Greek artists gain voice in the US: Sozita Goudouna on “Greece in USA”

Sozita Goudouna
10 min readFeb 2, 2021


Just a week after taking office, Joe Biden signed a decree not to renew the contracts of companies that run private prisons in the United States. “It is a first step,” he said, “to contain the powerful who benefit from our penitentiary system.” He added that he was referring to what he said was the launch of a “systemic racism” plan in the United States, noting that private prisons are “less humane and less secure” for inmates. With this decision, the new President keeps his campaign promise to African Americans and citizens of other minorities, from whose ranks comes a frighteningly high percentage of a total of 2.5 million inmates in US prisons (private, state, and federal, including illegal immigrants, in addition to criminal convictions — the US is the country with the most prisoners in the world). Above all, however, with this decree, President Biden directs to a prosperous settlement this huge for the American reality, for which discussions, protests and consultations had already started during the Obama presidency, but without a solution, while During Trump’s presidency, this social demand was deliberately extended unresolved in order to facilitate private business in the field of penitentiaries as well.

Raymond Pettibon and Sozita Goudouna at The Journal Gallery — Tennis Elbow — during the artist’s solo exhibition curated by Sozita Goudouna

The exhibition explores the issue of incarceration of convicts for criminal offenses as a condition of deprivation, difficult living and constant brutality in every moment of their daily lives, which due to its cruelty often leads to the collapse of the personality of the inmate. Prisoners in private prisons make up a fairly low percentage of all prisoners in the country, but the debate over the issue of “private prison companies” has been progressively increasingly significant since its inception, which showed that it concerned all Americans and that it was ultimately evolving into a matter of moral order more than anything else.

Eva Giannakopoulou, Dogman’s Dream, still photo from video

The prison as a new kind of “industrial exploitation”, a suspicious punishment universe, hidden behind very high walls, is also the subject of a large art exhibition of MoMA PS1, which is the branch of the famous Museum of Modern Art in New York, where experimental reports, which are often almost provocative. The title of the exhibition at MoMA PS1, which continues until April 4 this year, is “Marking time: Art in the age of mass incarceration” (which in outrageously free performance in Greek means: “Marking time: Art in the years of mass imprisonment ”). The report explores the issue of incarceration of convicts for criminal offenses as a condition of deprivation, difficult living and constant brutality in every moment of their daily lives, which due to its cruelty often leads to the collapse of the personality of the inmate.

Ashley Hunt
Ashley Hunt

However, the exhibition also focuses on resisting all of this through art. Most of the participating artists were imprisoned and began creating works of art while serving their sentences. It is inevitable that one will not lead to the reduction of all these difficulties and the corresponding feelings in the condition of the immigration detention centers but also of the confinement of the general population due to a pandemic. All of the above are mentioned as a necessary introduction to another exhibition that is now taking place in New York and which is Greek. It is organized by the new cultural platform “Greece in USA”, created by Sozita Gudouna, with experience as adjunct professor at City University of New York (CUNY) the largest urban university in New York). She is also the curator of exhibitions in Greece and New York, the director of all the activities of the studio of the great American artist Raymond Pettibon (for whom he also organizes his personal foundation for the management of his work) and, finally, the author of a dissertation on the smallest in duration — only 30 seconds — play by Samuel Beckett: the interlude “Breath” (full title of the dissertation: “Beckett’s Breath: Anti-theatricality and the visual arts on Samuel Beckett’s Breath”, 22.1.2021 Greece in USA: A new platform promotes Greek culture in New York The first exhibition of the “Greece in USA” platform is entitled “The right to silence?”, Which means “The right to silence?”.

Andrea Geyer and Sharon Hayes “History is ours”

“In America, all the talk about imprisonment and incarceration, but also the current MoMA PS1 report, revolves around the fact that prisoners are ‘invisible’ to American society. They are the rubbish that society hastily hides under its rug, so that they are not visible, and their presence bothers them, at the same time that Americans experience the obsession to make themselves “visible” at all times in every social and professional circumstance. Curating the exhibition “The right to silence?”, I wanted to focus on the same issue, but from the point of view of the acoustic perception of the presence-absence of prisoners. “Of course, I seek to achieve all this through a more poetic approach to issues related to politics. And I have to admit that this is a constant goal of mine: to convey political ideas and positions through a poetic theme and not to raise a banner with demands.

In America, there are huge problems that are simmering — and boiling — in prisons. If we recorded them, starting with the racial discrimination, which is huge, we could reach even the fewest cases of discrimination against transgender prisoners. In other words, all the pathogenesis of American society becomes much more pronounced in the harshness of the prison environment. It would be reasonable to ask what all this can have to do with us in Greece and how we could identify with such problems in order to be able to mobilize emotionally, to become compassionate. One answer would be the experience of the incarceration of all of us brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. The first-hand sense of what even a partial loss of our freedom means. “Obviously, quarantine has little to do with the condition of imprisonment, but it is enough to make us think about the concept of freedom, the right to it and their limits.” Chin Chih Yang, Pleading the 5th The idea for this report is related to the famous “Miranda Rights”, ie the rights recognized to every person arrested in the US. They are more or less known worldwide, thanks to the cinema and the cliché phrase of the police, “Miranda Warning” (warning Miranda), to the detainee, “You have the right to remain silent”, which literally means: “You have the right to remain silent “and means that the detainee has the right not to testify during the preliminary examination, the police pre-trial investigation.

The name “Miranda Rights” comes from the name of the first inmate who in 1966 appealed to the US Supreme Court against the State of Arizona to seek recognition of this right. “Starting from this well-known verbal cliché, we tried to extend the thought in every possible direction, in order to explore and circle the possibility of remaining silent forever and in any case,” says Sozita Gudouna, introducing the horrible way in a very gentle way. concept of voluntary self-esteem. At the same time, however, he emphasizes that all these issues are twofold, given that “the right to remain silent is, in any case, a way to protect your point of view.” On the other hand, the choice of the theme of the exhibition also stems from the perception of Sozita Gudouna that the exhibitions that promote modern culture should not be of a “festival nature”, nor should they be anchored in the system of themes that we traditionally project outwards. ». He emphasizes, in fact, that “they should address the spectators of the place where they are presented and touch something that concerns them in the context of their daily life as members of a social group.”

The composition of the artists participating in the exhibition “The right to silence?” one would say that it resembles an ark of contemporary Greek art. In terms of foreign participation, Ashley Hunt stands out, which belongs to the artists who have served a long prison sentence. His star is currently shining in New York and his works are included in the exhibition at MoMA PS1. Irini Linardaki, Raised Installation “With this report, Greece is speaking a new language,” says Sozita Gudouna. “The goal that is achieved is that a first mapping of the contemporary Greek art scene is presented in New York: Greek artists acquire a voice there. But the big bet of the “Greece in USA” platform is to manage every time, with its exhibitions, Greek artists coexist with internationally recognized foreigners. This coexistence would lead to another look from the point of view of the spectators there towards the work of the Greek artists that will participate. 6.1.2021 A giant concrete vulva sculpture divides the whole of Brazil In general, my goal is first to enter a class in how Greece will appear in America, starting with the contemporary art production here. Reports will be proposed whose theme will concern the whole world. Greek artists will be represented at a rate of 30–40% of all participating artists. The success of this tactic is that while it will be a Greek exhibition in America, it will not look like an exhibition promoting Greek artists but will be an exhibition that will be presented there and will be addressed to the whole world.

The aim is to make the Greek artistic presence in America continuous, but without this happening loudly, as a “product placement”, as would be described in the language of commerce. In addition to this axis of presentation, all the cases will be highlighted where renowned international artists deal in their work with something they choose from the classic Greek arsenal of ideas and concepts and has a direct origin from Greek antiquity. One such example would be the British artist Chris Ofili who, in 2019, based part of his work on the awesome translation of “Odyssey” by Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate the Homeric epic into English. The next goal of the “Greece in USA” platform will be to invite foreign curators to collaborate with major New York galleries. The platform will maintain strong links with academic institutions and artist collectives. He will follow the Greek emerging artists. It will be published and its first sample will be a monograph on the work of the great Lucas Samaras. We would also like to proceed with similar publications for all the distinguished Greek artists of the Diaspora. The platform will participate in the production of Greek works that will participate in its exhibitions. In the current report this happened with the work of Vangelis Vlachos and I hope that soon resources will be secured to finance the production of a new video by Stefanos Tsivopoulos. I would also like the platform to represent the performing arts. But to put it all in an economic sense, my goal at this stage is to do one or two projects a year, depending on the funding that will be achieved. These should be so good that each time a strong imprint is left on New York’s art life. However, in order not to consume all the time we have in the search for sponsorships, “alternative” projects could be made in unpredictable places, with very low funding needs, but always with content for the viewers “.

The exhibition’s theme also stems from the perception of Sozita Gudouna that the exhibitions that promote modern culture should not be “festival in nature”, nor should they be anchored in the “system of issues that we traditionally project outwards”. Greece’s first exhibition in the USA is presented at the Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery, which is the main exhibition space of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a major college at the City University of New York in Manhattan. It usually hosts exhibitions that address major social problems or issues related to classical studies. The choice of venue was made to correlate the exhibition with the only public university in New York, which is one of the largest in the world, but also with this college, whose reputation is as great as that of the university. from which the most important criminologists and judges graduate. The report consists of two parts. The first has been edited by Sozita Gudouna, while the second, entitled “The right to silence: Asia”, is curated by Thalia Vrachopoulos and has an important representation of artists of Asian descent. It will last until July 31, 2021 and one can see the exhibition online and for free by following this link:

Goro Nakamura, Explosion

Participating artists: Margarita Athanassiou, Maria Adelman, Steven Antonakos, Klitsa Antoniou, Kenji Aoki, Lydia Venieri, Vangelis Vlachos, Antonis Volanakis, Alexandros Georgiou, Eva Giannakovougis, Keli , Panos Kokkinias, Georgia Kotretsos, Aristidis Lappas, Manolis Daskalakis-Lemos, Irini Linardaki, Aristidis Logothetis, Marion Iglesis, Olga Miliaresi-Fokas & Despina Damaskos Papas Sklavenitis, Efi Spyrou, Marilia Stagouraki, George Stamatakis, Chrysan Stathakos, Panos Tsagaris, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Nagia Frangouli, Nikos Charalambidis, Gioula Chatzigeorgiou, Despina Chatzipathoulou,Veronique Bourgoin, Tim D’Agostino, Karen Finley, Geyer Andrea & Sharon Hayes, Steve C Harvey, Ashley Hunt, Richard Kamler, Renee Magnati, Ilan Manouach, Daina Mattis, Juli Susin, Mischa Twitchin. In the next part of the exhibition entitled “Undercurrent” participate the artists: Chloe Akrithaki, Alexis Vasilikos, Eugenia Vereli, Maria Georgoula, Eleni Glinou, Lydia Dambasina, Martha Dimitropoulou, Irini Karagiannopoulou, Ismini T, Marina Maro Michalakakos, Phryne Mouzakitou Manolis Baboussis Rania Bellou, Emmanuel Bitsakis, Angela Bozo, Margarita Myrogianni Maria Papadimitriou, Euripides Papadopetrakis, Natasha Papadopoulou, Elias Papailiakis, Teresa Papamichali, Emilia Papafilippou, Georgia Sagri Katerina Sarah Christina Sgouromyti, Vouvoula Skoura, Evangelia Spiliopoulou, Antonis Tsakiris, Filippos Tsitsopoulos, Thalia Chioti, Zoi Hounta, Dionysis Christofilogiannis, Elaine Angelopoulos, Blind Spot, Rafika Chawishe, Mat Chivers, Delia Gonzalez, Ashley Hunt, James Lane, John Newsom, ODC Ensemble — Elli Papakonstantinou, Anastasia Pelias, Irene Ragusini, Duke Riley, Martin Sexton. Chara Piperidou, Gradations of Vocals, diptych, 2018 Opening Photo: Stephen Antonakos, Red Neon From Wall to Wall, 1968

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Sozita Goudouna

Sozita Goudouna is adjunct professor and the author of Beckett’s Breath (EUP, 2018). She is the founding director of the non profit organization Greece in USA