Why you should make time to see “Reality Check,” an on-site exhibition at the Psychiatric Hospital in Dafni
A bare, raw, deeply personal and disturbing exhibition that we should all make time for. Dr Kostas Prapoglou, who curated the exhibition, prods, probes, provokes, arouses emotions and evokes reactions in directions you may not be willing to examine or anticipate. Make time. Dig deep.
‘Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality,’ words immortalized by Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland form the starting point for Reality Check, an exhibition curated by Dr. Kostas Prapoglou. Driving into the exhibition site – an abandoned building in the State Psychiatric Hospital complex in Dafni – tests one’s comfort level in a very raw and unexpected way. As you walk through the mental asylum’s wards where 34 artists examine the concepts of isolation and confinement, of timeless space and spaceless time, it is but a simple point of embarkation into their blurred, disoriented worlds.
Reality Check brings alive the agonizingly long waits, the deep sense of abandonment, the loneliness, the confusion, the ennui, the anguish, the fears, delusions, hallucinations, pain, darkness that must have inhabited the walls. There’re hopes, dreams, magic fountains and butterflies too. That fuzzy line between sanity and insanity is what is explored in each of the exhibits.
Each room describes the artist’s works on a ‘discharge letter.’ The rooms have been left intact. Zoe Hatziyiannaki reacts to those remnants on the building’s walls that once used to bring to its former inhabitants an artificial sense of outside inside. Stickers of flowers, birds and insects come back to life and become part of a new reality blurring the boundaries between fact and the imaginary, the real and virtual. Vana Ntatsouli’s woven fantasy fountain with ice-cream cones and flowers lies at the crossroads of realism and the unnatural. Marios Voutsinas’ installation of hundreds of wristwatches meticulously woven into the metallic mesh of a bed, all showing a different time, captures the awkwardness of timelessness, especially when we experience it during our sleep, where time and space are expanded and annulled.Each of the works is powerful, poignant. But it is the setting that lends it context and depth, making it an experience that stays with you long after you’ve left the premises. Prapoglou, an archaeologist-architect, art critic and curator who moved to Athens from London just four years ago, has endeavoured to showcase art at reactivated forgotten spaces. “I do realise the importance of art institutions – but I believe it is more important to reactivate abandoned buildings – to re-establish a dialogue between the past and the present, and hopefully the future, by revisiting these deserted buildings.”
“It is all about places with layers of memory, charged with history, with identity. Dafni combines all of that. A lot of people were hospitalized here. Art thrives in these unconventional settings.”
Located in an area of high spiritual and mental rebirth since ancient times, the first State Psychiatric Hospital in Dafni has operated continuously since 1925. “Dafni is situated on the axis of the Ancient Sacred Way connecting Athens with the town of Eleusis (where the processional ceremony of the Eleusian Mysteries used to take place in antiquity) and opposite the sanctuary of Dafnios Apollo, above which the Byzantine monastery of Dafni was later erected in the 6 AD,” Dr. Prapoglou notes. Reality Check explores the structural constraints and qualities of the mind in relation with space and time. “How often do visual landscapes turn into mindscapes? Where is insanity really located? Where do we normally find the real madhouse?”
Prapoglou’s previous exhibitions were hosted in abandoned spaces too – the majestic Zarifi family residence, the Kypseli High School, an industrial building in Kerameikos, all served as venues. For Prapoglou, it is the history of the space that defines the conceptual and artistic context of the exhibition.
His next project called Food Futures brings together artists, activists, food professionals and scientists investigating on how we perceive food in our post-pandemic world. “It’s a discourse, an online depository if you will, where people will be able to read about food and the pandemic, listen to podcasts, and to zoom conferences on the subject.”
When: Until October 17, 2021. Thursdays to Sundays from 3 pm to 8 pm.
Where: Dafni Psychiatric Hospital, Leof. Athinon 374, Haidari, Athens.