Sunday, March 31, 2013


Sheltered, 2013
wood, ceramic, modelling clay, stone, spray, nylon, acrylic, 55 x 28 x 9 cm

The Madness of Puppets

What is this thing that I recognize, that seems to know me, when I come upon it on a street corner, in a park, or in the shadows of a theater, moving up on that small stage? What is this creature that burrows out of shadows, into the light, a remnant of something, hardheaded, often squeaking and ugly, moving with such odd, unpredictable motion, or just lying still, folded up on itself, a little warm, patiently gathering strength for some new movement? I wonder about the world in which this creature lives. I wonder more what it knows about our world.
The madness of the puppet. It lies along a line or spectrum of things. It might be a very ordinary form of madness. The madness lies in the hidden movements of the hand, the curious impulse and skill by which a person’s hand can make itself into the animating impulse, the intelligence or soul, of an inanimate object—it is an extension of that more basic wonder by which we can let this one part of our body become a separate, articulate whole, capable of surprising its owner with its movements, the stories it tells. I call it madness, but it is perhaps better called an ecstasy. It lies in the hand’s power and pleasure in giving itself over to the demands of the object, our curious will to make the object into an actor, something capable of gesture and voice. What strikes me here is the need for a made thing to tell a story, to become a vehicle for a voice, an impulse of character—something very old, and very early. The thing acquires a life.
The madness will also have something to do with the made puppet itself, so often a crude and disproportioned thing, with its staring eye and leering teeth, its tiny hands, the impossible red or blue of its face, barely human in form, like a monster or mistake, a fetus or a corpse. The madness lies in the wild actions that come to belong to that object, that seem, indeed, proper to it: its rhythmic dance, its talent for trickery, its speed of attack, its delicate way with a stick or bit of paper, its skill in disappearance and reappearance. Characters human and inhuman, close to objects. In this theater, what looks like a wooden block or ball, a bundle of rags, a thin silhouette of perforated leather, assumes a voice and personality. In the right hands, a mere strip of paper moved by a string, yielded to accidents of air, can do it. All acquire intentions, what looks like will, even if this belongs to things we think can have no will. All acquire different souls and spirits, all have different stories to tell. They are able to enter into our histories, and reenact our histories.
Then there is the intense, often mysterious quality of the audience’s fascination with these wooden actors, and with the seen and unseen face of the puppet show. Fear there can be, also an unsettling delight, the trace of the intimacy we can achieve with alien things. The playwright Paul Claudel, in 1926, described a puppet show he saw in Japan, though it sounds as much like a performance of the French clown puppet Guignol: “And behind—it’s so amusing to keep well hidden and make someone come to life; to create that little doll that goes in at the eyes of every spectator to strut and posture in his mind! In all those rows of motionless people only this little goblin moves, like the wild elfish soul of all of them. They gaze at him like children, and he sparkles like a little firecracker!” There is something in the puppet that ties its dramatic life more to the shapes of dreams and fantasy, the poetry of the unconscious, than to any realistic drama of human life. That is part of its uncanniness, that its motions and shapes have the look of things we often turn away from or put off or bury. It picks out our madness, or what we fear is our madness. It creates an audience tied together by childlike if not childish things. It is amazing, the scream of children trying to warn Punch that there is a crocodile hiding behind him, a creature who disappears instantly below stage every time that Punch turns around to catch a glimpse of him. Keeping watch on the audience that watches a puppet show is often part of the fascination. François Truffaut’s 1959 film The 400 Blows, as an interlude in its picture of wounded childhood, contains a stunning few minutes of footage showing the faces of an audience of young French children watching a puppet show of Red Riding Hood, each face distinct yet part of a unified sea of wonder. They are wildly absorbed by what they see, crying out warnings (“Le loup! Le loup!”), elated even by their fear for the puppet heroine set upon by a puppet wolf.
Puppet theater has its ambivalences. It can produce less touching forms of fright, a sense of mere creepiness, not to mention a sense of its being something trivial or contemptible. One of Goethe’s Venetian Epigrams (1796) suggests a more violent response: “I fell in love as a boy with a puppet show; / It attracted me for a long time until I destroyed it.” That too is part of the madness I would describe. It is not quite the same as the act of “putting away childish things.” There’s something so loaded, so odd about the very word “puppet” in English that it can’t help but evoke divided responses in those who hear it, even those who are themselves involved in the art. The word derives from the Latin pupa, for little girl or doll, a word still used in entomology to describe the mysterious, more passive middle stage of an insect’s metamorphosis, as the larva is covered in a chrysalis, and awaits reemergence as a winged thing. Such an analogy has some resonance, and yet the word “puppet,” itself a diminutive, still sounds a little like a child’s word, as well as being a word for a child. Used metaphorically, it gets applied to a thing or person both insignificant and subjected to the power of others—not a word people will readily apply to themselves. In Shakespeare’s time, “puppet”—sometimes “poppet”—might be an endearment, but also a term used to derogate both actors and servile politicians, or to mark a woman as a painted seductress, even a prostitute. “Fie, fie, you counterfeit, you puppet, you!” cries Helena to Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, thinking she has stolen her lover. English Protestant reformers employed the word to mock the Roman Catholic use of images and relics, the ceremony of the Mass, indeed, the whole architecture of Catholic ritual. The homemade dolls found in the possession of accused witches, allegedly used to inflict harm by magic, were also called puppets.
This book invites a double vision. The puppet and the idea of the puppet move together here, the actual and imagined, or unknown, puppet, the visible and invisible puppet. I want to trace the sources of the theatrical fascination of puppets, their peculiar powers and limits onstage, but also to touch on broader questions about artistic making. Hence it is that when I describe certain aspects of puppet theater—its ardent indecorums, its talent for metamorphosis, its dismemberings of language and transformations of scale, its materiality, its commitment to giving life to the unliving, its negotiations with death and survival, its love of secrecy and shadows, its literalness, its fundamental strangeness—I want also to convey how these find mirrors in other forms of poetry and fiction, as well as in dramatic art more generally. If the wooden actor holds up a stark mirror to actors of flesh and blood, it also offers a resonant image of our broader relation to the words we speak, their forms of life and death, our relation to material objects, as well as to our own bodies. This is why my descriptions of actual puppet shows are so often folded together here with thoughts about imaginary and figurative puppets, or puppetlike beings, that appear in writings by, among others, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, Emily Dickinson, Carlo Collodi, Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Russell Hoban, Seamus Heaney, and Philip Roth, in the work of visual artists such as Joseph Cornell or Paul Klee, or in a film of Ingmar Bergman’s. In their works we glimpse the fictive puppet as quester, soldier, trickster, survivor, child, angel, animal, and ghost, even as puppeteer. All of these connections help me to take the measure of the puppet as a metaphor of human making, a form of life. A wooden head opens up strange worlds.

Text by Kenneth Gross
Excerpted from pages 1-10 of Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life by Kenneth Gross, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2012 by The University of Chicago

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gra(m)mary of Puppetry

Five years on from his last show at Monitor, we are now pleased to announce the opening of Gra(m)mary of Puppetry, new solo show by the Greek artist Kostis Velonis in our space. The artistic research conducted by Velonis takes its cue from a complex and illustrious artistic heritage spanning Constructivism to Bauhaus, besides drawing on the radical artistic currents of the late-Sixties and and different subspecies of Democracy.
With Gra(m)mary of Puppetry Velonis has charted a philosophical outlook on the world of theatre. Influences from the Classical world, where theatre was one of the major forms of expression and communication, have been worked into an exquisitely contemporary artistic lexicon to develop a kind of psychological ‘atlas’ that Velonis has constructed directly in the gallery, and which sheds light on the nature of object theatre.
Through drawings, photographic prints and sculptures Velonis offers a new interpretation of theatrical performance in which the marionette – in its role of object and storyteller – takes on a wider significance of a strongly political and social nature.
The structure of the artist’s vision – intended almost as a writing process – is used to trace the various stages of the representation together with the almost magical rules that guide it. The delicately executed drawings emphasise the genesis of the marionette -or object moved with the aid of strings (from the greek neurospaston). The collages instead stand as a kind of visual reference road map (Puppet Cosmogony) conceived as an assemblage of documents that deal with certain paradoxes and extremes in object theatre. Within the large spaces of the gallery, the humble, recycled materials of which they are made underscore the apparent abstract nature of the small-scale sculptures. As it turns out, the scale of the objects is a necessary requisite for an unadorned and minimal stage in which the actor – or marionette – is able to move and freely express him/itself.

Kostis Velonis, Gra(m)mary of Puppetry

Opening Thursday March 28th
6-9 pm
Monitor Gallery, Rome
Until May 4th.

Grotto (Every Thought Flies)

Grotto (Every thought flies) 2013
wood, marble, acrylic, oil, 42 x 28 x 24 cm

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Continuous Moment

The eerie technocratic world of Superstudio, taken from The Continuous Moment series 1969. Objects float in a transcendental void of crisp glass and the quiet hum of infinity.

Don’t worry – the endless grid is a metaphor for a social state where all of humanity is constantly connected to a web of information, energy and even matter.


The cowboy stands beneath
a brick-orange moon. The top
of his oblong head is blue. The sheath
of his hips
is too.

In the dark brown night
your cowboy stands quite still.
His plain hands are crossed.
His wrists are embossed white.

In the background night is a house,
has a blue chimney top,
Yi Yi, the cowboy's eyes
are blue. The top of the sky
is too.

Edward Dorn

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Collage wa

Lou Scheper, Collage wa (mural painting Bauhaus workshop), c.1928.

Silent Auction

Αθανασιάδη Αλεξάνδρα,Αιδίνης Διαμαντής. Aκριθάκης Αλέξης (δωρεά Kων/νου Νομικού),Αναλίζα Αζά,Αντσακλή Ζέττα,Αντωνόπουλος Άγγελος,Αργυράκης Μίνως (δωρεά Μαρίνας Ηλιάδη),Αλεξάνδρα Αργύρη,Αυλάμης Αλέξης,Βακιρτζής Γιώργος (δωρεά Μαρίνας Ηλιάδη),Βασιλοπούλου Κλημεντίνη,Βαφειά Κατερίνα,Βελώνης Κωστής,Βενιέρη Λυδία,Βεργίτση Ειρήνη,Βερνίκου Μαρίνα,Βιοπούλου-Βουλγαράκη Στέλλα,Βουρλούμη Ειρήνη,Βουρλούμη Ειρήνη,Βουρλούμης Ανδρέας,Γεωργίου Αλέξανδρος,Γεωργίου Απόστολος,Γλύκα Κατερίνα,Γουζέλη Ιωάννα,Δεληβοριά Μυρτώ,Δρακούλη Ίρις,Zarikian Nany,Ζουράρη Ιοκάστη,Ιγγλέση Αγγελική,Καγκλής Τζουλιάνο,Κάλμπαρη Χριστίνα,Καμπόλης Διονύσης,Καραμανώλης Στέλιος,Καρβούνη Καλλιόπη,Καρέλλα Μαρίνα,Κασιμάτη Πωλίνα,Κατσάμπα Αθηνά,Καχραμάνογλου Μαρία,Κοντογιώργου Μαρία,Κορδάκης Γιώργος,Κοτζαμάνη Αλεξάνδρα,Κόττης Γιάννης,Κουμαντάρου Ευγενία,Κυριακούλης Αντώνης (δωρεά Μαρίνας Ηλιάδη),Μακρή Μυρτώ,Μανέτας Μίλτος,Μανουσάκης Μιχάλης,Μαράκη Μαρία,Μαργέλλου Ηλιοδώρα,Μαρτίνου Ελεάννα,Μάτσα Αλίνα,Μελά Ναταλία,Μελετοπούλου Στέλλα,Μερμίρης Ταξιάρχης,Μηλιαρέση Όλγα,Μυρογιάννη Μαργαρίτα,Παναγιωτοπούλου Αλίκη,Παναγιώτου Ραλλού,Παπαδημητρίου Καίτη,Παπαδόπουλος Λεωνίδας,Παπαδόπουλος Πάνος,Παπαηλιάκης Ηλίας,Πετροπούλου Σοφία,Πολέμη Brigitte,Ρασσιά Έλλη,Ρόκος Στέφανος,Ρουσσοπούλου Λέα, Σάμιος Παύλος, Σβολόπουλος Νίκος, Σενίκογλου Ναταλί,Σούλου Χριστάννα,Στεφάνου Νίκος (δωρεά Ευγενίας Κουμαντάρου),Σπανούδη Λούλα,Τζάννης Αλέξανδρος,Τριανταφυλλίδη Ήρα,Τσαγκάρης Πάνος,Τσιτσόπουλος Φίλιππος,Τσόλκα Μαριαλένα,Τσουκαλά Αλεξάνδρα,Τσουκαλά Ναταλία,Φαμέλης Παναγιώτης,Φραγκουδάκη Μαρία,Φωτιάδης Φίλιππος,Χριστοδούλου Αντωνάκης,Πλουμή Τούλα,De Chirico Giorgio,Gregos Theopsy,Warren Christina,Woozy.

Art of Giving, Silent Auction
Oργάνωση :Μη Κερδοσκοπικό Σωματείο Δεσμός
Τετάρτη, 3 Απριλίου 2013 στην Αθηναΐδα

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Sentence

The maw that rends without tearing, the maggoty claw that serves you, what, my baby buttercup, prunes stewed softly in their own juices or a good slap in the face, there's no accounting for history in any event, even such a one as this one, O, we're knee-deep in this one, you and me, we're practically puppets, making all sorts of fingers dance above us, what do you say, shall we give it another whirl, we can go naked, I suppose, there's nothing to stop us and everything points in that direction, do you think there will be much music later and of what variety, we've that, at least, now that there's plenty of pieces to be gathered by the wool-coated orphans and their musty mums, they'll put us in warm wicker baskets, cover us with a cozy blanket of snow, and carry us home, walking carefully through the rubble and around the landmines, or visa versa, poor little laddy's lost his daddy, pauvre unminted lamb, you'd give him a chuck on the chin if you still had arms, sure as I'd pitch myself into a highland fling for the sake of the neighbors, but they say or at least said once and if we're very quiet we might hear them again, that all of us will reune with all of us when the time comes, our bits and pieces will cling-a-ling to our cores like fillings rag a magnet, think how big we'll be then, we'll spread from sea to see, sky's the limit for philomel and firmament, and there will be Indians and buffalo and a hero's welcome, I've always wanted a hero's welcome, it's due, said the capitulate archduke, doubtless they'll put us in long black cars and someone's sure to have a picnic, that's the beauty of it, someone's always sure to have a picnic, and we'll laugh when they salt and pepper their hard eggs and be glad to lend our long bones for rude goalposts, what's that, that sound, nothing, you say, right again, nothing walks heavily, nothing stomps about, the big turd, carding its beard with a baleen comb, and lovingly licking the mirror in the eggcup, it fixes red-hot ingots to its ears and pirouettes in a pineneedle shawl, showing itself off to one and all, it's a braggart and a pimp, this nothing, ups the short hairs nonetheless, doesn't it, but that's all right, continue making your stew, sun's swallowed and we've plenty of hours to morn, assuming there's to be another dawn, I'm keeping the faith on that one, my friend, my comrade, my comparison, why I'd light a candle and pray, if I weren't afraid of snipers, still, a campfire seems safe enough, at least for cooking, no one'd be so mean as to shoot a man before his supper, what's the sport in that, better to let a body leisure and sup, knowing there's no time to digest, for it's utter contempt you're after, that and the absolute beauty of wasted sweet butter, it was important that the last bite taste better, though saltless, we've St. Maladroit to clap for that, the silvertongued one, he who proved birds traitors for singing what must be sung, thoughtless, dolce, thoughtless, still, perhaps the next one will use a beer batter, make a nice soda bread, slather it with the whitest spread, that's good shooting, my darling, right between hiccoughs, speaking of which, how's your arm, you complained earlier, though quietly, you didn't want to disturb my concentration, I was squeezing oranges into cans and setting up camp, there's so much to do before a battle, don't you agree, put shoes into trees and try our hair in different styles, I thoughtfully chalked some names and addresses on our backs to facilitate false identification of our remains, unfortunately it makes us better targets...
Vanessa Place from Dies: A Sentence, 2006

Monday, March 11, 2013


Lying, 2013
Wood, plywood, acrylic, 88 x 22 x 9 cm 

The Cubies

The Cubies’ ABC was published in the aftermath of the celebrated Armory Show of 1913, the largest and most sensational exhibition of modern art held in the United States.  Designed to appear as little more than a children’s ABC book—where three pyramidal-shape characters take readers on a tour of the modern works included in the exhibition—the actual purpose of The Cubies’ ABC was to introduce the newest manifestations of contemporary art to the public in a humorous and highly ingeniously fashion.  Thus the letter “A” is for “Art, Archipenko and Anatomics,” “B” is for “Braque and “Beauty as Brancusi views it,” “C” is for “Color Cubistic ad libitum,” and “D” is for “Duchamp, the Deep-Dyed Deceiver,” whose Nude Descending a Staircaseis rendered in the illustration as an accordion in need of repair.  The rhyming text in the book was written by Mary Mills Lyall, and the drawings were by her husband, Earl Harvey Lyall (an architect who had studied at Amherst College, Columbia University and, for a brief period, in Paris).  When The Cubies’ ABC appeared in 1913, The Dial declared it “the oddest little color book of the season,” telling readers that “the book must be seen and read to be appreciated.”

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Yours in Solidarity

The extensive art project Yours in Solidarity that began in 2010, investigates the contemporary history of anarchism and is presented for the first time at New Art Space Amsterdam (NASA) in its entirety. Nicoline van Harskamp creates a complex and resounding portrait of anarchism’s supporters through analyses of the correspondence archive of the late Dutch anarchist Karl Max Kreuger, now housed in the International Institute for Social History (IISG) in Amsterdam. From 1988 until 1999, Kreuger corresponded by post with approximately 400 fellow anarchists worldwide. Through the study of respective political observations and handwriting analysis of some 60 letter writers, Nicoline van Harskamp re-activated the proponents’ life stories. Using actors of the relevant age and nationality, in a fully staged meeting of international correspondents, the artist suggests what would happen if they were to meet today. The resulting work is a reflective archive of Nicoline van Harskamp’s notes and copied extracts of over 1000 letters including video documentation of individual working sessions with actors and a film.

As in other recent works like New Latin (2010) and Any other Business (2009-2012), Nicoline van Harskamp addresses the power of the spoken word and its ability to shape thought and political ideals. Yours in Solidarity also charts a turning-point in the neo-liberal context following the demise of post-war idealism after 1989, whilst drawing reference to our current anti-authoritarian imperative and mainstream anti-capitalist opposition. The work, named after a much-used anarchist sign-off, directly engages the numerous theories of anarchism that are still critical today and its definition of paradoxical pairs such as scepticism and dogmatism; affinity and identity; direct action and symbolic action.

Reading Anarchism

Throughout the course of the exhibition an intensive programme of talks under the name Reading Anarchism is organised to take place on Wednesday evenings. In the closing-week of the exhibition a full public reading-day will be held with invited speakers. Guests with an affinity for the subject are invited to prepare a presentation on a book or article from the online archive of anarchist writing. Speakers include: Michnea Mircan, Geert Lovink, Mariko Peters, Ahmet Öğüt, Charles Esche, Elena Bajo, Nienke Terpsma, Frans Bromet, Bea de Visser and Jan Ritsema.

Reading Anarchism encourages audience members to read the same texts and inspire further reading. The names of the guests and their chosen book titles will be announced online and in the exhibition space. All titles will be available as a laser printed booklet at NASA, and can be downloaded for free at

For further information about the exhibition and updates on Reading Anarchism’s dates, guests and literature go to

Opening Saturday 9 March.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Text and Commentary

Beryl Korot, "Text and Commentary," 1976
Videotape notation for minutes 13 to 18