Kaspar Thormod

Kaspar Thormod

Postdoc

My postdoc project is entitled RETHINKING THE ATHENIAN PAST AND PRESENT THROUGH POST-CRISIS ART, 2009–2019. It examines how contemporary artists who engage with historical source material and narratives have contributed to a new understanding of the history of Athens. Traditionally, this has been the domain of academically trained historians, art historians and archaeologists, but instead of primarily dealing with historical sources in written discourse and focusing on the reconstruction of specific pasts, artists interact with the Greek capital on a visual level and create work that actively situates the city in the entanglement of past and present. Through the tensions and possibilities that this new dialogue brings to the fore, artistic practices have the potential to generate alternative visions that invite us to critically rethink the history of the city today.

Athens is particularly suited for this investigation because the contrast between the idea of the city as the cradle of European civilization and the brutal reality following the economic crisis of the past decade has created a distinctive situation, one that calls for a radical rethinking of connections between the Athenian past and present. This is where contemporary artistic work comes into play as it has the potential to shift attention away from the kind of traditional historical reconstructions which stay firmly in the past, and instead rethinks the past through - and gives it form in - the present. My alternative reading of Athens through contemporary artworks will emphasise how the city as a place, an idea and a historical legacy responds to our present world.

During the past decade Athens has become an alternative centre for contemporary art - a status that was confirmed by the documenta exhibition in 2017. I will examine the different art scenes in the city in order to find artists who draw on academic fields like history and archaeology and make use of investigative methodologies to reshape historical sources and narratives. My approach is unorthodox in that it is neither art-historical in its thrust, nor is it a traditional historical study. Rather, revealing affinities and continuities between artistic production and knowledge production, the aim of the project is to combine contemporary art and historiography in an interdisciplinary investigation centred on how artistic work lets the past manifest itself in the present.

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