THE ΤΕΛΟΣ SOCIETY speaks to Caroline May, Founder of KAKTOS Project
Georgia Kotretsos: What differentiates Kaktos Project from any other recently debuted initiative in Athens is its focus on urban landscapes. May you please discuss actions, projects and initiatives Kaktos Project has taken towards tackling this very rich terrain?
Caroline May: What makes Kaktos Project distinct from other art initiatives is that we place emphasis on the relation between art and society. The space is currently located in in Victoria Square, at the centre of Athens, one of the most multicultural areas and amongst one of the most contested neighborhoods. However, regardless of where the space is based, the idea is to open up a discussion of these issues and Athens today.
We initiated our program in February 2020 with a solo exhibition of American artist Michael Ashkin (b.1955), Chair of the Department of Art at Cornell University, NY, and whose work has been included amongst others in Documenta11 and the Whitney Biennial. In Athens, we exhibited an installation of 400 photographs, and although all were shot in California, they made perfect sense in the changing landscape of Athens, the financial, political and immigration crisis, as well as the area in which the space is located. The title of the show ‘were it not for’ took its title from one of Ashkin’s poems which we exhibited along with the photographs. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with a text by the late Bernard Yenelouis, and funded by MACART, Athens.
Workshops with the local school was unfortunately halted due to COVID19 as well as all the activities planned for fall 2020. We plan to realise some of them in a different format.
GK: Speaking to you about Kaktos Project what spoke to my heart was your genuine interest in showcasing an authentic, less polished-take of our lives, practices and landscapes today - as they’ve been affected and marked by the recession of the last decade without lamenting over the past. In addition another crisis has approached, packing on the layers – what may be your greater concerns at this stage about KAKTOS and the local art scene at large?
CM: Funding is a major concern, both for Kaktos and the Greek art scene in general. How to engage with local communities is another big concern, especially in these testing times when other issues (health and safety, unemployment, job losses due to COVID) are becoming more urgent.
GK: Kaktos Project is an experimental platform, one that advocates for dialogue and collaboration. Most of the featured organizations and spaces in the Educational Heurism series on TTS advocate for the very same ideas. How is KAKTOS PROJECT planning to build bridges between organizations, artists and audiences in Greece and abroad?
CM: Kaktos Project participated in Platforms Project 2020, a Greek initiative for nonprofits, which encourages sales and collaborations. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with other like-minded spaces both in Athens and abroad. We are currently working on a collaborative project between non-profits in Athens and Denmark.
For our exhibition program this year, Kaktos had invited both local artists and from abroad, to do research and/or residency, work with the local community, all of which would culminate in an exhibition or performance; due to the pandemic, these have to take a different shape and we are looking into how we can adapt and expand our activities offsite and online.
Kaktos Project is an independent, not-for-profit, artist-run space founded by artist Caroline May in 2020 with the aim to alert the changing urban landscape of Athens and the forces of gentrification and empower community.