Every year since 2009, the DESTE Foundation’s exhibition space at the Slaughterhouse of Hydra has hosted a contemporary art exhibition designed by an artist (or team of artists) on the basis of this particular venue. This year, the DESTE Foundation presents the exhibition The Secret of the Phaistos Disc by the Polish artist Pawel Althamer.
This is an interactive project that combines sculpture and performance with a series of experiments into social communication and creativity. The focus is on the nature of families, family relationships and more generally on human relationships and the way they fit into society to form a ‘universal’ family that lies at the centre of today’s city. Once again, Althamer pushes the boundaries of contemporary sculpture to the point where its essence acquires a human aspect. The main role in this work is played by the artist’s own family. Specifically, Althamer’s children become protagonists as they are called upon to develop and stage a happening whose aim is to explore the relations and correlations that lie behind the existing social structures. Children and adults alike are invited to take part in the happening using handmade puppets (most of which depict the Althamer family, but others as well) to “construct” various scenarios —or messages— of their imagination. In this way the participants activate the very process and the properties of the creative act, which is the main aim of the project.
The works that come out of the performance will remain installed in the Slaughterhouse throughout the exhibition. Visitors will be able to add more elements to the original narrative and thus create new identities for the ‘heroes’.
The sources of inspiration for this project are the Phaistos Disc, considered to be the earliest known example of typography and encoded information (Middle Bronze Age; 17th c. BCE), and the Emerald Tablet, a text attributed to a figure from Hellenistic times known as Hermes Trismegistus, which set the foundations of alchemic theory and practice as they are known today.