Xirómero / Dryland: Unveiling of the Greek Participation at the 60th Biennale

Within the framework of the 26th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, the interdisciplinary installation Xirómero / Dryland, which will constitute Greece’s participation at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, was unveiled to the public for the first time, on Saturday, March 9th, at Pavlos Zannas theater. The artists Thanasis Deligiannis and Yannis Michalopoulos, responsible for the basic concept of the work, co-creators artists Elia Kalogianni, Yorgos Kyvernitis, Kostas Chaikalis, and Fotis Sagonas, along with the curator, Panos Giannikopoulos, attended the event and spoke about their work. The national commissioner of the Greek delegation is the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens, while the project is being financed by the Ministry of Culture. The Thessaloniki Film Festival supports the National Participation.

The Festival’s artistic director, Orestis Andreadakis welcomed the audience to the event, introducing the installation’s curator and artists, referring to the long tradition of Greek participation in the Biennale, but also to the close cooperation of the Film Festival with almost all cultural organizations in the country, amongst which is included the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens. The curator, Panos Giannakopoulos spoke about the team behind the project and thanked the Festival for its support, while underlining the importance of the regional element in Xirómero / Dryland. “The work is derived from and through the prism of the panighíri, this fair, agricultural work, rural life, and brings to the fore particularly relevant labor issues. All this is documented with great care.”

Thanasis Deligiannis focused on how the pavilion itself fits into the project: “When someone approaches this building, one views it as a half-Byzantine temple. In our research we found that many things happen around a church or on the occasion of a religious celebration. So, the warehouse, the field and the church all come together to form something akin to a dream.” Yannis Michalopoulos, on the other hand, emphasized the removal of the work from the mainstream gaze: “There is a world behind the curtain, far from Athens and the Greek islands, a piece of local culture that differs from the mainstream gaze. So, what we are interested in is how all these outdoor objects are put together in an indoor space and how they acquire emotional intimacy.”

Elia Kalogianni made a special mention to the role of women at the fair, saying that: “We have encountered dynamic women in fairs who do have a leading role on the stage, but still obey certain moral and stylistic dictates," while Yorgos Kyvernitis explaining the team's approach, said that: “We tried to capture something in the rationale of a documentary without intending to make one. We didn't really concern ourselves with the editing while we were recording. We composed a world that intrigued us." Kostas Chaikalis, explained the way the work explores the nature of fairs: "Whether you like it or not, it's an impressive organization. The musicians on stage, the stalls, the kids, the church and how the whole complex interacts with nature and the sounds of the river.” Wrapping up, Fotis Sagonas shared his personal experience through the process of creating the project: "This documentation managed to change my own personal view, one of aversion towards the panighíri, it made me view this geography with a destabilized gaze.”

Composer and interdisciplinary artist Thanasis Deligiannis and playwright and philologist Yannis Michalopoulos initiated their research project in June of 2022, Margaroni Residency, for an Onassis Culture assignment, as Onassis Air Fellows. Within this framework, they composed an artistic team, with which they worked collectively. The research and the various musical, visual and scenic actions of the residency provided the material for the development of the proposal, Xirómero / Dryland, which will be representing Greece in the 60th Venice Biennale, in April 2024. The Greek participation in the Venice Biennale is powered by Onassis Culture.