Athens

Maria Zervou

Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center

In this exhibition, Maria Zervou’s recent video installations and drawings were bracketed between two earlier videos, demonstrating the continuity of her work over the past five years. The show opened with Out of Silk, 2002, which was projected onto a piece of silk hanging in the ground-floor gallery. The video shows a scene of a woman struggling desperately with the buttons on her diaphanous wedding dress, juxtaposed with one—in the top section of the screen—of a silkworm engaged in the programmed activity of spinning its cocoon. The piece that closed the exhibition, Laundry, 2002, is a glowing image of a laundry filled with gauzy gowns, hung on rails from ceiling to floor—symbolic of customary purification processes. These themes of transformation and transition through space and time, which for Zervou appear to be metaphors for innately feminine experiences, are recapitulated in her current work.

The exhibition’s title, “Here, Now,” is derived from a 2007 light box in the exhibition that shows a verdant landscape in which a stark white billboard bears those deictic words referring to space and time. But the core of the show was a pair of large freestanding video installations in the main gallery, which was divided into two spaces. Hunting, 2007, begins with the metamorphosis of a pupa into a butterfly and continues with a woman moving through a forest in a circular trajectory as she hunts with a rifle. A stereotypical construal could be that the woman-with-weapon has assumed the powerful and violent role of man-as-predator, but this notion is dispelled when her quarry turns out to be nothing more than a butterfly. As the woman points the weapon at the hapless insect, so the artist points her camera at the woman-predator to “capture” on video this action, which, it would appear, transforms the woman’s role from that of hunter to that of prey, not unlike the butterfly. But elsewhere Zervou depicts her woman seemingly reverting to a more peaceable disposition; in the drawing Paradise, 2007, for example, a lady in a flowing gown, standing holding a rifle loosely at her side, is shown in profile. While her head is hidden behind foliage, she would appear to be gazing through space—across the picture—at the wondrous leaping deer on the opposite side.

The Game, 2007, comprises an irregular wooden construction encasing a video monitor; in the video a girl sits at a narrow table, throwing across its surface little balls that fall into a bucket of water on the floor near her feet. Its pithy subtitle, You Must Play the Game to Know Why You Are Playing the Game, refers, according to the artist, to learning processes required for integration into society and emphasizes the struggle between the natural state of one’s physical being and the cultural conditions one is expected to meet. Zervou seems to suggest, as well, that the socialization process might be either repressive, if acquired mindlessly, or liberating, if the acquisition of skills is coupled with the awareness of their value; the latter condition is illustrated in the drawing Training, 2007, in which a dog trainer holding at bay three ferocious Dobermans is juxtaposed with an endearingly conscientious young girl studying.

Catherine Cafopoulos