KATHIMERINI ---English Edition

Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ is the basis for a varied art project


By Alexandra Koroxenidis – The Kathimerini


Homer’s “Odyssey” is the point of departure for a multi-faceted artistic project that began several months ago as a Greek initiative but with an international scope. “Penelopeia: The Other Journey” is a project that links 15 Greek women artists with one female artist each from the present 15 EU member countries. Working in pairs but not necessarily to produce joint works, the artists have based their work on a selected theme inspired by the “Odyssey” that has been adapted to have a contemporary resonance. The project is developing through a website that connects the artists and includes a discussion panel and journal, both of which feature selected specialists on Homer and on broader themes related to the project.

“Penelopeia,” which was originally launched on the occasion of the Greek European Union presidency, works on various levels. As an artistic project, it explores online collaboration, alternative ways of producing and exhibiting art, as well as the potential of art to further cultural understanding.

In many ways, “Penelopeia” is an experiment, a project that grows with time. The process seems to matter more than any fixed end product. The idea is that just as in the “Odyssey” epic; what occupy the narration’s greater part are the adventures that lead to Odysseus’ final destination. Just as in life — and in art — what seems to have greater significance is the process that leads to a goal and the learning experience it yields rather than any given outcome. The communicative, interactive process and the exchange of ideas count more than the works themselves: This seems to be a main principle of the “Penelopeia” project. It explains why the project is structured as ongoing and evolving and why its principal aim is to promote an artistic network that advances communication.

Clearly, “Penelopeia” is also a project sensitive to a female perspective. It begins from the basic premise that the “Odyssey” is not just a story about the heroism of Odysseus but also about the adventures and trials of his wife Penelope, the story’s “unseen heroine.” It, therefore, offers a contemporary definition of heroism, viewing it not in terms of action and the public domain but more as an expression of commitment and the testing of one’s own limits.

“Penelopeia” suggests that we view the Odyssey through the eyes of its female character, through the eyes of the “other.” By analogy, it proposes that we look at contemporary art through the eyes of women artists, who have long been marginalized as the “other” in art history. Just as it repositions the role of Penelope in Homer’s myth, giving it new significance, so does it suggest that we shift our attention to the position of women in contemporary art and accord them the place they deserve in the field.

The Greek women artists participating in the project are: Maria Anasazi, Lizzie Calligas, Tanacross Dimitriadi, Effie Halivopoulou, Maria Karametou, Anna Lascari, Zoe Leoudaki, Despo Magoni, Despina Meimaroglou, Maro Michalakakos, Arghyro Paouri, Maria Papadimitriou, Leda Papaconstantinou, Aemilia Papaphilippou and Chrysanne Stathacos. From Europe, among others, are Christine Clinckx from Belgium, Mai Ghoussoub from the UK, Ursula Christansen from Denmark, Betty Hager from Germany, Rita Pedulla from Italy, Ivana Cekovic from Luxembourg, Erika Dieterman-Koehler from the Netherlands, Rita Antonio from Portugal and Mia Enell from Sweden.