For some, Greek islands are associated with picturesque beach vacations, but for others, like the hundreds of thousands of refugees that have entered Europe through Lesvos, Chios, Sanos, or other Mediterranean islands, they mean something much different. This is the tension that Greek artist Valinia Svoronou addresses in her current show The Glow Pt.2: Gravity Regimes, curated by Rachel Walker at Berlin’s Frankfurt am Main gallery.
The show is inspired by glow sticks scattered on the beach of the Greek island of Evia, where Svoronou had a residency in 2015. During the summer, tourists flock to Greek islands to party, and the artist initially assumed the spent glow sticks were part of the aftermath of a beach rave. In reality, though, they came from navy border patrols; a taste of harsh reality washed ashore in a resort town. In fact, glow sticks weren’t invented for partying at all, and the military uses more of them than EDM-heads.
Svoronou translates this glow into a duo of bioluminescent sculptures, Gravity Regimes 1 and 2, made from unconventional materials: scaffolding, laser-engraved clear perspex sheets, colour pigment, fiberglass, painted plaster, and LED strips. They look like industrial tables, glowing purple with the pattern of ocean waves. Plaster blobs on top and below evoke piles of sand.
On the walls hang Mykonos Glow 1 and 2, natural rubber sheets laser engraved with drawings. One depicts women in bathing suits, dancing on platforms above crowds of partygoers. The other is like a postcard for Mykonos, a line drawing of an idyllic landscape behind the island’s name in large letters. On the ground, in the corner, are scattered a pile of 3D-printed cigarettes, bent and discarded but apparently unsmoked. The cigarettes, like trash littered on the beach after a party, parallel the litter of the navy’s glow sticks. A six-minute video work takes the same title as the exhibition, and ties the physical elements together by animating them all into a cohesive whole.
Wherever there’s a part 2, there’s a part 1, and this show follows up on a 2015 project of the same name, when Svoronou was participating in the aforementioned residency. The first The Glow was a collection of multimedia works inspired by Mykonos and a 1995 documentary on ravers. It included similar drawings engraved on rubber, and a video sampling James Franco’s ominous “spring break forever!” refrain from Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.
The uncomfortable collision of escapist, destination-partiers, and refugees escaping war, is a tension growing ever stronger in Europe. Svoronou, for her part, quite literally illuminates this clash.
The Glow Pt. 2: Gravity Regimes is on view by appointment at Frankfurt am Main Gallery in Berlin until September 11, 2016. Find out more on the gallery’s website.