PAWEL ALTHAMER: THE SECRET OF THE PHAISTOS DISC
Every year since 2009, the DESTE Foundation’s exhibition space at the Slaughterhouse of Hydra has hosted a contemporary art exhibition designed by an artist (or team of artists). The Secret of the Phaistos Disc by the Polish artist Pawel Althamer is an interactive project that combines sculpture and performance with a series of experimental ways of social communication and creativity. The focus is on the nature of families, family relationships and more generally on human relationships and the way they fit into society to form a ‘universal’ family that lies at the centre of today’s city. Once again, Althamer pushes the boundaries of contemporary sculpture to the point where its essence acquires a human aspect.
The main role in this work is played by the artist’s own family. Specifically, Althamer’s children become protagonists as they are called upon to develop and stage a happening whose aim is to explore the relations, correlations and asterisms that lie behind the existing social structures. Children and adults alike are invited to take part in the happening using handmade puppets (most of which depict the Althamer family, but others as well) to “construct” various scenarios —or messages— of their imagination.
The sources of inspiration behind this project are the Phaistos Disc, considered to be the earliest known example of typography and encoded information (Middle Bronze Age; 17th c. BCE), and the Emerald Tablet, a text attributed to a figure from Hellenistic times known as Hermes Trismegistus. The Emerald Tablet sets the foundations of alchemic theory and practice as they are known today. This hermetic text is said to contain the secret of prima materia and its transmutations.