THE ΤΕΛΟΣ SOCIETY speaks to Nicolas Vamvouklis, Artistic Director of K-Gold Temporary Gallery
Vasilia Tafylia, Gallery Manager
K-Gold Temporary Gallery is a non-profit organisation founded in 2014 in the Greek island of Lesvos. It started as a nomadic platform focused on collaborative approaches to cultural production within its locality and beyond by activating alternative spaces and offering art professionals the opportunity to expand their research and practice. The Gallery is now based in the village of Agia Paraskevi, aiming at bringing contemporary art closer to wide audiences through exhibitions, performances, publications, educational programs and other socially-engaged projects which are free and open to all.
K-Gold Temporary Gallery has presented the work of Greek and international artists such as Joan Jonas, Bas Jan Ader, Lucy+Jorge Orta, Ilias Papailiakis, Jonathas de Andrade, Maria Papadimitriou, Ana Mendieta, Grace Wales Bonner, Lito Kattou, Jacopo Benassi and Louis Fratino. Recent creative partnerships include the Metropolitan Organization of Museums of Visual Arts of Thessaloniki, Italian Council, Onassis Stegi, University of Agder and Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. In 2015, the Gallery distinguished as Innovative European Citizen Initiative by Nantes Metropole.
Georgia Kotretsos: What gap K-Gold came to fill in Lesvos in the heart of the economic crisis in 2014 and what has motivated its founding both on a personal and professional level, when situated beyond the obvious and known urban parameters of Greece?
Nikolas Vamvouklis: Lesvos is one of the largest Greek islands and well known for its natural and cultural heritage. Growing up there, I found disappointing the absence of contemporary artistic products and had the feeling that contemporary culture was viewed largely as an unproductive and unsustainable source of activity. After leaving the island, first as a humanities - art student and then an emerging professional, I understood that this feeling lied in the lack of art education in the local/national infrastructure, one of the largest barriers to participation in cultural activities (if available).
K-Gold Temporary Gallery started very spontaneously as a social experiment during my summer vacations in Lesvos with a group of artists friends. The first exhibition took place in the abandoned jewellery store "Kaloni Gold" which was the inspiration for the Gallery's name. Locals and tourists embraced the initiative immediately: they wanted to be informed and involved, they were positive and supporting.
I found through Marinella Senatore the inspiring writings of Jacques Rancière on the “Ignorant Schoolmaster” and the implications of learning being independent from instruction. I imagined of an open platform as the provider of conditions for yet unimagined creations, exchanges and scenarios. I tried to explore how the introduction of contemporary art in insular contexts and the audience development for such "innovative practices" links to notions of hospitality, engagement and community revitalisation. The Gallery examines site-specificity and the extent to which peripheral location can define its activities. It all started with the idea of nurturing art projects that generate alternative ways of expressing the community’s history, concerns, values and assist in developing civic pride as well as a sense of place.
GK: May you please discuss the stages of K-Gold Temporary Gallery’s growth in terms of its program and its outreach? What are the learnings you carry with you from this experience?
NV: The Gallery was founded upon two principles: temporality and changing physical locations. We curate an annual summer exhibition in Lesvos with a parallel program of performances, screenings and workshops for children. For these shows, the Gallery had occupied various public and private spaces ranging from municipal museums, clubs and theatres to factories, residencies and unused settings. Every project addressed themes related to the history of the site and involved research in local archives, discussions with the community and art commissions developed through micro-residencies. We also established an internship program and created works for public spaces and social media.
During the rest of the year, K-Gold travelled to venues across Greece and Europe (France, Italy, Sweden, Germany and Czech Republic among others) where we co-produced events and presented our research. These partnerships were crucial for the Gallery's development as they brought attention to what was happening in Lesvos and helped in the promotion of Greek artists abroad.
In 2019, we decided to stop the nomadic activity as the process was very demanding. The Gallery has now a permanent exhibition space in the picturesque village of Agia Paraskevi at the heart of the island. We're still exploring its possibilities as there is a yard and other ancillary spaces that can host different types of activities. We have introduced a winter photography exhibition that is successful to young people and started setting up an arts library. My future plan is to focus more on editorial projects and develop further our performance program.
What I learnt from this experience is the importance of having more structures that allow mediation, mutual support, participation and circulation of ideas. We should reestablish the connection between art and the social, we need more shared spaces of learning and communication. Art should be accessible and integral to the daily lives of people across societies.
GK: After six years of operation has K-Gold Temporary Gallery left traces of its mission on its immediate community, has there been a parallel growth? What are the new goals you have set for the program and how are you planning to accomplish them?
NV: I am very satisfied with the overall feedback we receive from the local community as well as from the authorities and other neighbouring initiatives. The process of broadening the appreciation and understanding of contemporary art needs to be continuous and consistent. As people tend to forget - especially during this period of acceleration and visual saturation - I believe art institutions have to keep activating collective processes under a mindful and ethical operation. Christos Mouchas wrote a piece for our show "I woke with a marble head in my hands" that captures this idea:
Very coyly, Bas Jan Ader’s video, "Primary Time” shows the artist rearranging a bouquet of flowers, seemingly without purpose, without any gain. He keeps going though, so much so that when he chooses to stop, it seems anything but quitting. If I were a cynic, K-Gold Temporary Gallery, situated in Europe’s periphery, away from the big hotspots of art and the rapidly changing Greek capital, could also be seen as without purpose. I mean, who really cares if an old lady at a far-removed village in Lesvos will understand the idea of the wunderkammer? For all it’s worth, Nicolas Vamvouklis and K-Gold Temporary Gallery’s success lie in the sheer determination to keep going.
(excerpt from "Art in the Greek Periphery Just Keeps Going" published on Coeur & Art, August 2019).
We would like to continue developing artistic - educational programming that actively incorporates contemporary arts into the social environment of Lesvos and at the same time showcases the island as a destination for cultural tourism. Lesvos is not only a place of turmoil but also a hotbed of fruitful exchange and inspiration; an opportunity to reboot our worldview and our future of coexistence.