Greek artist Andreas Angelidakis has scattered soft, digitally printed temple ruins in Espace Niemeyer in Paris for his exhibition Center for the Critical Appreciation of Antiquity.
Angelidakis’ goal for the exhibit, his first solo show in Paris, was to explore different types of archeology and how stories can be erased if they don’t fit the archaeological canon.
“I was mostly interested in all these ‘other’ stories,” he said. Personal stories, rumours, superstitions – which come from antiquity, to see what history they build and how they allow us to look at the past, but also the future in a different way.”
The Center for Critical Appreciation of Antiquity is on display at Espace Niemeyer, a building designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1965 as the headquarters of the French Communist Party.
Angelidakis chose his concrete domed auditorium as his exhibition space, adding playful shapes and colors to Niemeyer’s curved modernist design.
“I thought it was a really sensational and transcendent space,” he said of Espace Niemeyer. “It’s like the Jetsons, it’s a future that never really happened.”
The exhibit is inspired by Angelidakis’ research into the history of the Greek Temple of Zeus in Athens and features Ionic “marble” columns made from fabric printed on foam blocks.
A centerpiece features scaffolding suspended from a digitally printed column, a nod to the tradition of placing columns in cities as places of protection.
“One of the superstitions that fascinated me was that columns were considered apotropaic elements,” Angelidakis said.
“So that they drive evil away from a city,” he added. “The way people organized dwellings was that they put a column in the center and made a circle around their animals, and whatever was in the circle was protected.”
“This being a round space, it made sense to put a column in the middle to protect us all.”
The exhibit, which was commissioned by luxury watch brand Audemar Piguet for its contemporary art series, also delves into Angelidakis’ personal story as a queer man coming of age in Athens. .
The antique-style columns were often used to decorate summer nightclubs in the Mediterranean and became a mainstay of the city’s gay clubs in the 1980s, the artist said.
For the show, he juxtaposed them with kitschy Greek statues in various stages of transformation into columns themselves, as well as a music video-style film of dancers and bright disco lights that transform the sleek modern interior. Large soft books tell contemporary LGBTQ+ stories.
“With respect, Niemeyer’s is a space that could take a little pedanting,” Angelidakis said. “Niemeyer was perfection, complete perfection – no room for much interpretation.”
“Of course, that was the time,” he added. “It’s also a fabulous space; I was excited because it fits perfectly with my obsession with sci-fi, antiquity and the Barbie doll.”
The show was designed to be immersive, and Angelidakis hopes visitors will interact with it – move its light foam pieces, scale the soft ruins, and sit on the sofas and rocking chairs that fill the space.
The artist also added construction details in a nod to architectural dig sites: a shipping container-style room, scaffolding, and yellow cables strung between lights.
To create the spatial design for the Center for the Critical Appreciation of Antiquity exhibition, he drew on his knowledge of digital design.
“I stopped designing physical buildings in the early 2000s and started working online to create virtual experiences for architectural spaces,” Angelidakis, who trained as an architect, told Dezeen .
Its soft “marble” blocks draw inspiration from both the contrasts and similarities between digital and analog spaces.
“The idea of soft ruin is that it’s literally soft, but also software ruins,” the artist said. “These refer to when I was doing inline spaces, where texture mapping is the most typical thing to make something look right.”
“You take a simple volume and apply a photograph, that’s how Minecraft and all video games are made,” he added.
“I wanted the [blocks] be lightweight, so it’s almost like moving them around in Minecraft space. The space is meant to look like a computer rendering.”
Angelidakis’ previous work includes his Cruising Labyrinth, which was on display as part of the Cruising Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.
In another recent architecture exhibit, students explored projects designed for extreme environments.
The photography is by Julien Gremaud.
Center for Critical Appreciation is at Espace Niemeyer from October 11 to 30. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events happening around the world.