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- Copy from advertisement for Charles Atlas' Dynamic Tension® fitness regime
You don’t really see a muscle as a part of you, in a way. You see it as a thing... You form it. Just like a sculpture.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
The exhibition SuperNature: An Exercise in Loads at AMP Gallery uses professional bodybuilders as its point of departure, focusing on the hyper-transformation that a bodybuilder undertakes to challenge the limits of nature in sculpting his figure. Curated by Rallou Panagiotou and Andreas Melas, this ambitious exhibition includes artworks that relate somewhat loosely to concepts of transformation, the body, nature and its manipulations. SuperNature sets up an intriguing analogy between an artist and a body builder—both transform raw material through a process of desire and discipline (vanity, effort, anxiety) to display the new exploited product.
Inspired by the first bodybuilding gym in Athens, the curators commissioned a video filmed at the gym that is projected throughout the show. The video repeats mundane scenes of bulky guys pumping iron while the camera focuses on old photographs of bodybuilding heroes that hang alongside artworks from the exhibition temporarily installed on the walls of the gym. Overextending the exhibition’s theme, the video seems to primarily serve as a device to tie together the show’s disparate works. The connection between art and bodybuilding was further highlighted at the opening reception in a brief performance of bodybuilders displaying their sculpted forms. It was a strange moment where the spectacle of performance art collapsed with the displays of professional bodybuilding competitions, all the while invoking the ancient Greek’s appreciation of athleticism and sport.
AMP Gallery is unique in Athens for its willingness to attempt adventurous, museum-quality exhibitions and there certainly are some great artworks in this show. The standouts are paintings of a bottle opener in the shape of a statuesque physique by Amy Bessone, Phantom Limp, 2003/2010, a giant stainless steel bucket containing pieces of raw meat rendered in plastic by George Lappas, and photographs from performances by Viennese Actionists Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Gunter Brus. Two videos by Los Angeles artist Jennifer West, Naked Deep Creek Hot Springs Film and Regressive Squirty Sauce Film, both 2007, use the artist’s signature process of subjecting film stock to various materials (rubbing the film in sweat, splattering it with ketchup and chocolate sauce, or soaking it in lithium hot springs and Jack Daniels). The resulting films are abstract and mesmerizing environmental projections. Nevada, 1974, is an elegant video by Charles Atlas, who ironically bears the same name as the bodybuilding movement’s most successful American salesman. And a surprising photograph shows the little-known Greek artist Diohandi of her fake ancient archeological site installed on an Athens rooftop from her 1985 exhibition at the Dracos Art Center begs for further investigation of this artist’s work.
Though numerous works display nicely together, unfortunately for SuperNature in the exhibition’s otherwise muscular premise. however, detours of gratuitous artworks detract from uncovering further subtleties
- Stacen Berg
Images from the opening night by the author, courtesy of AMP, the artists, and the bodybuilders.
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