Athena Papadopoulos

Holy Toledo, Takotsubo!
Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon

May 14 — July 30, 2019

From May until August 2019, CURA. has been invited to take over the Kunsthalle Lissabon: its spaces, the exhibition program as well as its entrance plaque, in an identity exchange and appropriation project. On this occasion, CURA. presents the continuation of its ongoing program at Basement Roma with a project on doubling as well as otherness.
 The new space will open on May 14th with Holy Toledo, Takotsubo!, the first institutional solo exhibition in Portugal by the Canadian London-based artist Athena Papadopoulos.

Holy Toledo, Takotsubo! is a wordplay that refers to the cathartic, fear-induced, and physical sorrow that psycho-emotional journeys can provoke. The title echoes the idea of ‘loving something to death:’ being so overly attached to something or someone to the point of becoming physically heartbroken. Takotsubo syndrome refers to a medical condition resulting from traumatic emotional distress—a breakup or the loss of a loved one—and weakens the heart, causing the person unbearable chest pain.

In this exhibition, Papadopoulos focuses on the subjectivity-forming processes and allegorical encapsulations that incubate within a series of floating garments-turned-sculptures. Ghostly figures welcome the visitors into a spectral environment; a scenographic space where the artworks themselves become spectres of a play that mimics relational, psychological, and social dynamics, all imbricated and bound up with the artist’s personal experience.

These spectral figures seem to converse with one another while inviting the artist and viewers to participate in an introspective dialogue: they look to us to look into ourselves, to tell them who and what they are and where they came from. The eerie presence of these kinds of ‘energies’—which remain on earth haunting it as much as haunting personal souls—here are cartoonified with spindley gauze and wrapped protrusions in a living and tangible installation.

These sculptural paintings are comprised of repurposed bridal gowns imbued with the personal memories of those who have parted with them. The artist has surgically reconfigured them by transplanting elements of detritus – precious and toxic paraphernalia that act both as infection and cure – onto and into these bodies. Like a person suffering from Takotsubo needing to be rushed to hospital, Papadopoulos occupies the position of the surgeon, incising wounds and opening cavities, both treating and exacerbating the dis(eased) bodies at hand.

Equally, Papadopoulos performatively transforms herself into a fashion stylist, dressing the body, and finally assumes the role of a bird, scavenging for elements to add to the nest-like structures puncturing these surfaces. It is as if Papadopoulos performs these analogue roles to transcend her own experiences, bringing to life these unhinged characters acting out our ghosts. The titles of the works are taken from a list of extinct exotic birds and fused with the cartoonish birds typical of mainstream pop culture. In this context, the birds provide a vehicle to explore the more intricate manifestations of societal gender conventions as they come to operate within language: the use of metonyms and terms of endearment for women; the frequent characterization of Disney birds as cute but dim-witted, annoying or embroiled in evil intrigues.

To accompany this series of works, Papadopoulos has collaborated with HP Parmely to create a whimsical yet haunting sonic composition entitled “Funeral for a Friend,” acting as a cinematic soundtrack bringing to life the characters of this show.