Glean

Yorgos Maraziotis

Interview by Nicolas Vamvouklis
15 May 2024

Yorgos Maraziotis, 2015

Displaced Perspectives

I meet Yorgos Maraziotis during preparations for the inaugural exhibition at 12—a new cultural hub in Antwerp renovated by the design firm AIM EU, known for its commitment to cultural fusion, innovation and sustainability. Maraziotis’ collaborative and immersive installation, featured as part of Antwerp Art Weekend 2024, explores the theme of displacement as a catalyst for contemporary habitation. In our conversation, the Greek artist discusses his creative process and how this regeneration project offers new perspectives on the city’s rich history.

Yorgos Maraziotis, ‘displaced’,
Solo show at 12 curated by AIM EU, through 7 July 2024, 12, Antwerp, part of Antwerp Art, antwerpartweekend.be

Untitled (I am really an object), 2023, photo We Document Art

NV: (Nicolas Vamvouklis) Yorgos, to introduce you to our readers, how would you describe your art practice?

YM: (Yorgos Maraziotis) I am a multidisciplinary artist interested in space, contemporary habitation and human relations. I mostly work with sculpture, design, installations and printmaking. I am also a researcher in the arts, using a methodology that focuses on architecture of language, dialogue, memory and the fine line between personal and collective truths.

NV: I noticed in your biography that you also engage in ‘the practice of archiving.’ Could you share more about this aspect of your work?

YM: For the past five or six years, I have treated archiving as art-making and the archive as an artwork. I attempt to understand public domains and institutions (their social, architectural or cultural functionality, among other topics) by recording the oral testimonies of the communities that constitute them. Later, I edit these narratives into a written archive and transform parts of this archive into spatial sculptures, designs, sound pieces or print-based artworks. The archive can function both as an autonomous (language-based) artwork and as a score for further art-making.

Live and Let Live, 2020, photo We Document Art
Untitled (Marleen), 2022, photo We Document Art

NV: This naturally leads me to your new project, ‘displaced’, which will be the focus of the very first exhibition in 12. How did you respond to the invitation to develop the inaugural show?

YM: I feel honoured that AIM EU trusted me with this commission. 12 is an architectural and historical gem in the northern part of Antwerp and its renovation has been an artwork in itself. It is a great opportunity for me to create an immersive in-situ installation in such a space and test my skills on this scale. It has been a joyful experience so far, largely due to the enormous freedom AIM EU has given me.

NV: Can you shed some light on the project’s title?

YM: When I first entered the building in June of last year, a number of displaced hand-crafted wooden doors and wall partitions dating from 1907 captured my attention. Together with AIM EU, we agreed that these objects should be salvaged and become the main ‘actors’ in our exhibition. Stripped of their original purpose and re-arranged in space, the found objects raise questions about various forms of displacement – physical, architectural or psychological – while also narrating compelling stories that embody these experiences.

I was born and raised in Greece, and I live and work in Belgium. AIM EU is a constellation of architects and designers who live and work in areas different from their place of origin. We all feel somewhat displaced. Furthermore, we are making an exhibition in a building that, since its construction, has facilitated and witnessed an enormous movement of goods and people.

‘Displaced’ (detail), photo by LUCID

NV: Have you thought about how visitors will react to the show, what they might take away from it?

YM: I hope that visitors will immerse themselves in this raw and elegant allegoric landscape and have the opportunity to contemplate and reflect on space, history, and memory.

Fundamentally, the show is about somatic or mental displacement, whether forced or voluntary, and how it can be a traumatic experience or a source of creativity and inspiration (or both). The aforementioned large and ultra-heavy objects found in space will be in dialogue with industrial materials, such as plaster, plexiglass, stainless steel and silicone, as well as neon glass sculptures and a series of silk-screen prints.

NV: The striking building that houses 12 has quite a backstory. Can you tell me more about its history?

YM: It is an art nouveau-style registered cultural heritage site at Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai 12, designed in 1907 by the Liège architect Xavier Hanson for the shipping agency Jaenicken-Manceau, owners of the steamship SS Anversoise. Where the gallery space is now, goods such as coffee beans or flour used to be stored for export. The offices of the shipping agency were on the first floor.

In its renovation of the building, AIM EU has made subtle interventions that reveal the site’s historical beauty while also establishing its new usage as a cultural and architectural hub in Antwerp. The project aims to bridge Eastern and Western practices through art, design and community engagement.

12 Antwerp, © LUCID

NV: Were there any particular challenges in intervening in such a historical space?

YM: From the moment we agreed to collaborate on this exhibition, I felt a strong sense of responsibility towards the building and its history, as well as towards the architects who devoted time to its renovation. One challenge we actually created for ourselves was the decision to create the installation without use of the surrounding walls, so that visitors can see and feel the building and its architecture in an ‘unobstructed’ way. We also set ourselves the goal of reducing, to the greatest extent possible, the production of new artworks. It was a way of limiting ourselves while staying true to our practices.

NV: Could you tell us a bit more about your collaboration with AIM EU?

YM: AIM EU stands for Studio for Authentic Immersive Matters and is the European branch of AIM Architects, which has a presence in Shanghai, Chicago and now Antwerp. Wendy Saunders and Vincent de Graaf, the firm’s founders and directors, focus on creating spaces that have a strong sense of community engagement and that combine beauty, rawness and elegance (something we have in common).

For ‘displaced,’ apart from Vincent and Wendy, I have been working closely with AIM members Davide Signorato and Victor Mongin. Since we started collaborating in 2023, I have been developing numerous hand-made sketches, and we’ve been meeting weekly to discuss the project’s progress. I have been visiting the space frequently, witnessing its revamping and proceeding with the creation of the artworks, always bearing in mind that my intervention should be both subtle and bold.

Untitled, 2024 (detail), photo by LUCID
Untitled (Home), 2024 (detail), photo by LUCID

NV: A lot of your work seems to revolve around the possibilities and perils of coexistence – what does the term mean for you?

YM: I feel that we as people are failing to value the importance of coexistence. This is evident in the way we treat nature and the ease with which we surrender to technological advances that empower individualism rather than community. My artistic practice focuses on human presence and how we consider each other. Through active listening and dialogue, I reflect this on space. I believe that truly caring about others – through our daily actions – is the only way for our species to survive.

NV: Antwerp has been your home for quite a few years. What significance does this city hold for you personally and artistically?

YM: I have lived and worked in Antwerp since 2017, and it has been generous towards me so far. I find the city architecturally and topographically very interesting. Its size and position in Europe allow me to use it as my base and travel around easily. I don’t work in an atelier; instead, I use the city as my working space. This conscious decision helps me produce less and engage in art-making whenever I feel a strong need to do so. The city is rich in contemporary art, fashion and design, which keeps me alert and inspired.

NV: Lastly, are there any other upcoming projects you would like to share with us?

YM: After ‘displaced,’ I will start my new artistic research project titled ‘Foundations,’ which focuses on the Flanders Architecture Institute (VAi) and its collection, as well as De Singel arts centre and – as is typical for my work with cultural institutions – its staff members. In October, at the invitation of the curatorial and publishing studio PrivatePrint, I will travel to North Macedonia to research the art collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje. A book featuring my work at MoCA-Skopje will be published by the end of 2025.