The First Night and First Morning
experienced As One
Text by INTERWEAVE for MAI
On March 10th, the big opening of the As One exhibition, a collaboration with NEON, a non-profit arts organization in Greece, took place in Athens. For eight hours, six long durational performance artists (Yota Argyropoulou, Virginia Mastrogiannaki, Lampros Pigounis, Nancy Stamatopoulou, Thodoris Trampas, Despina Zacharopoulou) and three interventional ones (Yiannis Pappas, Thanassis Akokkalidis, Anastasia Papatheodorou), shared with the public the beginning of one of the most intense experiences of their lives so far: being in a particular place, for a particular amount of time, using their own bodies to make art work, and interacting directly with the public, creating a great amount of energy to share it with everyone that had the chance to be part of the exhibition.
The fact that the artists are coming from different art practices, for many presenting a debut in performance art, and interacting with a wider audience who might be less familiar with performance art, left us asking / raising the question: how did they feel on their first night after the opening of As One, and what was their first thought the morning after?
Here are some extracts of the artists’ first night’s and the morning’s after thoughts.
Yota Argyropoulou: “I remember very clearly this first night, because I experienced it in a really intense way. I was thrilled and happy to see that my work actually… worked – because until you share the experience with the public you don’t know if or how it is going to work. I felt plenitude. But when I tried to fall asleep, I couldn’t – there was too much tension in me. I felt like I had too much energy that I couldn’t manage. The morning after was more tranquil. I felt calmer. I was almost impatient of coming back, of seeing how the experience was going to be continued.”
Virginia Mastrogiannaki: “The first night I had this feeling of plenitude – I felt thrilled and happy, that everything had gone well. I experienced overstimulation, due to the energy created and shared with the public. The next morning I was truly enthusiastic about the idea of coming back and experiencing another day of interacting with the audience. But there were also some moments that I had a feeling of apprehension, mostly because of the fact that the second day the exhibition was of ten-hour duration; I had a slight fear concerning the mental strength that I needed to call forth during this ten-hour performance”.
Lampros Pigounis: “This first night I had the same feeling like the one I had as a kid, or afterwards, when I was studying and at the same time, working in the building trade and warehouse stores: this feeling of a laborer’s fatigue - that reminded me the existence of art also as a labour, combined with a strange numbness, created by all this great amount of energy absorbed during the day. That night, I left my platform and I felt the energy absorbed by the audience literally vibrating inside me. The only way to discharge somehow, was to take a warm bath (in my case water is crucial, it is incredibly soothing after all this energy exchanged) and then go to sleep. This same feeling is the one I had also the morning after – the fatigue of art as labour. But the kind of fatigue that satisfies your soul, that offers you a sense of plenitude coming from the fact that you have performed a piece that comes deeply out of your soul and mind, a piece that you give yourself to”.
Nancy Stamatopoulou: “To be honest, that first night I felt empty. I had a strange feeling, like all this was a blank page for me. The strange thing is that, at the same time, I felt absolutely free – although my piece is about incarceration. When I left the Benaki Museum I experienced some difficulty in my transition to reality. And then, the morning after, I had a feeling of expectation, a peculiar agony on how the whole experience was going to be this second day, how different would it be. Because every single day is totally different from the previous one.”
Despina Zacharopoulou: “Generally, during all this process that we have come through, I feel calm, I feel like being in a constant state of tranquility. But the first night, after the opening, I felt vulnerable, excited and scared at the same time. The morning after, I woke up with a feeling of uncertainty, an agony of how this whole experience was going to evolve”.
Thodoris Trampas: “The first day of the exhibition was very intense. There was a lot of people and there was a lot of energy created through our interaction. I was hyped up, I almost didn’t realise when the day ended. At the end of the day I had the feeling of completion and happiness. And it was then that I realised that I was also tired, both mentally and physically. The next morning I woke up really happy. I felt like I needed to keep on performing, keep on exchanging and sharing energy with the public”.
Yiannis Pappas: “The first night I was fraught with emotion, it was a really intense experience. While I was working with the key I was receiving a huge amount of energy from the public, and that made me extremely active, I worked at a greater intensity. At the end of the day I felt plenitude and exhaustion, both mental and physical. The morning after I felt extremely strong, I felt like brimming with energy. Before starting my piece, Marina Abramovic gave me advice on doing meditation while performing. And that did help me a lot. It was a precious advice.”
Anastasia Papatheodorou: “When everything finished and I was all by myself, I started crying. It felt like I was at the end of a trail and that it was good there –as if I had finally arrived somewhere I really wanted to be. I felt something like gratitude. The morning after I woke up with a great agony of what depth was I going to dive into? What was it going to happen? I was really curious. I felt lots of agony and expectation.
Thanassis Akokkalidis: “The first night of the exhibition, when everything finished, I had a weird feeling - I was kind of numb, as if I was empty of thoughts and feelings. I felt vulnerable, and surely I was not very time-conscious. The next morning I woke up with an agony: I had to confront my fear, with the recent memory of the reconciliation with myself that I had experienced the day before. It felt awkward but it was really challenging.”
NEON + MAI | As One
March 10 - April 24, 2016
Benaki Museum, 138 Pireos St. Athens, Greece