MouSou* team (Maria Nymfiadi and Lea Petrou) is realising the second version of the project ‘Unfold’, which was autonomously created in 2019, on the occasion of the 58th International Art Exhibition of Venice Biennale.
The 59th Biennale, scheduled for 2021, has been postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic and took place in 2022 instead. The MouSou team examined the effects of this “time diversion”, during their visit to the international exhibition, from 15th to 19th of June 2022, and used social media to share the results of their research.
They also improvised on publications, maps and press releases collected during their stay in Venice, in order to record their personal memories, experiences and walks around the city, on the paper archive collection. The recipients to whom the numbered works ‘Unfold 2022‘ were posted, were identified through an open call took place on social media.
The first 59 participants who sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, stating their full name and postal address under the subject ‘Unfold 2022′, had the opportunity to obtain a numbered piece of the ‘Unfold 2022’ series for free.
The MouSou team first met in London, in 2003. Since then, they share ideas, organise and create art projects. The project ‘Unfold’ was created in 2019, on the occasion of the first, inspiring trip of the group to the International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, held in 2005, and continues to grow in space and time. The artists live in Athens and London. For more information on the MouSou project follow this link.
*Mou, Sou in Greek language are personal/possessive pronouns 1st and 2nd person singular,
translated to English Mou is me/my, Sou is you/your
The following text is written by the art curator, critic and writer Gelly Grindaki, for the art project UNFOLD 2022.
Once Upon A Time In Venice
(UNFOLDING OF THOUGHTS ON AN ARTISTIC PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY OF A CITY AND AN EXHIBITION)
Unfold: (unwrap, unravel, unwind, unroll, emerge, evolve, develop, narrate, reveal, occur):
opening of a booklet, a flower or Goldoni’s fan, to the narration of a D’Annunzio’s novel or a Shakespeare’s play or a graphic novel by Hugo Pratt or a film with Katherine Hepburn or a literary game by Calvino, evolving between bridges, fountains and squares, to a process running like water in a canal, to a melody that comes out of a Venetian window developing improvisationally and occupying a city, to a secret that is slowly emerging, like a falling mask, to an idea that branches before it blooms, to a gift with a whimsical wrapping that reveals itself with suspense, to an artistic project that beginning within a city and an exhibition, is developing helically, gradually but unexpectedly.
Venice: a place wrapped in sea, myths, stories, art, melodies, and secrets that swirl, unfold and reveal themselves through the canals. A labyrinthine place, where you get lost easily and effortlessly when you are left to the randomness of wandering like brainstorming, wandering from bridge to bridge, from trattoria to trattoria, from museum to museum and from palazzo to palazzo. Place of unfolding mites and myths.
In its mystery and fascination, Venice, filmic, theatrical, musical, artistic, or historical, becomes a magnificent setting for developing personal narratives that leave multidimensional imprints in the maze of its legend. Most of us who have visited and wandered around have been lost in the net of its lanes; we have been trapped in loops taking us back to the same place, again and again, we have got on the wrong Vaporetto only to disembark on an even more exciting destination, a museum or temple we never would meet otherwise, we have followed the wrong sotoportego, we have created our short or long, comical or not, stories that define the way we have experienced it and the way we will then describe it, orally or in writing or even through an artwork.
In 1980 Sophie Calle went to Venice, secretly following an unknown man she met at a party. Without passion, program, and purpose, she lets her trip unravel based on this hidden pursuit. Seeking the creativity hidden in the unfolding of randomness, Calle tours the city, tracking her target. By recording her improvised methods of gathering information through the local community, combined with her thoughts and feelings as the pursuit progresses, she creates a strange and a little rough personal archive.
In his Theory of Derive Guy Debord says: “In a dérive, one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view, cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. (…) One can dérive alone, but all indications are that the most fruitful numerical arrangement consists of several small groups of two or three people who have reached the same level of awareness since cross-checking these different groups’ impressions makes it possible to arrive at more objective conclusions. It is preferable for the composition of these groups to change from one dérive to another.”
Flâneusy: In her book Flâneuse, author Lauren Elkin writes about her own, personal tour of Venice: “But Venice is not a city you approach with an itinerary: you are certain to get lost, and to be late almost before you’ve set out. Even those blessed with a superior sense of direction are not spared; as you walk through the city the streets rearrange themselves dexterously, like a dealer shuffling cards. If you see a shop or restaurant you’d like to try, do it then and there because the chances of finding it again are slim.”
Venice Biennale: In 2019, the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Ralph Rugoff, was titled “May you live in interesting times”. Title taken from an old Chinese proverb that could be a wish or a curse, aggressive and submissive, ironic, and masculine, mocking and ambivalent— given the widespread economic and environmental crisis that was already developing in the Western world — and ultimately, somewhat tragically ironic, after the outbreak of Covid 19, a little later, which resulted ―among many and much more tragic other things― and the postponement of the next Biennale of 2021.
The 2022 Venice Biennale’s main exhibition, by the first Italian female curator ever, Cecilia Alemani, is titled “The Milk of Dreams”, inspired by a children’s stories collection by the surrealist painter and writer Leonora Carrington. Title dreamy and hopeful, puzzling but calming, feminine and enchanted, open to numerous interpretations and new visions.
Title-wish for the creation of a new world exactly as we dream it.
Psychogeography: “The study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.”
In order to express their opposition to the war that broke out after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Pavilion’s artistic duo, Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov, withdrew their participation from the Venice Biennale 2022. At the same time, another group of two artists, ORTA from Kazakhstan, after their work was lost in the midst of the pandemic and the war, turned into found objects throughout the city and promised us that in November 2022, they will hack the so troublesome current reality by opening a Portal to the Fourth Dimension.
MouSou: MouSou’s projects are about meeting, get-together and sharing experiences through meals, trips, tours, or games, that is, communication and exchange in conditions of carefree and relaxation; qualities that in the last decade –ploughed by social, environmental, financial, political and health crises of all kinds—we kind of missed a lot. By focusing on sensations, narratives, and encounters, MouSou’s works explore the spaces of contact between me and you, mine and yours, the fertile soil where people’s communication, solidarity and multiculturalism sprout, and identities are formed. A key element of this interaction is the act of offering. In their earlier works, for example, the artists have cooked, baked, and treated their audiences with original dishes and cakes, using improvised recipes that approach specific local cultures and cultural differences through the concepts of family and distance. In these recipes members of their genealogical trees inspire the preparation of liqueurs or kilometrical distances between European capitals translate into quantities of cooking materials.
In their new project, a project in the form of a peculiar artistic memoir/travelogue in “Biennalian” Venice ―which began shortly before the pandemic and this year is making its second chapter―, the desirable sharing takes place through an also complex but perhaps more internal process of cultural commentary.
Unfold: after a long, heavily charged period where the very process of travel and human encounter and “mixing” was forbidden, the team travels and tours the legendary and crowded city and exhibition, mixing, meeting, and discussing, while at the same time collecting paper material, and recording the experience through photos, notes and releases in social media, creating thus a peculiar personal-public, experiential archive. Actually, it could be read as an attempt to communicate their very gaze, along with their experience of travel and art, through a strange artistic practice that combines the situationist dérive in the city with a poetic abandonment to the creative randomness of flâneusy.
In order to communicate this attempt, they use not only all contemporary digital means of sharing but also more “old-fashioned” ways, the paper file, the handmade intervention, the letters’ correspondence. The virtual succeeds the real, and the artistic results/works/archival materials of their research are presented online but also sent in real as tangible objects/ gifts (for unfolding) by post.
The artworks that the group choose to use as its base, along with the virtual and actual interventions in them and their communication material, create a platform for sharing their experience of the journey. This way, the work opens out like a situationist map of the city, like an empirical enactment of Venice’s psychogeography during the Biennale, or like a memoir where the “borrowed” information and interaction materials become a language, losing thus their original status, or “unfolding” it to something completely new.
WRITTEN BY GELLY GRINDAKI FOR THE ART PROJECT UNFOLD BY THE ART DUO MOUSOU, THAT TOOK PLACE DURING VENICE BIENNALE 2019 AND 2022 IN VENICE.
Documentation of the MouSou team researching in Venice, and the making process of the ‘UNFOLD 2022′.