Leipzig Detroit’ (2010)
Two channel video installation
Two trombonists play in two abandoned swimming pools, one in Detroit and one in Leipzig.The two buildings have been built and abandoned the same period. The sounds of the trombones activate the spaces, the two musicians bring the buildings and the cities in a dialog. The idea of the project was based on the concept of “town twinning” (sister cities) where I paired towns or cities in geographically and politically distinct areas.
‘FRAMES’ (2010) Sofia Dona & Alexia Sarantopoulou
A series of paintings were collected from various houses of relatives and exhibited in a flat that was for rent.
The audience of the exhibition were the people interested renting the flat, who were given a tour of the exhibition by the real estate agent.
‘Frames’ was one of the project exhibited in the group exhibition under the title ‘FOR RENT’.
Each painting was accompinied by the interview of its owner, narrating the story of how they got them and what they meant to them.
Details of my parents apartment in Washington Heights between 2006 and 2010. Between these years my father converted from Cathlicism to Evangelicalism which led him to remove all images of of religious idols from the home he shares with my mother.
‘Der Balkon’ site-specific installation (Weimar 2009).
On the front facade of the Elephant Hotel in Weimar, a second balcony, identical to the one that already exists, was constructed and installed. The doubling of an architectural element of the building, aimed on the distortion of the strong symbolic character of the original balcony, which was part of the new design of the hotel after its reconstruction in 1938 by Adolf Hitler.
AVR4 Curatorial Reflection #3 – Staged
Week 4: Ritual
For the project LA PUERTA DE LAS CALIFORNIAS a large door of 6,8 meters height was constructed and transported on a truck across the Border from Tijuana to San Diego. The door is a mistranslated object: constructed on the basis of the Mexican metric system, the door results as a 6.8 meters element, instead of the standard 6 feet 8 inches as a regular door would be in the American imperial system. The gigantic door produced by this misinterpretation was brought across the Mexico/US border and went through official customs policies and processes. The process of the crossing was filmed and the documentation is formed in a three channel video installation.
Photo by Miguel Buenrostro
PRAY FOR TSIPRAS (ATHENS 2015)
During the Spiritual Gospel Festival organized by the Nigerian community in the neighborhood of Kypseli in Athens, the Nigerian performers asked the audience to pray for Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister. Some months later the tweet #prayfortsipras travelled around the world for supporting Greece during austerity times.
The Spiritual Gospel Festival was held at Kypseli square and in front of Kanaris’ sculpture, one of the Greek national heroes of the 1821 revolution.
The project comments on the issue of the submission to the authorities through religious performance.
“Pray for Tsipras” was created for the Flaneur Magazine.
captions translated from Greek:
May the prime minister be blessed
We love and pray for Greece
May Greece have grace
We pray against the destruction
Keep hope alive!!
May Greece be blessed
May the prime minister be blessed with wisdom
Greece will make it, we believe it
Greece will be saved
We pray for the prosperousness of Greece
We thank Greece for its love towards us
The Spiritual Gospel Festival was held at Kypseli square and in front of Kanaris’ sculpture, one of the Greek national heroes of the 1821 revolution.
This image is part of a collaborative project produced from my fellowship with the Magnum Foundation. The project combines ambient sound recordings with interviews and reenactments of the experiences of teens. The audio includes stories of the actions the girls perform to avoid unwanted attention.
PUBLIC HEARINGS (LOS ANGELES 2015)
Against a continuum of evictions that has been taking place in Los Angeles the last years, the community of Venice Beach gathers together in Public Hearings and fights for the tenants that are evicted by developers. A series of 5 photographs documents the process of a specific case where the community reveals the fraud of the developer against a Mexican woman from the neighborhood.
Video still from the work ‘FOUNTAIN'(Athens 2015)
In front of the Greek Parliament and next to the fountain on Syntagma Square, a preacher preaches without being heard. The intense sound from the water fountain drowns out his words. The preacher shouts louder in an attempt to be heard over the fountain. An ‘oral battle’ between religion, politics and an architectural symbol of prosperity is taking place in one of Athens’ most important public spaces, that has hosted countless demonstrations in the past and during the years of the crisis. Since preaching in public space is not allow by law, police arrives and stops every time the Sunday ritual.
SHARED LANDSCAPES (2011)
A series of videos of landscapes that capture various skies and seas are shot and combined together. The new video installation forms a new landscape.
AVR4 Curatorial Reflection #4 – Ritual