Oh, it feels good to be back looking at art. Standing in the open air of this historic site, Dionisis Kavallieratos’s ‘Disoriented Dance / Misled Planet’ feels like exactly the right show to be seeing at this moment. It’s playful, gentle on the mind and easy on the eye, contemporary, but riffing on ancient themes, challenging, but not too much so. The carefully managed 20 minute timeslots turn out to be exactly the perfect amount of time to view a show - and it’s great not to feel awkward that you have not given the work enough time when you are kindly asked to leave.
Held in the 2nd century A.D. Roman amphitheatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built on the slopes of the Acropolis, Dionisis Kavallieratos’s sculptural installation plays on the image of the chorus from Ancient Greek tragedy. The site was originally used for music events and ancient theatre, and has been the venue since the 1950s for the Athens Festival, hosting similar events throughout the summer. As the first art exhibition held on the site, the work is an appropriate exploration of the daily dance of our everyday lives.
The show is made up of two sets of works; one a group of 16 individual sculptures and another a set of smaller works that form a single unified piece (sharing a title with that of the exhibition). The exquisitely crafted pieces appear like contemporary assemblages of bric-a-brac, figures pieced together from items bought perhaps at the Acropolis museum shop or the flea markets of nearby Monastiraki. There are dancing devils, Death with a mating Sun and Moon on his scythe, hybrids of Ancient Greek and Egyptian sculpture, along with figures formed out of mirrors and bannisters.
In this show, you take the role of both performer and audience, standing with the works in the orchestra pit. The figures dance around you, surrounding you and lining the outside of the pit, so you feel your place in the theatre. The seats of the audience stretch high above and it’s interesting that the sculptures function on an intimate scale in such a large space. Just as the Chorus would guide Ancient audiences, here the rhythm and size of the pieces prompt us to think about the relationship between the individual and the crowd.
Kavallieratos effectively creates a modern version of the Medieval ‘Danse Macabre’, his playful sculptures gently ridiculing modern life and commodification. In the Medieval world this image of the Dance of Death evoked the inescapable fate of death for both king and commoner. Utilising a multitude of materials and references, from antique to modern, the installation invokes this inevitable truth, placing us at the centre of the dance and asking us to look again at our lives, and the structures and objects that we cling to - acknowledging just how ridiculous most of them are.