...Since the late eighties, Charalambidis’ large scale installations -incorporating dismantled structural elements from his home- have been developed as, politically charged, platforms of interdisciplinary cooperation that activate buffer zones and contested areas. Ahead of the artistic tendencies of that time, his multilayered interventions in Cyprus’ Green Line, risking in some occasions literally his life, have been a benchmark that provide over the years, an exemplary model for art events and actions in war zones and contested areas in Lebanon, Ireland and the Gaza strip.
One of the most known “platforms of sympraxis” the Rambling & Rumbling Museum, was founded in 1997, drawing strongly on his experiences as a child, when he and his family were forced to leave their home in the north of Cyprus by the invasion of the Turkish army. Thus, reflecting the connections between the notions of home and homeland, Rambling & Rumbling Museum’s starting point is the artist’s house in Athens, while its expanding activities take place at the Hollow Airport Museum in Cyprus...
Extract from a text by Dr. Aspasia Mastrogianni
H A M
Hollow Airport Museum (H.A.M), takes the form of an emblematic Art School, potentially housed at the abandoned International Airport of Nicosia within the UN-controlled Green Line in Cyprus. The currently derelict building not only used to be the main airport of Cyprus since 1968, but also of the entire region. Its innovating modern construction, designed by the German company Dorch-Gehrmann of Wiesbaden, has been an international prototype for airport architecture. Activating its former principal role, H.A.M., aims to stand as an educational, intellectual centre, a meeting point that brings together cultures from the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, such as Syria, Israel, Palestine, Egypt or Lebanon. This geopolitically tense area, suffering from ongoing conflicts and wars, finds under the name of Ham – son of Noah and forbearer of these nations – a stimulating intellectual refuge, a cultural meeting point and a Museion.
Arab Guggenheim Museum
The Ancient Greek Mouseion was more than just a library, a storehouse of texts, manuscripts and books, or a space where artworks could be accumulated and exhibited. It was a home for music and poetry, a kind of an interdisciplinary laboratory, as well as a philosophical school, where scholars and scientists, researchers, poets and musicians were connoting a community under the protection of the Muses. Reflecting such a Greek model, H.A.M. accentuates the workshop style of an alternative Fine Art School that invites a great array of scientists, intellectuals and international artists – whose oeuvre is highly political – to carry out specific working programmes and assignments. Basically, the artists are invited to use the spaces of the former airport for a predetermined time, as studios in order to accomplish one of their projects under the assistance of the Arab Guggenheim Museum, a group of art students and local artists, who consist the working staff of the school, enriching through that procedure their ideas and experiences. The name Arab Guggenheim Museum of this ongoing artists’ collective, is often used generally for the entire project, overlapping as a kind of nick name the official name of the Hollow Airport Museum. As Nicos Charalambidis claims, the school’s strategy of appearing under a variety of names and pseudo names depending the program or the country that hosts occasionally its activities, emphasizes the notions of identity and transnationalism, displacement nomadism and migration.Participant Artists
Artists such as Nedko Solakov, Mounir Fatmi, Gülsün Karamustafa, William Kentridge, Narda Alvarado Santiago Sierra, Kai Schiemenz, Pravdoliub Ivanov, Ziad Antar, Wafa Hourani, are only some of the personalities who have already collaborated in a wide range of HAM’s activities, exhibitions and projects. In 2008, during H.A.M.’s exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou (link), the president Alain Sebain, had inaugurated the portable porch of the school, which is a replica of the Ledra barricade that used to separate the island in two. In 2009, the Hollow Airport Museum celebrated the 20 year anniversary since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, through an extended exhibition in Athens where outstanding international artists had participated (more info at link 1 and link 2
Venues of Activities
Since 1997, the Hollow Airport Museum’s activities have been presented at numerous Museums, Art Centers, international exhibitions and biennials, such as the 27th Biennial of São Paulo, Brazil, the Centre Georges Pompidou and Palais de Tokyo, Paris, the Turner Contemporary, London, the Quarter Centro Produzione Arte, Florence, the Channel 0, Netherlands Media Art Institute, Montevideo, Amsterdam, the 51st Biennial Venice, Palazzo Querini Stampalia, Venice, the Tirana Biennial, Albania, Galerie im Marstall, Berlin, Germany, the Kunsthallen Brandts Klaedefabrik, Odense, Denmark , the Deste Foundation, Athens, the Gallery La Circuit, Lausanne, Switzerland.
At the end of the activities, the outcomes of the “art-school” could be put on display before the artists/teachers’ departure, following the form of a carnival parade into the town. Emphasizing the nomadic character of the Museion, the exhibits could be set up on floats and “meet” people in public spaces, streets and plazas, instead of waiting them to visit the museum. Of course, Carnival is a ceremony that doesn't exist in Arabic civilization, even though it is so familiar to a variety of religions and cultures in the rest of the world. Thus, trying to impose an overseas ritual to them, it sounds like a colonialist strategy. In fact, the Museion’s Carnival parade has nothing to do with the usual procession; actually the real reference here, is nothing else but the very oriental custom of displaying merchandises in the street; costermongers, hawkers and peddlers are very characteristic figures in the Arab world…
Extract from correspondence with Catherine David
«Προστατευμένη ζώνη» στο Μπομπούρ
Το νέο πρότζεκτ του Κύπριου Νίκου Χαραλαμπίδη στηρίζεται στη νεότερη ιστορία της πατρίδας του καλλιτέχνη
Replica of the Nicosia International Airport's glass facade (image on the left) at the house of the artist in Athens
During an interdisciplinary workshop presented in the 1st Thessaloniki Biennale, a group of students from the Athens School of Fine Arts manipulate one of Charalambidis’ glass facades (image above) as the significant pattern which could symbolically define the design of the glass facades of a Ham’s annex in Beirut, suggesting an alternative kind of building to play the role of the Middle East Arab Guggenheim Museum
In the last biennial of
His participation in “How to Live Together” biennial gained the admire of his artist fellows, visitors and art critics from the first day of the event. The samba platform was so crowded during the opening, that I had to make gran efforts,struggling among the spectators, in order to take some photos, like the one below (pag.3) with Ambramovic, chattering with the artist while watching the performance…
Of course, that great success it’s not an easy incident for a “third world” originated artist, who was participating at the biennale completely on his own forces, without the support of a gallery, a commissioner or even a curator. However, his success doesn’t personally surprise me or those who know the radical character of his activities;
In fact, I’m one among those who strongly believe that he would surely be one of the most known pioneer figures of the nineties if he wouldn’t himself repeatedly refused to play the game of art system, believing that political art should find alternative ways to act. Even if, in a very young age, he had drawn near international establishment and recognition through his participations in significant exhibitions, he had never accepted to collaborate with powerful galleries. Thus, when the Dakis Ioannou collection, had presented his work (soon after his first participation in Venice biennale in 1997) in the glamorous “Global Vision” five artists show, with Chris Offili, Kcho, Kara Walker and Yinka Shonibare, Charalambidis was somewhere across the Ireland’s borders, sticking up anonymous posters of the Queen Elisabeth (photo below) propagandizing his project “The Arab Guggenheim Museum”. Actually another version of his Rumbling/Rambling Museum, “The Arab Guggenheim Museum” was also the conceptual framework of one of the other large-scale emblematic constructions that accompanied the Samba platform in
Charalambidis envisaged his “
Ambramovic whispering: you made the real thing to Charalambidis. She was certainly
only one of the many artists who were fascinated by Carnival Pause. Alfons Hug the German curatot of the ex Sao Paolo biennale was probably the first one who had distinguished publicly, even from the day before the opening Charalambidis’political intervention; while Rafal Niemojewski at his report in Art Forum (19-10-2006) had declaired : The biennial’s set piece was definitely Nikos Charalambidis’s Social Gym, 2006, a carnival float filled with soldiers and samba dancers, while the neighbouring installation by Thomas Hirschhorn looked blunt and generic (and was, for me, the show’s biggest disappointment)…
Recently, I met Charalambidis in
Volunteer soldiers are dismantling the barricade barrels at three points of the Green Line in
Since the late eighties, Charalambidis’ multi-media practice has been informed by an intense sense of politicised space, drawing strongly on his experiences as a child, when he and his family were forced to leave their home in the north of Cyprus by the invasion of the Turkish army. Reflecting aspects of his particular position as a
refugee and an emigrant, he had initiated (two decades ago) issues of residence and anti-residence, nomadism, place and “non-place”. Even from his very first participations in international exhibitions, he had established interactive practices, conducting performances, participatory workshops and situations that encouraged the spectators to “use” his works, transferring actually the private emotion into the public arena and questioning the formal, social and cultural implications of modernist architecture, so as the politics of those days. From 1984 (at the age of seventeen) till 1986 he had served his military service at the Green Line, the buffer zone between Greeks and Turks in Cyprus,
during a very hard period for the relationships of these two parts; at that period, even a long soldier’s gaze over the dividing wall, could be a dangerous gesture and the artist himself was indeed a witness of the assassination of two of his companion soldiers during his military service.
One of the first Charalambidis’ interventional events in 1989 at the Green Line was a subtly and rather allegorical homage to the movement of Situationist International.
Charalambidis conceived at that time, that any form of artistic activity in the territory would be infinitely preferable to bloody conflict thus, the idea of a rambling museum, in the form of a participatory artistic platform, could activate the area, providing a representative, exemplary model for other contested areas as well, like in Lebanon, Ireland and Gaza’s strip. Of course in practice the authorities were bound to get in the way and real soon it was quite clear to him that if his will was to carry on this vision, this would be certainly a lonely procedure. In nowadays, twenty years later, political art is “trendy”. Soon after Cyprus had been assigned to organise and host Manifesta 6, many Cypriot artists, had become “political artists” and almost every single one has now at least one project related to the Green Line…
In 2003, Charalambidis had represented
Arrayed furniture and structural elements, transferred from the artist’s house to an alternative carnival procession.
Over the years Charalambidis has established an interdisciplinary way of working, involving local communities, universities and scientists, even military camps in his “Social Gym” projects. Combining
Professor at the Aegian
The “Malevich construction” is made mainly out of glass and metal frames, though the several levels of the museum are based on metal columns as mentioned before.
Apart from the top units (artists’ multimedia lab /conference-room) and dark rooms for video installations, the 1st, 2nd and 3d floor are made of hemi-transparent glass. The rest of the surfaces are wooden parts. As for the various segmentations inside the museum, panels made out of compressed paper will be used so as to achieve a result as light as possible.
As an inner form of the museum,
especially regarding the ground level,
can be organized concerning its exhibitions needs.
This can be achieved by using the compressed paper-panels
in order to isolate works or create group of works.
.*Starbucks company, as for its corporate social responsibility (CSR), offered to build a coffee shop into the museum and offer its products at cost prices. Also, in collaboration with the museum, Starbucks is gathering through its stores all over the world, English books in order to provide local students with such an educational material (literature, art, philosophy, English) .
On top of the building there are two main units of great importance. The Guggenheim Foundation, apart from having the group of the assistant buildings surrounding the museum, functioning as workshops or studios for artists, thought of having a similar unit incorporated in the main building. This unit’s differentiation is based upon the focus on multimedia practices and computer lab facilities’ usage. Apart from the equipment offered by the museum, educational programs/seminars on new technology techniques and program use are also going to take place. This happens so as to stimulate local artists’ interest concerning contemporary mediums for art production and encourage them to produce artworks under this new aspect, maintaining though their own distinct local character a point of view.
A parallel workshop had begin along with the opening of the biennial of Thessaloniki and runned till the conclusion of the exhibition. The prospective of inviting the students from the school of Fine Arts to get involved in the project was of great importance. Having the original Mies monument as pattern they proposed ways/solutions of transforming this emblematic structure into a museum. As artists, they presented particular architectural models made out of various material, making also sketches, drawings and 3D plans. Creating 3D visiting plans of the interiors of the museum, they had the opportunity organise an entire exhibition displaying their own artworks in the museum’s imaginary spaces, their artworks/proposals, following the political concept of the museum most probably within a relevant political framework . Thus, the project of having a portable “portfolio” of their works that functions as a political statement, a kind of a political traveling manifesto.
snapshots from the activities involving the Athens School of Fine Arts alumni
photos by Yiannis Papadopoulos
The construction of the museum had to be such, which could be easily dismantled and carried. It had to be light and easy to reconstruct in any case. The architect thought of using raw materials that could be found in the local area and ended up in using sun-dried cow’s remnants along with mud, for the external cover of the museum. These brick-textured panels will be set on metal unfolding structures bound with each other and based on metal columns. On the back side of the museum, a glass-frame construction has been set on parts of the surface and also another one on the top
of the museum, right in the middle.
According to the new version, the monument is transformed into a transportable building, to house the