The exhibition Lives of an Object, presented concurrently at two spaces in the historical neighbourhood of Plaka in Athens, takes its inspiration from the ancient past to create a narrative of multiplicity across different media, with works by artists of different generations, backgrounds and geographical origins. Organised by Andreas Melasat the bright upper-storey gallery of Martinos antique shop (with an enviable view of the Acropolis) and ARCH, the cultural non-profit housed inside an early-modernist building situated between the Acropolis and the remains of the temple of Olympian Zeus, the exhibition emerged from discussions that took place between the organisers around ceramics, and particularly an ancient vessel called kernos.
Belonging to a typology of ceramic objects with multiple vessels attached to them that originates from Mesopotamia, the ancient Greek kernos was used in rituals dedicated to the double deity of Demeter and Kore; this ritual was known as the Kernophoria, and consisted of an offering of first fruits during the autumn festival of Thesmophoria. Within the numerous vessels of the kernos, women (the Thesmophoria was an exclusively female affair) placed wheat, oats, spelt, barley, lentils, beans, sage, wine, oil, milk, wool and other products. The typology of the kernos varies considerably across time and region, with Etruscan samples being the most elaborate and ornate.
With the history and function of this vessel as a starting point, the exhibition Lives of an Object explores the multiple lives such an object can take during its lifetime, as it changes hands and travels through time and places. The exhibition sees such an object “transitioning in function and meaning from one state to the next as though recasting itself anew”; reflecting this notion, the exhibition brings together a kaleidoscope of contemporary and 20th-century artefacts (sadly but not surprisingly, actual kernoi were not possible to be exhibited due to frustrating local bureaucracy) that stand “as fluid and open-ended signifiers of a mutable and manifold nature”.
Participating artists: Etel Adnan, JB Blunk, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Lena Henke, Michael Lekakis, Fausto Melotti, Giorgio Morandi, Ron Nagle, Aliki Panagiotopoulou, Rallou Panagiotou, Konstantinos Papadimitrakopoulos, Sophia Psychoyos, Lucie Rie, Cinzia Ruggeri, Ettore Sottsass, Iris Touliatou, Francis Upritchard, Rebecca Warren