AT THE BORDER BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE AND CONTEMPORARY ART, ANDREAS ANGELIDAKIS CREATES DIGITALLY RENDERED VILLAS THAT BRING TOGETHER SHWITTERS' TASTE FOR COLLAGE WITH KARDASHIAN GROTESQUE AND JAMES WINES' AESTHETICS OF POSTMODERN RUINS. IN THIS INTERVIEW, T
L'OFFICIEL ART : Could you introduce your project for documenta 14?
ANDREAS ANGELIDAKIS : In fact, for documenta, which this year will take place in Athens and Kassel, I am doing two projects in each site. One is space for the public program and the other is an installation. They are both conceptually related. So, for the public program in Athens, I did a piece called Demos, which is made up of soft concrete blocks that can be rearranged at all times. They are meant to combine the idea of Athens with the reality of Athens. The idea of Athens is the birthplace of democracy, but the reality of Athens is a randomly built concrete city that makes no sense. The soft blocks reference these marbles steps on the Nike hill where democracy was first, let's say, attempted. But they are covered by this concrete pattern like all the city. For the installation in Kassel, we are looking in a more political way by focusing on Kassel's main production, which is the industry of war. The Panzer Tank is the most famous product of the city apart from documenta. We have used the similarities of the blocks that we did for Athens in order to shape a Panzer Tank. It's like a broken puzzle in the space in a way. The blocks are covered with this military fabric that actually comes from Greek military uniforms. Greece is also buying a lot of military arsenal from Germany. Even though it's a country in crisis, the military spending continues. These two installations make up the public program respectively in Athens and Kassel.
Are you doing any installations in parallel?
In Athens, I will have an installation in an apartment. It takes the form of a fictional company that investigates the psychotechnical aspects of how the city was made. It combines the office of a civil engineer with the office of a psychoanalyst. Then, in Kassel, I will show the report on this installation.
The notion of ruins is of particular interest to you. One could think of Arata Isozaki's project around the Hiroshima Ruins, or Piranesi's decay phantasmagoria, and of course James Wines' (SITE) work.
I am interested in building not as a static moment, but as something that is always changing, which is always in progress and maybe undergoing entropy. Like people in a way. I guess ruins are like self-portraits because I think sometimes like a ruin. I think as well of ruins as a layer of buildings' emotional presence.
The ruin becomes a vehicle for a building's unfulfilled potential. Your project TROLLCASINO, part of the Greek Pavilion at the 13th Venice Biennial of Architecture, revolves around this idea.
The Troll and the Casino are two projects which are part of a trilogy on the city of Athens. Troll is one of the few classical modernist building in the city, a kind of social housing. In the video, she becomes disillusioned with how the city has turned out. It is no longer a modernist paradise but rather a very mixed-up city. So, the building decides to leave Athens and to go live in the mountains. In the video, the building gets up and starts walking away from the city. It mostly deals with Athens' civic crisis, as has been the case from 2010 up until now. With Casino, we have already arrived in the mountains, specifically Mount Parnassus. When we arrive there, we find this other ruin. It's again a modernist building. But this time, it is not idealist but more an American type of modernism building typical of the 60s. It's a building used by the government in order to promote the economy. When they built this casino, first as a hotel, it was advertised a lot as “look how great the buildings are that the government of Greece can do, now that we are part of Nato.” It was also funded a lot by the Marshall plan. But it was very unlucky, because as a business it went bankrupt after the first two years. They turned it into a school for tourism, and it went bankrupt again. Another company bought it and it became a casino. But it went bankrupt as well. There was a big fire in the 80s and then a big earthquake in the 90s, so part of the building fell down the cliff. Instead of being a poster for the economy, it became a portrait of how the economy turned out. Through its various bankruptcies, fires and earthquake, it followed the destiny of the Greek economy. In the video, the building decides at some point to explode, and becomes many small buildings, fragments, ruins that live in the mountains in a kind of village economy, rather than its previous capitalist version.
Another ruin that interested you too was Alexander Iolas' villa. Could you tell us more about your research on him?
When I was a kid, growing up in the 80s, I would read about Iolas. He was a very polarizing figure. He was openly gay and very flamboyant. He was really close to Arte Povera, he was also a good friend of Andy Warhol and very interested before that in the Surrealists. He was a really important figure for me, a kind of idol. I knew that his villa was a ruin and was empty after he died. He had tried to donate his collection to the Greek state. But the government did not accept it because he was not, let's say, the type of person they wanted to be connected with. He died of Aids in 1987. In all these things, he was considered a persona non grata. His collection disappeared between his relatives, his servant and whoever could get a piece of it. In 2007, Casa Vogue, the Italian supplement of Vogue Italia for architecture, asked me to write about a villa. So, I decided to go, to try to find it and enter. I kind of broke in and took photographs. At that time, you could still find exhibition catalogues on the floor. I became a bit obsessed with the history of Iolas, and how the contemporary Greek art scene would have been different if that villa existed as he wanted it to, which is as a contemporary art centre founded by his art collection. Imagine, the collection was maybe 100 important paintings by Andy Warhol, Max Ernst, Magritte. He was the first person to show Andy Warhol in the Hugo gallery in New York. I also found that he discovered Ed Rusha in the 80s when he was a young artist. Iolas was very active. If that villa had been a contemporary art centre as he wanted, we would have had a museum much sooner. In a video, I did speak a little bit about how the idea of Iolas was destroyed by the government of the time, and how the collection disappeared. In the video, his ghost continues to build the villa. He was always adding rooms when he did not have enough space to exhibit his collections. The villa was designed to look like an ancient Greek villa. The way he exhibited his collection was also very interesting. He would mix byzantine with pop art, and arte povera with contemporary art. His collection, furniture and fur coat, was all displayed together in a very radical and interesting set up.
I wanted to go back to your very first project in the 90s that you did around the online community called Active Worlds. Was it your first involvement with digital architecture?
Yes, those were early works. It was done together with Miltos Manetas. He found this online platform and we decided to create a world for artists and architects. It was a kind of online art centre where we would give buildings to our friends and host other institutions. But this of course was considered to be very geeky by the art world. In 1997, nobody from the art world was interested in the internet. Anyway, it was still very fascinating for me. I could make a building in a few hours and then give it to a
friend of mine. It's a fantasy that you can never experience offline. We were doing that in the first days of the internet, while trying to understand the philosophical implications of such things.
Later on, you created the digital platform Neen with Miltos Manetas?
Yes, Neen was in 2001. It was a kind of village for the artists participating in Neen. Each one had a kind of house that I made as a portrait using their works, some ideas or personal stories.
Was it around that time that you started to create 3D-printed models of your houses?
I started 3D-printing with Neen World. The first I did was in 2002. It had just started as a technology. I was living in New York back then. As I was afraid that Miltos and I would lose Neen World, I started to 3D-Print the houses I did online in order to have a hard copy of them. It was first shown at the inaugural Frieze Art Fair with the Breeder gallery. Again, 3D-printing was not yet considered in the art world.
The 3D-printed buildings you developed around that time were like architectural collages. One could think of Kurt Schwitters's Merzbau. Did the Hand House revolve around that idea as well?
In a way, yes. I am interested by buildings that extend and keep changing outside and inside like a living organism. The Hand House was a project I did for Pin-Up magazine. The idea was to reinvestigate the Case Study Houses in Los Angeles. It mixed different sources from the city. The idea of the natural disaster, which is always imminent in Los Angeles, along with the idea of the young boy or girl that comes to L.A in order to become an actor, but ends up as a waiter, and the kind of over-representation that is inherent to the city.
As a conclusion, could you speak about your next projects?
Right now I'm working on a few books. One is for the exhibition Fin de Siècle at the Swiss Institute in New York in 2015, which will be out in September. Then a book on the project Superbenches, which is part of Kalejdohill, a two-year project in Stockholm,that will conclude in December 2017. Kalejdohill is urban development research conducted with Mia Lundstrom, on ways to include the citizen in the city planning process, sand it takes on various forms, like architectural competitions, conferences, civic activities and publications. For Superbenches we asked Felix Burrichter of Pinup magazine to select 10 designers, each of whom would design a park bench for a neglected park in Jarfalla, Stockholm. Later on, in November, I'm curating the Regionale exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Basel.
Andreas Angelidakis, House for my mother, 2015, zCorp 450 et color 3D print, 34,5 x 21 x 21 cm.