Suffering Body
15 May 2004

The Rethymnon Centre for Contemporary Art (today Contemporary Art Museum of Crete) opened on 15 May 2004 the exhibition “Suffering Body” at the “8” Art Space (Himaras 8 - Rethymnon).

This is a research project on illness as it emerges to transform and distort the body and the artist’s relationship with it—an experiential relationship, in one or another way.

The dead body which provides information in Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson” must have been a suffering body in life, which raises as many questions as the amount of pain that a dancer Dégas must have suffered in order to perfect her motion.

The familiar pain, the pain that occupies our mind, belongs in our time and in the field examined by the exhibition. Our societies may not have known the plague, which has been painted a lot, directly or indirectly, but they know well the suffering body and the manifestations of cancer or AIDS.

Part of the interests and the programming of the Rethymnon Centre for Contemporary Art, an exhibition on disease has been on our minds for some years now.

In her text for the exhibition catalogue, Maria Marangou, Director of the RCA, writes:
“The idea of a production about “The Suffering Body” matured once the experiences from another project of the RCA had been emotionally settled: it was the project “Garden” at the Psychiatric Hospital of Chania in 1997. Organising that venture with the in-situ works of the artists and the show of the patients’ works which now form a cherished part of our permanent collection, the almost daily contact with the wonderful people I lived and worked with, have brought us where we are today.
… The need to collaborate with a surgeon, proficient in anatomy and the ailments of the body, led to my friend Professor Stavros Tsingoglou, with his dual capacity: doctor and connoisseur of contemporary art.”

The exhibition went through various obstacles and postponements before it could be realised.

The text of Stavros Tsingoglou for the catalogue of the exhibition is an exhaustive study of disease in contemporary art, organised in five parts.
Breast cancer, disease, acts of injury
Excerpt from the curator’s text 
“Breast cancer terrifies women both as cancer and as amputation of the breast which has actual and symbolic value for maternity, femininity and the sexual life of women. […] In the first months following a mastectomy, the most frequent and intense psychological manifestations are 46% sex-related difficulties, 32% depression, 30% stress and 61% problems at work. Anger, denial, depression and acceptance are the stages through which people usually deal with a disastrous event. In their works the artists express all these defence mechanisms and the psychopathological manifestations at different stages and in different ways.”

ΑIDS Art. Excerpt from the curator’s text.
“In the late 1980s, AIDS was a major subject of the work of over 500 artists in the USA. In that country the disease hit great numbers artists, gallerists and art critics. Many of them died before they had completed their work: Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Arnold Fern and many others. Many works, as can be seen in exhibition catalogues, were works of love and death. The artists defended their sexual choices and often painted a rosy picture of homosexuality and the symptoms of the disease…”

The artist’s “Suffering Body” in Body Art.
Excerpt from the text of Stavros Tsingoglou.
“Artists subject their body to traumatic acts which put to the test the limits of both the body and the audience. Extreme, outrageous, incredible, indescribable, dangerous performances of necrophilia, necrophagia, recycling of bodily excretions, etc.; acts that turn the viewers into voyeurs and sadists and require interpretation by psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, philosophers, sociologists, linguists, anthropologists and, of course, art critics”.

The Suffering Body as metaphor
“Artists use images of the sufferings of the body to express their ideas and feelings. Ideas on philosophy, politics, theology, existential or aesthetic ideas”.

Parody - Sarcasm
With their works the artists parody the world of medicine. They use sarcasm and self-sarcasm to create tragicomic situations that disconcert viewers and make them think, while humorously undermining the world of Art.

The indicative compilation of artworks, for this study of the Suffering Body, comprises works by Marina Abramovic, Takis Germenis, Robert Gober, Vassiliki Gotsi, Inka Essenhigh, Takis Zerdevas, Marc Quinn, Stathis Logothetis, Maria Loizidou, Despina Meimaroglou, Tasos Missouras, Costas Bassanos, Xenophon Bitsikas, Ross Bleckkner, Chronis Botsoglou, Angelos Papadimitriou, Leda Papakonstantinou, Leda Patta, Jean Rustin, Edward Sakayan, Ene-Liis Semper, Kiki Smith, Fani Sofologi, Aspa Stasinopoulou, Christos Harissis, Mona Hatum, Nikos Houliaras, Achileas Christidis.

Special thanks are due to Dimitris Daskalopoulos who loaned the works of the artists Marina Abramovic, Kiki Smith, Marc Quinn, Inka Essenhigh, Mona Hatum.
We also wish to thank for the loan of works and documentation material the collectors Dakis Joannou, Leonidas Bletsios, Zacharias Portalakis, Dimitra Stambouli, Nicolas Christakis, Stavros Tsingoglou, Vlassis Frissiras, the galleries Α.D., Rebecca Kamhi, Kappatos, Nees Morfes, the Ileana Tounta Centre for Contemporary Art, the Municipal Art Centre of Nicosia and the artists who lent their works or created new ones for the exhibition.

A bilingual catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
The exhibition will remained open until 30 June 2004. As with all projects of the Rethymnon Centre for Contemporary Art, guided tours and educational programmes were offered throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Eric Giovon
Creative Varieties
29 June - End of October 2019
Ibrahim Han Mosque - Fortezza