The international group exhibition Elefsina Mon Amour is the flagship contemporary art event of 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture. Curated by Katerina Gregos – Artistic Director of ΕΜSΤ, the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens – the exhibition posits a socio-political reading of landscape, space, and place inspired by the book Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (2008), where the influential writer, historian, environmentalist, and activist Rebecca Solnit analyses politics through place.
Taking this approach as its point of departure, Elefsina Mon Amour aims – as Solnit does in her book – to reveal “beauty in the harshest landscape and political struggle in the most apparently serene view,” thus conjoining politics, poetics, and aesthetics. The exhibition will also take into account the historical past, which has been instrumental in defining the current identity of the city. It will thus suture memory and experience, space and time, past and present. Many artists will each explore a particular chapter of Elefsina’s history and present – public as well as private – to reveal its traumas and hopes, and how these are often inter-connected.
Though many artworks will take their cue from the locality of Elefsina, their meaning and significance will relate to wider contemporary social and geo-political issues and processes. As a post-industrial case study, the city is an ideal place for examining some of the major global processes and critical issues of our time: from economic restructuring, and transformations in industrial production and work to environmental questions, migration, citizenship, human rights, and cultural identity.
Twisting the title of Alain Resnais’ seminal 1959 film Hiroshima Mon Amour, the exhibition looks beyond the suggested legacy of devastation – brought on in the case of Elefsina not by war but by heavy industry – and into manifestations of resilience, solidarity, hope, and commonality. The questions raised in Resnais’ film are still fundamental and contested; must one forget the past in order to move into the future? Or must we reckon with the past in order to be able to deal with this future?
Elefsina, with its layers of history and its future industrial archaeology, seems a perfect place in which to engage these questions. If Hiroshima Mon Amour looked into an emotionally fragile post-war world, Elefsina Mon Amour shifts its gaze to a post-industrial world in transition and looming uncertainty.
Maarten Vanden Eynde, A Chain of Events, 2021