© Panos Sklavenitis. All Rights Reserved.

#thehead | On becoming an animal

Mixed media installation, Islahane, Thessaloniki, Gr, 2023
In the context of Being as communion, the central exhibition of Thessalloniki biennale curated by Maria - Thalia Carras.

What do a mascot, a bell-wearing carnival koudounoforos, an activist, and a visual 
artist have in common? Which worlds are connected through masquerading and
what transcendences or transgressions does this practice allow? What becomes of
us when we hide our face or change our age, gender, species? Who are we when
we put on ‘another’ head?
#thehead is a research project in progress: Sklavenitis is on the constant look out
for carnival practices as well as masquerades from different contexts and
environments. In his videos, artists, activists, performers, masked children and
koudounoforoi, from different Greek regions, present their costumes, rituals, and
Paper, fabrics, face paints, raw meat and shellfish, flowers, various accessories and
paraphernalia, bells, animal hides and tails, horns, skins, and hair, are used for the
costumes, attached to the skin, held to the face and the body with ropes or fishing
lines, or carefully processed to create a headdress. The modern and traditional
performances include zoomorphic disguises, unorthodox pranks, visual
performances, carnival dances, self-injuries, violence, spells and displays of
All these disparate worlds unexpectedly intersect in Thessaloniki's Islahane, where
costumes of past and future performances are placed on props, while masks―both
original and traditional―are fixed οn the beams of the historical building. In the last
room, various products, tools, and objects from the former technical school may be
seen on the floor and on shelves. Between them, small screens project fourteen
selected videos from #thehead's video archive.
The recordings follow a fragmented rhythm of close-ups and long shots. Behind the
camera Sklavenitis observes and takes “visual” notes of these disparate practices.
He also displays a similar, observational disposition in his performances, often
avoiding to participate in them. The disguises and performances Sklavenitis curates
are laden with disparate references. The zoomorphic (or anthropomorphic)
creatures, in the performances, seem trapped in a state of pseudo-transformation.
The ephemeral hybrid identities emerge from what they were forced to wear and
carry, from what the individuals behind the ‘mask’ imagine, and from the
transcendent acts that occur, momentarily, during his performances.
The opening of the main exhibition of the 8th Thessaloniki Biennale of
Contemporary Art is the first time that Sklavenitis will curate, as an observer, an
unexpected―and otherwise rather unlikely―meeting of the disparate worlds that
constitute #thehead. Each individual and group wears its own costume, and
performs its own ritual, in a crowded euphoric carnivalistic march through
Thessaloniki’s city centre.

Text by Foteini Salvaridi

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