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How to be seen (and heard) | The poetics of failure

Work in progress, Sept 2019-

THE POETICS OF FAILURE is taking place in the context of the project ‘How to be seen (and heard)’ (2017-). The current phase of the project (Sept 2019-) consists of the installation of plaques and signs bearing my name or face, in different places around the world. On first reflection, this action seems as an aggressive self-promotion, an annoying, solely narcissistic act. But is it? These signs are both makeshift and ephemeral, doomed to fail from the outset and therefore unable to sustain any permanent gesture of self-aggrandizement. Furthermore, given that this project has not relied on any external funding, this ‘egomaniacal’ gesture actually relies on the generosity of colleagues, friends, acquaintances and sometimes total strangers. They form a growing network of support that prints, constructs, and places these signs and posters, often without taking any money for it.

The project comments on the significance of the cultural, socio-political, and economic contexts of artistic production. What is the difference of belonging to an art scene either at the center or at the periphery of international circuits? How is art produced in the absence of state patronage? Is it material and pertinent that the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens remains closed? Why have there been comparatively few Greek contemporary artists of international renown? Who has the right to visibility? Whose voice has value?
This project concerns and indexes the antagonisms, hegemonies and hierarchies that exist within the artworld; but it’s also about death. About life and death, flesh, blood and history. It’s about being mortal and vulnerable. It’s about being ephemeral and fragile. A quixotic attempt to leave one’s mark, or, put differently, an attempt to design.


‘How to be seen (and heard)’ (2017- ) is a project on the politics of artistic visibility and the poetics of failure, consisting of a series of -initially doomed to fail- self-promoting actions.

The projects consists of a series of actions and presentations:

‘How to be seen (and heard) 1’ : Video installation and performance, MM centre, Zagreb, Croatia, 2017. In the context of Temporary Academy of Arts curated by Elpida Karaba and Glykeria Stathopoulou and the Actopolis Zagreb exhibition, curated by Ana Dana Beroš.

‘How to be seen (and heard) 2’: Action, In situ installation, Delphi, Greece, Sept. 2017. Action, Performed by Thodoris kakitsos and Evriviades Goro, Amfissa, Greece, Okt. 2017. Mixed media installation, Amfissa, Greece, Okt. 2017. In the context of The Symptom Projects 08 curated by Elpida Karaba and Glykeria Stathopoulou.

‘How to be seen (and heard) | Outis | A self-monument in Point Nemo': Work in progress, 2017-. Presentation: Panos Sklavenitis ‘How to be seen at Point Nemo’ MEME, Kerameikou 28, 104 36, Athens, Greece, 22/11/17. In the context of Open form, curated by Denise Araouzou.

‘How to be seen (and heard)’ started as a response to a public statement regarding the Athenian art scene addressed by the artistic director of documenta 14: ‘Our exhibition never wanted to represent the Athenian art scene. Others are supposed to do that. If people do not feel so represented here, then they should think about why they are not heard.’
(Excerpt from an interview in Deutschlandfunk Kultur, May 14, 2017).

“They should think about why they are not heard.”

A prompting that actually sounds quite provocative when is addressed to the artistic scene of a country of the periphery, with an almost non-existing cultural industry, which enjoys financial support only from private operators that one can count on the fingers of one hand. Such a statement seems to forget that an artistic product does not grow in nature, in harmony with the universe, happily among the other little plants but it is produced under very specific and absolutely decisive for its fate, historical, cultural, socio-political and economic conditions and that in the art world, one will come across the same hegemonic, hierarchical and power structures and he would face the same antagonisms as in any other field of human activity.

Who can be heard then? Who has a voice and whose voice has value?
Who has the right to visibility?

In the context of the ‘How to be seen (and heard)’ project, I am trying to entertain the idea rather than provide solid answers. I take the above-mentioned prompting literally and try to find imaginative ways to “be heard”. However, I always take care to fail: a screening of my face, huge and hegemonic, on the screen of a cinema in Zagreb, but an empty one.
A sign-monument with the inscription “this is the place where artist Panos Sklavenitis once stood for a while” written in twenty different languages and placed for a day, in a dominant but inaccessible spot in the touristic village of Delphi, Greece. Two disguised performers holding labels with my name and walking for hours in the small, provincial town of Amfissa but without giving any further information to those who ask to know who this Panos Sklavenitis finally is!
In fact this is something I ask myself often during this project: when the subject of these actions is me, a person, with ambitions, dreams, claims and disappointments and when it’s a collective subject, the Athenian/greek/peripheral art scene that fails to be visible, to be seen and heard (and of course to be represented) through my actions?

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