Liquid Antiquity: Conversations at “The Classical Now”

  • March 2-April 29, 2018
  • Bush House Arcade
  • Kings College London

Liquid Antiquity is a platform for radically rethinking the relation between the classical and the contemporary. Resisting classicism as dead weight, Liquid Antiquity turns the ancient past into a fluid resource for the present: it shifts attention from the matter of antiquity to the question of why antiquity matters.

Liquid Antiquity began as an exhibition without antiquities – in the form of a book. Spanning some 2,500 years, the book is animated by cross-currents of conversation: it offers a new critical lexicon of classicism, put into play in the introductory chapter, ten interviews with contemporary artists and a visual essay that juxtaposes ancient and contemporary artworks.

The book is complemented by “Liquid Antiquity: Conversations” – which is being shown for the first time in London as part of “The Classical Now” a major exhibition pairing the work of modern and contemporary artists with classical Greek and Roman antiquities, curated by Michael Squire in collaboration with James Cahill and Ruth Allen.  “The Classical Now” will be on display at King’s College London from 2 March until 28 April 2018. Presented in partnership with the award-winning Musée d’Art Classique de Mougins (MACM), the exhibition traces the ways in which Graeco-Roman art has captured and permeated the modern imagination.

“Liquid Antiquity: Conversations” was originally exhibited as six video interventions in the antiquities galleries of the Benaki Museum in Athens, each structured around a conversation between Brooke Holmes and an artist who contributed to the book: Matthew Barney, Paul Chan, Urs Fischer, Jeff Koons, Asad Raza and Kaari Upson.  Representations of the original settings of the interviews – the studios and apartments of individual artists – were superimposed onto the real space of the gallery, encouraging the visitor to move from the private relationship with the book and the artifact into the dialogue with the featured artist.  The visitor was invited not only to reassess our relationship with classical antiquity but also to reflect on and reimagine the contours of the ‘we’ who encounter the classical past.  In Bush House, three of the six platforms have been installed, each featuring two of the original conversations (in rotation).

Liquid Antiquity was conceived and developed by Brooke Holmes, in collaboration with Polina Kosmadaki and Yorgos Tzirtzilakis; it was organised by the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, working together with the ‘Postclassicisms’ initiative at Princeton University and the Benaki Museum in Athens. Liquid Antiquity is co-edited by Holmes and Karen Marta. “Liquid Antiquity: Conversations” was conceived, filmed and designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and originally shown at the Benaki Museum from April to September 2017.

Photo: Matthew Barney being interviewed by Brooke Holmes (credit: Matthew Johnson, 2016)

Project Design / Direction: Matthew Johnson (Diller Scofidio + Renfro)
Interviewer: Brooke Holmes (Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Princeton University)
Videography: Priest Fontaine Batten – All In Favor, Nathan Lee Bush
Sound Engineer: Casey Sweten
Editing: Jean Smokehouse Coleman
Diller Scofidio + Renfro Team: Andrew Cornelis, Swarnabh Ghosh
Installation Manager: Eugenia Stamatopoulou (DESTE Foundation)
Construction: Antonis Antoniadis, Tzinaroglou Brothers
Coordination: Polina Kosmadaki (Benaki Museum, Athens), Eleni Michaelidi (DESTE Foundation)