Athanasios Argianas at ARCH / Athens

Athanasios Argianas / Hollowed Water 


5 Gkoura Street Athens 10558 Greece

Photo: Paris Tavitian 

  ARCH is proud to announce Hollowed Water, the second instalment of a major solo institutional exhibition by Athanasios Argianas (b. 1976, Athens), on view this June 3rd – August 31st, 2021. The exhibition was first presented last year at Camden Art Centre in London and consists of recent works in music, sculpture and video by Argianas. 

Like much of Argianas's work, Hollowed Water is an exhibition structured in layers. 

On the ground, hybrid bodies of ceramic modules cast from human hips and legs, plants from the artist's home, and six abstract elements alluding to joints and limbs (and reminiscent of crustaceans, exoskeletons or bauhaus costumes) are assembled into what resembles human hips in resting positions of sleep and recovery, or a hip-stretch exercise. Titled Tilebodies (sleepers), these assemblages occupy the gallery floor, with additional modules stacked around the periphery suggesting replacement, change, flux. Two Bronze Heads, both casts of binaural microphones designed in the 1970s to approximate the specificity of listening through a human head, are placed on the floor with an ear to the ground, their forms simultaneously alluding to constructivist and brancusi-esque tropes, as well as cycladic or art deco figurines.  

In mid-air, a partly curved iron parallelogram occupies a whole other layer of the space – of air. Song Machine 20’s graphic frame floats diagonally, at head height, between ARCH’s adjacent gallery rooms, with pattern of thin brass ribbon-like strips draped upon it, elegant and weightful. They feature twenty meters of etched text, inviting a choreographed experience for the viewer who attempts to read descriptions of an object that seems vague and impossible, distant and familiar – intimating dimensions somehow larger than the room itself.   

The third layer of Hollowed Water materialises only sometimes. It is sound, and specifically music – Pivoting Music (for strings and cat purr waveform in A), 2020 – a piece composed by Argianas for strings and a drone in A, made from a waveform of his cat Diamantis's purr and written entirely in glissando, each note slurring into another, gliding in a downward pivoting motion. It is only there when activated by the viewer through a turntable located in the west corner of the gallery, heard through Principal and Metalique, two sculptures operating as speakers, both aberrations of the historical design accompanying the ondes martenot, a proto-synthesizer invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot.

The fourth layer of the exhibition resides in a different physical space and contains several in itself. ARCH’s library has been transformed into an immersive film installation projecting the homonymous work Hollowed Water (a gesture, 24 times), a three minute film comprised of the artist’s musical composition for harpsichord, voice and drum and a script enacted between the scale of the surface of a tiny bismuth crystal, the hand of the singer and an old Athenian river – repeated every eight bars, twenty-four times anew. The piece is a vortex-like repetition of a complex series of gestures through scales, and the scale of the projected image – a two and a half meter square which optically and sonically envelopes the viewer into place. 

On the occasion of the exhibition, Species Counterpoint, the first comprehensive monograph on the polymorphous work of Argianas is produced by ARCH and published by Lenz Press, Milan. Alongside a generous range of illustrations, essays by three leading critics each highlight a different perspective on the artist’s work. Quinn Latimer taps into the use of language in all its varied forms within Argianas’s art, and the sonic formalities of his work; Jennifer Kabat anchors her essay in swimming, direct experience, memory and affect; and Dan Fox, from whose essay the book’s title is drawn, uses the format of fiction, animating the artworks through a back-and-forth historical and spatial time-travel, in a manner sympathetic to Argianas’s purposeful use of period style. The book concludes with an edited conversation between the artist and the critic Martin Herbert, providing insights into the methodology and intuition informing Argianas’s diverse practice, as well as its political and ethical underpinnings.