Vlassis Caniaris

Vlassis Caniaris, Hopscotch, 1974, Installation including six human figures, nine suitcases, metal bird cage, and chalk on tarpaper, Collection National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST), installation view, ANTIDORON. The EMST Collection, Fridericianum, Kassel, photo: Mathias Völzke

“My aim was to determine—making use of scientific data—the problems, the conditions, the reasons as well as the perspectives of this particular world, which, because of its large population, was like a separate European country. My connecting thread was to use a group of people: first of all in their home country and then over a long period in the new country where they had come to work, covering everything this problem entails: realities, dreams, conditions, and possibly perspectives.”
—Vlassis Caniaris, Memorandum, Athens, 1975

Coexistence and Hopscotch (both 1974) by Vlassis Caniaris, one of the most prominent figures of Greek post-war art, were created as part of the Immigrant series (1971–76), a body of works developed initially in Paris and later in Berlin with a DAAD scholarship (1973–75), and presented in a traveling exhibition titled Gastarbeiter—Fremdarbeiter (Guest WorkersForeign Workers) in numerous German institutions during 1975 and 1976. Having lived in Rome and Paris since the late 1950s, Caniaris returned to Greece in 1967, after the seizure of power by the Colonels, only to leave again two years later.

Hopscotch is an environment consisting of headless dummies standing around a hopscotch court where, instead of chalked numbers, words are inscribed alluding to stages and mechanisms of labor immigration policy. Caniaris focuses on diverse stories, voices, gestures, and ordinary objects relating to the working and living conditions of “guest workers”—the migrant workers who travelled to Western Europe following transnational agreements since the late 1950s—reflecting the unstable reality of territorial displacement, social exclusion, national identity, and contested citizenship.

The works from the series Hommage to the Walls of Athens 1941–19… reflect Vlassis Caniaris’s intention to “re-create the image as well as the feeling/impression of the walls of occupied Athens.” By adopting fragments from the public discourse around resistance, liberation struggle, and political agitation, Caniaris brings to the surface of the canvas inscriptions from Athenian walls through a successive gestural treatment of thick layers of matière in plaster, paper, and cloth. The letter E, that can be made out in the work, stands for EAM, the abbreviation of the National Liberation Front which was the principal resistance group against the Axis authorities, EPON (United Panhellenic Organization of Youth), and Ellas (Hellas).

Posted in Public Exhibition