Danai Anesiadou, Safino Green Doula, 2016, mixed media, 34 3/4 × 25 1/4 × 1 1/2".

Danai Anesiadou, Safino Green Doula, 2016, mixed media, 34 3/4 × 25 1/4 × 1 1/2".

Danai Anesiadou

Wilkinson Gallery

Danai Anesiadou, Safino Green Doula, 2016, mixed media, 34 3/4 × 25 1/4 × 1 1/2".

Imagine a museum display re-creating a trashy psychedelic party whose attendees include Catherine Deneuve dressed as a princess in Jacques Demy’s 1970 fairy-tale film Donkey Skin; Abe Sada, a woman notorious for erotically asphyxiating and severing her lover’s penis in 1930s Japan; and actress Isabelle Illiers, topless and wrapped in chains for her role in The Fruits of Passion, Shūji Terayama’s 1981 takeoff on The Story of O. The fete is staged in a building modeled on a Greek temple destroyed in an explosive apocalypse; the partygoers’ possessions are stored in ziplock plastic bags as if saved from an archaeological dig. That was Danai Anesiadou’s exhibition “Safino Mapola” (which, loosely translated from Greek slang, means, “I leave you with everything”).

In this flamboyantly theatrical set-up, sections of three walls housed paste-ups of large printed collages—which Anesiadou describes as “tapestries”—featuring the aforementioned characters, with plastic three-dimensional molds of architectural details such as Greek pillars on top; each is a separate work, one titled Safino Mappola, 2016, the other two Untitled, 2016. On these, and around all four walls, hung numerous rectangular assemblages of everyday objects (books, socks, clothes, small electronic goods such as earphones and a laptop) vacuum-packed in storage bags—most of these were Untitled and dated 2015 or 2016, or else given friends’ names, such as Sotiris, 2016.

The largest “tapestry” scenography, Safino Mapola, covered the back wall of the gallery. Two images of Deneuve’s princess, one wearing the gown of the moon and one the gown of the sun, are pasted horizontally, flanking stairs that lead to Illiers’s breasts. Anesiadou’s gestures toward a camp performance of femininity recall the pop-surrealist, psychedelic collages Linder began making in the ’70s.

The plastic-bag sculptures were inspired by Anesiadou’s move in 2015 from Belgium to Greece. In the process, she decided to seal all her belongings into IKEA ziplock vacuum bags, compressing them to become flat and airtight. In order to achieve this, she had to compose the objects carefully, and in her eyes the bagged items became a form of portable sculpture and a kind of self-portrait. Their conceptual and aesthetic roots are in Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise, 1935–41, Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines, 1954–64, and Joseph Cornell’s boxes—but Anesiadou seems to be poking fun at the way those works, which seemed so radical in their time, were so laboriously created. By contrast, her ziplocked assemblages seem humorously casual; however, placed within this scene of women who have lived through some form of transformative humiliation—Deneuve’s princess had a father who longed to marry her, Abe was publicly tried, and Illiers’s character O is placed in a brothel for submission “training”—they read as slightly pathetic memento mori.

For this exhibition, Anesiadou asked everyone who worked at the gallery to contribute to the project. Gallery owner Amanda Wilkinson chose to donate a collection of fluffy toy rabbits belonging to her teenage daughter Alice, and Anesiadou placed one in each work, hidden behind other objects collected elsewhere—creating rabbit holes for Alice in Anesiadou’s own wonderland. Cuddly toys are widely considered to be “transitional objects”—psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s term for things children use for comfort to replace their mother, as they progress from babies to children; and one that Mike Kelley repeatedly returned to in his use of discarded toys, a subject he explored in his 1993 essay “Playing with Dead Things: On the Uncanny.” Anesiadou’s plastic-sheathed possessions, recalling her transition from one country to another, might function similarly. The objects are like small bodies sealed in body bags, now purposeless or dead, only existing as vessels of their owner’s past, souvenirs of the evolution from one life to the next. And it is this notion of transformation that reappears and repeats throughout the exhibition in the stories of all the characters—Alice, Amanda, Catherine, Danai, Isabelle, and Sada.

Kathy Noble