Written by Alexis Fidetzis
Installation (digital thermal plates, dexion, marble, plastic, 250x480x180cm)
Presented in Yeni Jami in Thessaloniki (a Donmeh Mosque of the early 20th century) the piece stands as a religious relic as it narrates the unbelievable story of the Greek Pavilion of the 1900 Paris International Exposition and its transformation to a Christian Orthodox church in Athens. The story begins with an assasination attempt against King George of Greece that occured in 1898. As he was not harmed, the city of Athens wanted to dedicate a church to Christ The Saviour for protecting the King. But due to lack of funds, construction was halted.
Subsequently in the Balkans, Turkish and Slavic nationalism was on the rise, leading several ethnic groups to claim Ottoman territory that was also coveted by the small Hellenic kingdom. Therefore Greece was very much interested in presenting its geographical claim to the region of Macedonia as a matter of historical justice, by coloring the Eastern Roman Empire as the missing link between contemporary and ancient Greece, as the embodiment of medieval greekness. The International Expositions that were taking place around the world at the time were a great opportunity for cultural politics as each country had the chance to be seen as it wished on the world stage. Within this environment the choice of Greece to have a pavilion that looked exactly like a byzantine church seems rather fitting.
As the Exposition ended and the pavilion returned to Piraeus inside 77 wooden crates, the mayor of Athens looked at a chance to fulfill his obligation to the crown. Therefore, the pavilion was reconstructed where the assasination attempt took place -and still stands to this day. It was thereafter named a church and was dedicated to Christ the Saviour even though elements of its architecture betrays to the viewer its original mission.
The incident in its bizarreness gives an interesting insight into the cultural claims the Greek state had towards medieval Byzantine and Roman heritage in order to fortify a greek national genealogy at the turn of the century.
Curated by Nikos Mykoniatis