What do a mascot, a bell-wearing carnival koudounoforos, an activist, and a visual artist have in common? Which worlds are connected through masquerading and what transcendences or transgressions does this practice allow? What becomes of us when we hide our face or change our age, gender, species? Who are we when we put on ‘another’ head?
#thehead is a research project in progress: Sklavenitis is on the constant look out for carnival practices as well as masquerades from different contexts and environments. In his videos, artists, activists, performers, masked children and koudounoforoi, from different Greek regions, present their costumes, rituals, and performances.
Paper, fabrics, face paints, raw meat and shellfish, flowers, various accessories and paraphernalia, bells, animal hides and tails, horns, skins, and hair, are used for the costumes, attached to the skin, held to the face and the body with ropes or fishing lines, or carefully processed to create a headdress. The modern and traditional performances include zoomorphic disguises, unorthodox pranks, visual performances, carnival dances, self-injuries, violence, spells and displays of resistance.
All these disparate worlds unexpectedly intersect in Thessaloniki’s Islahane, where costumes of past and future performances are placed on props, while masks―both original and traditional―are fixed οn the beams of the historical building. In the last room, various products, tools, and objects from the former technical school may be seen on the floor and on shelves. Between them, small screens project fourteen selected videos from #thehead‘s video archive.
The recordings follow a fragmented rhythm of close-ups and long shots. Behind the camera Sklavenitis observes and takes “visual” notes of these disparate practices. He also displays a similar, observational disposition in his performances, often avoiding to participate in them. The disguises and performances Sklavenitis curates are laden with disparate references. The zoomorphic (or anthropomorphic) creatures, in the performances, seem trapped in a state of pseudo-transformation. The ephemeral hybrid identities emerge from what they were forced to wear and carry, from what the individuals behind the ‘mask’ imagine, and from the transcendent acts that occur, momentarily, during his performances.
The opening of the main exhibition of the 8th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art is the first time that Sklavenitis will curate, as an observer, an unexpected―and otherwise rather unlikely―meeting of the disparate worlds that constitute #thehead. Each individual and group wears its own costume, and performs its own ritual, in a crowded euphoric carnivalistic march through Thessaloniki’s city centre.