Welcome to the fantastical World of Ioanna Pantazopoulou! She is petite woman who thinks, dreams and executes a parallel milieu! Her World can be a place where planes become playgrounds and every day things are repurposed. There is an abandonment of limitations of what something is supposed to function as. It could be a hammock made out of bikinis; toilet paper becomes a momentary monument, and mishaps are merriment. Whether it may be 170 kg of bubblegum causing the whole town smell like a sweet daydream,pasta swelling in an Italian cloister in the rain and then disintegrating. Pastel foam becomes a jumping playground from floor to ceiling. Things aren’t what they were intended for in her world, and there is a definite shift in your perception of assigning items based on what we have been told they are for. Playfulness is a serious business, and she and her team are often surprised how planning precisely meets unpredictability, and it’s all welcomed with joy.
The acronyms encrypt a hidden story behind the project and are often quite funny. For Hydra School Projects in Hydra, Greece, she used plaster, cement and toilet paper, to create a six meters tall Site-specific Ephemeral Monument. She left some toilet rolls purposely untreated and called it “AMWE” – “Absurd Monument Will Expire”. It began to unravel and looked like flags in the wind on top of the town. This monument done a decade ago, almost seems prophetic and could not ring more true as absurd does come to mind given the current status of events around the World!
After moving to Italy for a year, Ioanna decided the quickest way to create a dialogue with her new home would be to build an Ephemeral Monument with a quarter ton of pasta (sent from Bari) in the courtyard of a historic cloister in North Italy. On the day of the opening, it rained and it and the pasta ‘naturally’ got cooked. It swelled and was huge when it dried up it shrank, and if you touched it, it crumbled to dust. She used white silicone, and the locals thought they could eat it. “M.A.P.” 2011, is an Ephemeral Monument made from a ¼ tonne of pasta; it is an epitaph that pays tribute to sensuous pleasure.
In Grand Union Gallery, Birmingham,U.K. she built an entire sculptural installation out of colorful foam scraps. The foam originated from a local factory in the area. During the exhibition, she gave an Artist talk and served bowls of marshmallows for all those that attended. At the finissage of the exhibition, she arranged for a “Foam Party”, people where invited to interact, play and jump on the installation.
“ It’s a moment to question the world around us and how we can make things better”
Describing her hammock sculptures: “I always want to touch art. I wanted to make something that people would be able to touch, feel and enter. To become part of the sculpture, to animate it and complete it. I invited viewers to enter a dreamy place, a comfortable new fantastical environment. The hammocks became almost like costumes, like people were wearing the sculpture, the sculptures would expand and take the form of their bodies… when someone sat in a hammock, it seemed like they where growing sculptures from their backs or like they where flying on a magic carpet!”
The Acronyms on the Titles on most of your works! (I love it) Where did that begin?
IP- The Acronyms are playful. They can stand tor numeral things. Often they are clues to multiple hidden stories behind the sculptures, the history of the objects and how they reach my hands, the journey of the process, a suggestion for an adventure, a fairytale. Sometimes I reveal them and other times, they remain as a secret code that I am happy to reveal if someone asks.
When did the fascination with putting things together start?
IP- I have always been very curious and I still believe we live in a magic world, I often question: what will happen if I do this? and what would happen if I do that? This fascination of putting things together began from my need “to create”, to “build” to understand how things work and to question why things are. How they could change, how they can progress.
Growing up in Athens, were you inspired by the big colossal monuments around you?
IP- Absolutely! I think this is infiltrated in my DNA. The Parthenon is definitely a predominant inspiration; this fantastic 2500 year old monument from the finest crisp Pendelic marble is a symbol of power, wealth and culture. Growing up in Athens, the Parthenon is Forever! It is a symbol of perfection and permanence; It is one of the 7 wonders of the world and the ultimate inspiration to look up to!
For years I have been exploring what the contemporary permanent or impermanent monument would look like, what would it symbolize, pay tribute too…This has lead me to often create large scale ‘Ephemeral Monuments’, like A.M.W.E., M.A.P., B.A. and M.A.S.S. I still search for the ultimate contemporary monument and what it could be.
Definitely the Colossal monuments of Greece have played a huge role in my work and what I do today…This had lead me to create monuments, shrines, dwellings out of everyday materials…some are ephemeral and some are permanent. For example:
What gave you the idea to repurpose objects in a grandiose way?
IP- All objects around us are the creation of someone, whether it is a design for a functional mass-produced object or a one-off had crafted one. To be able to point attention to the everyday objects we take for granted gives a moment of pause and contemplation. Nowadays when something breaks we replace it with a new one, in the past people would mend, fix and find ways to patch things in order to make them work again. There is a Greek word, πατέντα (pronounced ‘patenta’) which is a very particular inventive way of mending, fixing or upgrading things. A Πατέντα is a unique solution to a technical problem solved in an unconventional inventive way. I enjoy playing with this notion.
For me repurposing these things and giving them a ‘new life’ a way in which to question a journey, things that have been discarded, are unwanted or have ‘expired’ and have no use anymore, now they are reinvented. I like to think of it like a proposal, a suggestion or a solution. It’s a moment to question the world around us and how we can make things better, question norms, social conventions, traditions, customs, culture and morality.
We don’t necessarily need new things-we have the tools and with what we already have we can make it a better place.
Is there an empathy for the objects themselves, or for the environment, or both, or is it doing something completely different with an unexpected object that you fancy?
IP- There is both empathy for the objects and definitely empathy for the environment. There is empathy for history and great appreciation for the people that put so much effort in designing and fabricating these things. I feel that these objects are charged with so much energy.
What are you working on now?
IP- Currently, I am taking part in a Group Show called “Hypothetical Function” curated by Ben Tollefson, at SCAD University in Savvanah,GA.The show will be up until May 2020 and I am exhibiting the Carousel interactive Hammock Installation Oasis T.E.E. (The Exotic Express) and the W.O.F.T.(Wheel Of Fortune Triumph) a wall sculpture composed of 20 fabric woven magic broomsticks!
I am super excited to be working on a new body of work for my forthcoming solo show at Hesse Flatow Gallery, New York, which opens this Spring. I will be taking over 3 rooms of the gallery and each room will be its own unique experience.
Most of your work, is assembled and reassembled, or gets modified, so its never quite the same. Do you love the metamorphical journey?
IP- I love it! The work changes when it is shown somewhere else, even if the composition doesn’t change the audience does, and thus the responses.
What inspires the beginning of a project?
IP- Often the materials I use spark the journey of the project. I am interested in materials and objects that tell a story. Through experimentation and unexpected combinations of trial and error, the process of the work unravels into a fantastical experience that surprises me each time.
What is the strangest material you have ever worked with?
IP- To be honest, I find all the materials I use each time so strange! Synthetic plastic feather dusters which are called “magic- dusters”, a plastic life-size ‘ecological’ palm tree that is meant to last forever, gold super shiny sneakers with Led lights, pastel-candy coloured foam scraps (that I later found out where colour codes from the factory defining the density of each foam), popcorn, 1000s of banknotes that have no value…the list can go on…all these things are sooo strange!
What is the most interesting thing you have been offered in bulk?
IP- A disintegrated canvas sack of 1000s of gold plated award tokens from the 1930s is a great example. These tokens never ended up being awarded to anyone. A sac-voyage filled with discarded old North Korean banknotes (purchased at the Athens flea market),that have no value anymore. Metallic gold sneakers that light up with LED lights, 1000s of beautiful and colourful PAOLITA Bikinis that can’t be sold because they are considered ‘old stock’, 170kg of ‘expired’ Chewing Gum(even though technically chewing gum doesn’t expire), 250kg of Pasta, 5000 toilet rolls etc
How do you move it all?
IP- Magic and my strong big muscles☺
How long does each project take?
IP-It depends. Some ideas might take an instant and others may take months to grow…then it depends on the location …site specific is important… I will get my materials and the magic happens immediately. But usually due to the large scale, labour intensive work and the large quantities they take months of research, planning and execution.
“My work aims to disrupt, transform and challenge the habitual approach we take to spaces and objects.”
What would you like to bring awareness to?
IP- I wish for my artworks to be able to speak to as many people as possible.
I aspire to invite people to take a closer look; to question things with the curiosity of a child, to discover and to challenge notions, to enter a fairytale world and offer new perspectives. My work aims to disrupt, transform and challenge the habitual approach we take to spaces and objects. To encourage the consideration of the relationships between a number of components and the interaction between things and their contexts.
I question and explore the physical and functional properties of materials and discarded objects. It is important for me to transform these large quantities, whatever they may be each time, whether it’s toilet paper or previously I’ve used pasta or vintage motorcycle jackets, into building materials. In real life, often these objects have lost their original function, but they still do exist and assume another life in the sculptures.
This disambiguation of commodities cross-examines the relationship between humanity and the current political state of material excess. But more than a critique, I wish to offer a symbolic solution by refusing to classify the expired materials as waste. The challenge is in the process of rebuilding these everyday materials anew.
In addition to the reconfiguration of global detritus, the sculptures extend and explore architecture and the subject’s position in space. I wish to encourage playfulness and create a sensorial experience.
I’m interested in the materials but also architecture. While I was in Africa I saw how resourceful people are with building. I want people to enter my sculptures, see what’s inside, the way they are built and be surrounded with a new environment, to experience something new and familiar at the same time. I want to share this social, political and cultural curiosity with my audience.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
IP- I am extremely honoured and thrilled to be included in the awesome publication “100 SCULPTORS OF TOMORROW” by Kurt Beers published by Thames & Hudson, amongst so many talented artists!
Who has supported you the most?
IP- My mother has always been my rock and my father has always been my hero..
You can see more of her work on her website: www.ioannapantaz.com