The story of KavecS
More than a decade of absurdity
KavecS produce absurd mimicries of institutions: A migration office, a team building service, a group of new-age therapists, a popular assembly, a conference, an extremist underground movement, a travel agency and so on.
KavecS (K avec S) is the collaboration between artist Vana Kostayola and artist/theorist Kostis Stafylakis. It began sometime in 2005 and extends to the future. Since more than a decade, KavecS produce simulations designed to be lived as participatory disorientation. In the mid 00s, the two artists were seeking ways to relate to the post-2004 Olympic Games Greek society, which would soon surrender to financial crisis and ideological wars, signalling the demise of late 90s euphoria.
In 2006, during her postgrad show at Goldsmiths, Kostayola organized a mock-conference (Rematerializing Aesthetics) mimicking the style of a “Neuro-aesthetics” conference held previously by Warren Neidich at the same auditorium. KavecS’s first participatory projects reflected on the new entrepreneurial zeitgeist and lifestyle of the late-90s Greek middle-class. An educated labor force was recruited by corporations, management departments and the marketplace. These young entrepreneurs strived to live an alternative lifestyle, blending “traditional wisdom” with economy and corporate performance. The “Team Building” project (2006) and the “Rebirth Therapy Group” (2007) mimic organisations, providing dystopian scenarios that put group psychology and New Age therapies to the service of corporate performance. Drawing from the legacy of tactical media, artistic activism, Laibach/NSK, overidentification and subversive affirmation, KavecS experimented with varieties of unsettling mimicry intending to question the clean-cut antithesis between aesthetic manipulation and social emancipation.
KavecS explore overidentification as a portable strategy that can problematise and interrogate the mutating expressions of Greek Ideology, nationalism, neo-traditionalism, orientalism, antisemitism and reactionary politics. Around 2009, in the aftermath of 2008’s social uprising in Greece and one year before the eruption of financial crisis, KavecS started working on the Black Circle project: an awkward reprocessing of the local expressions of Third-Positionism and alternative nationalism, prior to the popularisation of this scary ideological trend that precipitated the rise of the American Alt-right. The Black Circle was an ominous mimicry of the local “Black Lilly” group. It foresaw the entryist strategy of reactionary movements that eventually catapulted them to the epicenter of the global political milieu. The Black Circle was a series of immersive, rhetorical performances synthesising mimicries of reactionary and conspiratorial discourse, adapting to local references for each performance. The fiery, messianic performances by Peter Mlakar –NSK’s State philosopher- were influential to the development of the Black Circle performances. The project was presented at the 4th Moscow Biennial (Media Impact: festival of activist art), Palais de Tokyo, “Truth is Concrete” (Steirischer Herbst) and other festivals across Europe. In a lecture delivered at the Autonomous University of the 7th Berlin Biennale, Stafylakis criticized the neo-patriotism of the Greek indignados (aganaktismenoi). Concurrently, the work Threnodies, by KavecS, debuting at Monodrome, the 3rd Athens Biennale, criticised the patriotic impulses in mass anti-systemic culture embroidered by the Greek Inignados. The “nocturnal assembly” was a video piece shot on the stage of St Gervais theatre, Geneva, depicting an absurdist re-enactment of a general assembly of Greek indignados. This theatrical re-enactment employed excerpts from shared transcripts of actual assemblies on Syntagma Square.
In the hall of the 3d Athens Biennale, KavecS installed the Bay-O-Bam Agency, the façade of an organisation pretending to assist future Greek migrants to obtain labor visa for Australia. Mimicking official/state programs of monitored migration to Australia, the Agency was an exercise in an anti-humanitarian style of art activism, contradicting the humanist/humanitarian impulse of positive/helpful artistic activism flourishing during the Greek crisis.
In 2010, KavecS began to participate in certain the activities by the NSK. Kostis Stafylakis, in collaboration with lacanian political theorist Yannis Stavrakakis, delivered a speech on the “States of Enjoyment” at the 1st NSK Citizens Conference at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (2010). In 2014, KavecS participated in the 1st NSK Folk Art biennial (Leipzig) with a twisted tribute to the Greek Peplum cinematography produced in the years of the military dictatorship (1967-1974). In 2014, KavecS curated Twisting C(r)ash along with Madeleine Amsler and Severin Guelpa, at the Bâtiment d’Art Contemporain «Le Commun», Geneva. The show featured Greek and Swiss artists reflecting on the flow of money and the production of value in the European continent. The artists were offered an imaginary scenario to contemplate on: The Swiss banking System collapses, rogue far-Right parties prevail while Greece becomes a rich suburb of the European Continent, divided in cantons. In 2015, KavecS attack the trend of artistic humanism by presenting the activity of “ORMeBa”, a fictitious organisation applying outrageous methods of “humanistic psychology” and “participatory art” on populations exposed to civil war.
In 2014 Kostayola creates the re-making of DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) as part of a project-based residency of the HEAD master students in the Center of Addictology in Geneva with Maria-Antoineta Chiarenza.
In 2016, Stafylakis collaborated with artists Panos Sklavenitis and Alexis Fidetzis in the framework of Omonoia, the 5th Athens Biennale. They organised “Puerto Rico: the opening of the Nick Boricua Museum”, a large-scale collective exercise in parafiction, hosting more than 25 participants. The event was the opening of the Nick Boricua Museum in Athens, a mock-museum showcasing the life of Nikias Fokas (Nick Boricua), a (parafictional) hero of the Greek War of Independence, ambassador of Greece in Spain, Spanish Courtier and Administrator of the Dorado region in Puerto Rico and, eventually, instigator of the anti-colonial struggle. Partly inspired by Wolfgang Schäuble’s joke to exchange Greece’s Eurozone membership with Puerto Rico, the project designed a parallax of Modern Greece as Puerto Rico, tackling the orientalist myth of “Greek resistance”. The, recently murdered, lgbtqi activist Zak Kostopoulos and the queer activist Digenis Fashion performed at the Museum’s opening. During the same year, Stafylakis curated the “Politics of Lies” marathon on recent activist practices from Greece, at Circuits & Currents (Athens), showcasing Greek artists who appropriate post-truth tactics to disturb public consensus. Panos Sklavenitis, Vassilis Vlastaras and Stafylakis presented their Facebook troll page “Ai Weiwei for the Nobel Peace Prize 2016”, advocating a Nobel award to Ai Weiwei for his humanitarian art with refugees on Greek islands. In February 2017, Kostis Stafylakis presented the “Politics of Lies” at the College Art Association’s annual conference, at the panel “Between Conformism and Subversion: Aesthetic Strategies and the Problem of the Political in Contemporary Art” (click here, for an alternate presentation), organized by Conor McGrady and Gediminas Gasparavicius.
In 2017, KavecS performed the Conference of Neo-citizens in the Geneva Festival of Democracy. They used the yard of the City Hall of Geneva as an open lab hosting a referendum on issues of human enhancement and implementation of transhumanist scenarios on the general population and the army. Passersby were indoctrinated by a hallucinating priest and a TedX speaker. The vote was manipulated in favour of enrolling the suggested changes.
In 2017, KavecS participated in the collective role-playing Klassenfahrt project, an educational trip organised by an international group of artists, theorists and dramaturgists, initiated by Memphis art space based in Linz. Klassenfahrt was part of “Waiting for the barbarians”, a flash iteration of the Athens Biennale scheduled to coinside with the opening of Documenta14 in Athens. Klassenfarht invited cultural tourists to an obscure alternative site-seeing activity. It strived to “hijack” cultural tourism, “kidnap” the visitors of Documenta14 and drive them to a semi-rural, generic outskirt of Athens. In a setting resembling a tribal village, the trapped visitors would confront biased forms of exotic subjectivities. The bus ride, organised by BlueOwlTravels (a mock agency), drove through the maze of Athenian suburbs to the area of Kantza. Kostayola played head of the local tribe while Stafylakis impersonated a black magic practitioner scaring the visitors away. Revisiting the legacy of primitivism, Klassenfahrt sought to revamp a boring part of Attica into a post-apocalyptic Pont Aven.
In 2017, Stafylakis co-curated “Waiting for the barbarians” guerilla version of the Athens Biennale. In 2018, he co-curated ANTI, the 6th Athens Biennale, along with Poka Yio and Stefanie Hessler. The show hosted more than 100 international artists reflecting on opposing manifestations of polarization, adversariness and reaction in the post-digital era of post-truth and the Alt-Right.
In late 2018, Stafylakis co-founded Most Mechanics Are Crooks, an artistic and curatorial band operating in tandem with KavecS.
In 2019, Kostayola and Sofia Kouloukouri organised the Women Telling the Future performance in Geneva. A group of women who read the future in coffee grounds to visitors.
- (2017) KavecS Retrospective at Neue Ravensburger Kunstverein (24 March – 9 April 2017), Ravensburg, Germany.
- (2010) The Black Circle, Antonopoulou Gallery (aaart), 2010.
- (2007) Rebirth Therapy Group: A few trustworthy men, Antonopoulou Gallery (aaart), 2007.
- (2004) Kostis Stafylakis & Litsa Sepyrgioti, The cotton project, in situ action and installation at D624, Athens. Curator: Anne-Laure Oberson.
- (19 June 2019) Stafylakis and Most Mechanics Are Crooks perform “The Manifesto of New Insincerity”, at Kultursymposium Weimar 2019.
- (16 June 2019) Kostayola and Kouloukouri, Women Telling The Future performance, Geneva
- (2017-2016) Stafylakis impersonates Jean Monnet in the performative work Eutopia by Poka-Yio, at Festival Culturescapes, Kaserne Theatre, Basel, December 2017. He also performed in the shame work during its presentation at Frascati, Amsterdam, November 2016, and Ibsen Festival Oslo, September 2016.
- (2017) KavecS perform at the city hall of Geneva in the framework of Geneva Conference de neo-citoyens, la question techno-trans-human-ist, Festival of Democracy, 19 September 2017.
- (2017) Kostis Stafylakis participates in the performative press conference of the Heart & Sword Division, Bangeion, Waiting for the barbarians, Prelude to the 6th Athens Biennale, 5 April 2017.
- (2017) Stafylakis, ‘Documena Vocabulary’, performance in the framework of the collective project Resurrection with Documena, Bangeion, Waiting for the Barbarians, Prelude to the 6th Athens Biennale, 15 April 2017.
- (2017) KavecS co-author and participate in Klassenfahrt, prelude to the 6th Athens Biennale, Waiting for the barbarians. 11, 12 and 13 April 2017.
- (2016) Stafylakis, with Panos Sklavenitis and Alexis Fidetzis, organize Puerto Rico in the framework of “Omonoia”, AB5το6 Athens Biennale, 28 May 2016
- (2015) KavecS participate, with the action “ORMeBa”, in the show “Recorded Memories”, organized by Goethe-Intitute Athen, Benaki Museum
- (2015) Kostayola participates with the installation « Take Me Home » in the Free Art Sunday public space art exhibition in St Jean, Geneva, curated by YOMIL Collective
- (2014) Stafylakis and Sofia Bempeza present the action PSAK – Buildup of Anti-Memorandum People’s Movement, at NGBK, Berlin. In the framework of Enjoy (y)our state of emergency: art and activist practices in times of crisis.
- (2014) Kostayola organises the performance “Onirolipsia” at the Psychiatric Hospital of Geneva as part of the exhibition “Hypnocosme” and the conference “Dreams and REM”, initiated by the Sleep Lab
- (2014) Kostayola participates with a re-make of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition in the exhibition « houhouHaHa » organised by Maria-Antoineta Chiarenza with HEAD master students in the Center of Addictology in Geneva,
- (2014) KavecS participate in the 1st NSK Folk Art Biennial, Leipzig, with the work “Athens Bureau off Folk Studies: A study on Pericles Yiannopoulos’ “New Spirit”.
- (May 2013) KavecS participate in the show “Désir sans Destin”, at St Gervais Theatre in Geneva, curated by Anna Barsesghian, with the work “The nocturnal assembly”.
- (2013) KavecS participate in the show “Hell as Pavilion”, curated by Nadja Argyropoulou at Palais de Tokyo, Paris 2013. They present The Black Circle Documentary and perform The Black Circle at the theatre of Palais de Tokyo.
- (2012) Stafylakis is AIR at Utopiana, Geneva, November – December 2012.
- (2012) Stafylakis participates in the show Holidays in Greece, curated be Vassilia Stylianidou, Berlin 2012.
- (2012) KavecS participate in the show “On Being Sane in Sunny Places – Adolescent Athenian Absurdists”, at Danke, Berlin, curated by Filtig and Fivos Doussos. They present video documentation from Bay-O-Bam Agency.
- (2012) KavecS participate in “Truth is Concrete: A 24/7 marathon camp on artistic strategies in politics and political strategies in art, Steirischer Herbst festival, Graz, Austria (2012), curated by Anne Faucheret, Veronica Kaup-Hasler, Kira Kirsch & Florian Malzacher. KavecS opened the performance section of the festival with an iteration of The Black Circle.
- (2012) Stafylakis offers the performative lecture “Third Positionism and the politics of greek indignados” at Autonomous University, a project by Occupy Berlin, in the framework of “Forget Fear”, the 7th Berlin Biennale, curated by Arthur Zmijewski.
- (2012) KavecS participate in the show “A Season for Treason, Critical Reflections on the 7th Berlin biennial”, Berlin 2012, at OKK Raum, curated by Organ Kritischer Kunst.
- (2012) KavecS participate in the show “Attraction of the Opposites”, curated by Kiki Petratou, in the framework of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Art Rotterdam en Rotterdamse Museumnacht (2012). KavecS present video documentation of the Black Circle.
- (2011) KavecS participate in Performance Studies International PSi #17, Camillo 2.0: Technology, Memory, Experience, Utrecht 2011. They present a performative iteration of the Black Circle.
- (2011) KavecS participate in Monodrome, the 3rd Athens Biennale (2011) curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, Poka Yio and Xenia Kalpaktsoglou. They present the work Threnodies and the action Bay-o-Bam agency.
- (2011) KavecS participate in “Media Impact: International Festival of Activist Art”, curated by Tania Volcova, special event of the 4th Moscow Biennial (artistic director: Peter Weibel). KavecS will present the video installation “The Black Circle Documentary” and will perform a new iteration of The Black Circle.
- (2010) Stafylakis participates in the 1st NSK Citizens Conference, at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, (Berlin 2010). He delivers a speech, co-authored with Yannis Stavrakakis, and record part of the activities for the “Art and Politics” documentary, commissioned by the Greek Public Television.
- (2008) KavecS participate with a screening of documentation from the action “Rebirth Therapy Group” at Boots Contemporary Art Space, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (13 March 2008). Video και Sound Art curated by Cecilia Canziani, Elpida Karaba and Jan van Woensel.
- (2006) KavecS participate in Performance Studies International Psi #12: Performing Rights, London, Queen Mary University, June 2006. Along with colleagues, they present the collective work “Citizenship Test” produced by KavecS, Kostas Christopoulos, Sylvia Kouvalis, George Giannakopoulos and Christos Iliadis.
- (2006) KavecS participate in Attitude Video Festival, Bitola, Fyrom (2006). Organized by Center for Contemporary Public Arts ELEMENTI.
- (2005) KavecS participate in “Rematerializing Aesthetics”, Goldsmiths College, London 2005, a performative conference organized by Vana Kostayola.
- (2019) Stafylakis participates in the show «Let’s supper Mr Iolas/Resurrection», at Vila Iolas, Athens, June 2019, Curated by Erifylli Veneri and Naira Stergiou.
- (2019) Stafylakis, with Most Mechanics Are Crooks, perform the work “Quinoa” in the framework of “Weasel Dance: The mimetic in the post-digital predicament”, curated by Most mechanics Are Crooks, Goethe-Intitut Athen, 26 March, 2019, Athens.
- (2018) Stafylakis performs «Οι τραπ και το κρατ-δολ», in the framework of Vassilis Vlastaras’s Show “Condensation Cube”, Institute of Contemporary Art, 17 March 2018.
- (2017) KavecS participate in the show «Tourism», curated by Elpida Karaba and Glykeria Stathopoulou, organized by “The Symptom Project”, Amfissa, October 2017.
- (2017) Stafylakis performs «An antihumanist under the table: part 2» in “Solution Communism”, symposium organized by ILiana Fokianaki, Ingo Nierman and Joshua Simon, at State of Concept, Athens, 21 January 2017.
- (2016) Stafylakis performs «An antihumanist under the table: excerpts from Louis Althusser’s “Marxism and Humanism”» in the framework of GOMENES, curated by Netting the Work, at “Omonoia”, AB5to6 Athens Biennale, 20/4/16.
- (2016) KavecS participate in the “Politics of Lies” marathon, curated by Kostis Stafylakis, Circuits & Currents, Athens, December 2016.
- (2015) Stafylakis participates with the action/installation “Oath Taking” in the show “Babel Fragments Revisited”, curated by Alexis Fidetzis, Metamatic Taf, Athens, April 2015.
- (2015) Stafylakis participates with the action “Urgent Announcement” in Archeological Dialogues, 11 January, 2015.
- (2011) KavecS perform the Black Circle at Outlet, curated by XYZ.
- (2006) Stafylakis and Litsa Sepyrgioti participate with the video installation “The Cotton Project” in the show “An outing: contemporary art in Greece in the 21st Century”, Beltsios Collection, curated by Sotirios Bachtsetzis. May-June 2006.
- (2006) KavecS participate in the show “What remains is future”, curated by Nadja Argyropoulou, Cultural Capital of Europe, Patra, 2006.
- (2006 & 2011) KavecS participate in την Visions ’06 and Visions ’11, organized by Kappatos Gallery.
- (2006) Stafylakis participates with the action/video installation “OKKK” in the show “Protaseis”, curated by Anne-Laure Oberson, Elpida Karaba and Sotirios Bachtsetzis, KODRA Camp 2006, Thessaloniki.