“TRY AGAIN. FAIL AGAIN. FAIL BETTER.” Aeschylea Festival 2013. Eleusis, Greece.
A project by Nikos Navridis at the former oil and soap factory organized by the city of Eleusis with the support of OUTSET.
The artistic project conceived by Nikos Navridis for Eleusis relates both to the specific site in which it is presented and to the current context of spiritual, social and economic crisis.
While most of the artists invited on previous occasions displayed their works in the huge interior spaces of the factory, Nikos Navridis has accommodated them in exterior spaces, thus expanding the architectural and symbolic boundaries of both factory and city. He has used the whole courtyard of the factory to transform the dryness of the cement into a waving field of wheat and the long wall next to the entrance in the front space as well as the former circular tank to install sentences by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. His choices regarding space, material, language and metaphor have enabled him to combine his own aesthetic, existential and political cosmography with the symbolism and dense history of Eleusis.
Since classical antiquity the name Eleusis has been bound to the mystical cults of Demeter, Persephone and Hecate, a triad of goddesses that symbolises fertility of woman and earth. In Western culture Eleusis has remained associated with the awareness of the civilising process, the cyclic rebirth of agricultural crops and of human life itself. The echoes of this path of wisdom and transformation coexist in Eleusis with the story of multiple cases of destruction. Today, the most significant ones are those associated with industrialisation and the tertiary of service sector (a petrol refinery, the actual oil and soap factory, tourism, cultural consumption, etc.) and their consequent stages of development, decline and losses, often related to the flagrant unemployment rate in the region.
Bearing this background in mind, Nikos Navridis has chosen to work with two basic materials that enable him to reinterpret the myth and think about the present. The first is the legendary Eulesian cereal, wheat, and the second is a sentence by Irish writer Samuel Beckett that is also, to a certain extent, legendary.
In the large courtyard of the factory Navridis has created a field of wheat on the cement ground. By preserving the roots of the spikes and replanting them, one by one, on a mantle of earth covering the merciless aridity of the cement, he gives form to the hope for a new rebirth. By looking back at the ancestral art of agriculture he reasserts the need for a new agreement with the forces of the underworld, that are no longer those of the infernal gods of classical mythology but the relentless darkness of the ideology of progress.
￼For Navridis, 'the literal, physical transportation of the field on the cement is a powerful conceptual metaphor of the meaning of human labor and it directly connects with Beckett's sentence "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better," that suggests all the efforts and the mistakes we made in the past and are still making in order to achieve what we believe is better.* The ideas of failure, perseverance and repetition are summed up here with a touch of hope.
In the intervention Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better, where dialectics is at once a connection and a separation between nature and language, Navridis continues to develop his artistic career, following a path that echoes the renewal of aesthetic languages and reveals his aspiration to conceive existential spaces as spiritual and political regions. Navridis is able to transform empty industrial spaces into symbolic sets in which Beckett's words, acting as a contemporary oracle, coexist with the absurd yet vital exercise of replanting the wheat as a symbol of the need to be responsible for our material and spiritual nourishment.
* Beckett's statement appeared in his second last novel, Worstward Ho, published in 1983. (Excerpts from the catalogue essay by Rosa Martínez)
Nikos Navridis lives and works in Athens. From 2008 he is teaching as professor to the Athens School of Fine Arts of Athens. He has performed numerous solo and group exhibitions in Greece and abroad: Always a Little Further, Arsenale, 51th Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy; Plateau of Humankind, 49th Venice Biennial, Greek Pavilion, Venice, Italy; Tomorrow will be a beautiful day, Bernier Eliades Gallery, Athens; Nikos Navridis, Difficult Breaths, La Caixa Foundation, Madrid, Spain; 2nd Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2003, Echigo Tsumari, Japan; Looking for a Place, 3rd International Biennial SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; On Life, Beauty, Translations and other Difficulties,5th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey; Nikos Navridis, Museo Universitario Contemporáneo de Arte, Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico; Dematerialization-Nikos Navridis, 23rd Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil.