September 20th, 2012
Christina Androulidaki is remarkably successful for someone so infatuated with failure.
To start with her most recent achievement, Androulidaki’s latest exhibition at her own CAN gallery in Athens puts together an exciting array of contemporary artists who explore the value of failure in creative expression.
That answered prayers cause more tears than unanswered prayers, that success is a human construct, that there is a lot to gain from the un-achievement of one’s goals—these are all concepts beating at the heart of the exhibition, appropriately entitled “Unanswered Prayers”.
The exhibition conceptualizes failure as an integral part of the creative process. It’s safe to say this is a message that might be just what the Greek psyche needs in a moment of crisis. What could be more pertinent in Athens right now than an exploration of the merits of failure, over the typically sought-after benefits of success?
Created with inspiration from Truman Capote’s unfinished novel “Answered Prayers”, the show “Unanswered Prayers” was on exhibit at the CAN gallery from July, ending recently on September 15. Participating artists included Em Kei & Nicolaich, Dimitris Foutris, Nikos Kanarelis, Eva Marathaki, Stelios Karamanolis, Maria Lianou, Tula Plumi, Dimitris Tataris, Kostis Velonis and Versaweiss.
Androulidaki decided to open her own gallery in Athens at the exact moment when Greece’s economy was in for a rough patch. She believes crisis is a time to buckle down and work harder, and sees challenge where most see despair. She adores her homeland because she sees it as a nation that has the ability to rise from the ashes. And, as she says, despite adversity – the sun is always shining bright. Androulidaki is the embodiment of the values that drive her latest show.
GOTH interviewed the fearless curator of CAN gallery. She shares with GOTH her thoughts on her latest show, her passion for the art scene in Greece, and might even tell us her unanswered prayers.
Ariana Collas for the Goddess of the Hunt: Describe to us the point in your life where you said, “I am going to do this”.
Christina Androulidaki: The point I decided to start up my own gallery in Athens, was precisely such a moment when everybody was complaining about the economy in Greece and was mourning about the future. I am a firm believer in people who work hard and the crisis is such a time when we owe to work hard and invest into the future. The city is like a melting pot and a lot of very interesting art is being produced right here, right now. Working in Athens in the midst of the crisis, I don’t feel doomed, I feel ready to take the challenge.
GOTH: You have an exciting show running in Athens currently. Tell us about it.
CA: Currently, we host a group show entitled “Unanswered Prayers”. The title is inspired by the last, unfinished novel of Truman Capote entitled “Answered Prayers” while the exhibition speaks of all the things we prayed for but never came and the idea of failure, not as an obstacle but as a creative process.
GOTH: If you had to define one reason this show came into being, what would that be?
CA: That is to express one of the most basic human needs. To rise after you fall, the need to continue.
GOTH: You describe your show with the following quote….“Answered prayers cause more tears than those that remain unanswered.” Please elaborate as to why this quote and its meaning to you.
CA: Succeeding is only an event that is terminated when one reaches his targets and may as well cause unexpected tears. “Careful what you wish for” is a witty but true expression here. Failure is far more than a mere event. It is a long and much more interesting journey that starts exactly at the point where success ends.
GOTH: This exhibition deals with the idea of failure as a creative process. How so?
CA: Success as a concept is a human fabrication. Nonetheless, everything is structured around it, people are expected to achieve certain goals, earn social and professional recognition, etc. “Unanswered Prayers” stands at the opposite end of this notion of producing overachievers and explores how one can actually gain from not achieving given goals, from not fulfilling their desires and how can one possibly grow and learn through failure or through the internal conflicts that are caused by unattainable desires.
GOTH: Why is failure attractive or more interesting to artists?
CA: Artists have a different perception and response to many things, as well as failure. I believe it is valuable to them, because it is the only time when true desires really shine. Avoiding to express or discuss our failures is like depriving both ourselves and others of the lessons we have learned.
GOTH: Is life itself a success story or a failure waiting to be explored?
CA: Life is a story of both failures and success. It has both and it is both. From there on, it is all a matter of perspective and attitude.
GOTH: Who is your favorite artist?
CA: My favorite artist right now is Yorgos Stamkopoulos. We are currently working on his next show that will open at CAN gallery on the 20th of September and I very much look forward to it!
GOTH: What is it about Greece that inspires you the most?
CA: History and sun. The sense of history I breathe in while living in the city makes me creative and the sun just puts a smile on my face.
GOTH: What do you love about being Greek?
CA: I love our ability as a nation to rise from our ashes. I also love the fact that beyond all adversities the sun shines bright.
GOTH: How would you define today’s Greek art and design scene in 3 words?
CA: Witty, true and unpretentious. The lack of a so-called organized “art-system” has worked on our benefit regarding this matter. Art in Greece is not as much about trends or about conforming towards a certain direction. Artists here experience this kind of unorthodox freedom.
GOTH: What’s missing from the Greek art scene? What’s unique about it?
CA: The collectors’ desire to be part of their time is still missing. There are many people investing a lot of money in art but they go for the more established names of the late 19th and early 20th century. There is a huge investment potential in art and particularly, one that involves relatively low risk. By investing on young upcoming artists one can only gain. The only problem here is that people are impatient and always look for a fast and easy profit. There is nothing better than being “of our time” and collecting contemporary. That is the only way we can really invest into our future.
GOTH: What is the most amazing thing about it that the world doesn’t seem to know or appreciate yet?
CA: There is a lot of very interesting and original art being produced in Greece right now. Additionally, we are a very small country with more than a couple mega-collectors like Dakis Ioannou and Dimitri Daskalopoulos. This is a privilege we have and not many seem to realize. Daskalopoulos’ exhibition “Keeping it real” at the Whitechapel in London and the “Luminous Interval” at the Guggenheim in Bilbao was a chance to show the world a few of some future masterpieces that are currently privately owned and held in Greece. Ioannou’s DESTE Foundation also holds regular exhibitions in their spaces in Athens and Hydra island. It needs much more than a wallet full of cash to build mega-collections like these and both of these collectors seem to have it.
GOTH: Thessaloniki and Athens are the two cultural capitals of Greece. Some argue that Thessaloniki is doing it better than Athens. What is your take on this?
CA: Institutions and organizations from Thessaloniki have proved the last few years to be much more capable than Athens in absorbing funds coming from the European Union. The sad thing here is that without these funds they probably would not manage to survive. There is a vibrant art scene in both cities with most contemporary art galleries operating in Athens and with a few museums and institutions like the State Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Photography operating in Thessaloniki.
GOTH: We hear you’ve made a conscious decision to stay in Athens, as opposed to many disgruntled professionals who decide to use their creativity elsewhere. Can you speak to this?
CA: There is a huge “brain-drain” happening in Greece as we speak. We hold one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and it is only natural that young professionals with degrees and skills who cannot find employment here are forced to move abroad. In my case, after spending almost a decade in the UK and Italy, I wanted to move back and bring home some of the things I have learned. In a time of crisis we need to both be aware of the dangers and recognize opportunities and take them when we see them.
GOTH: Tell us about your unanswered prayers.
CA: How much time do you have?