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Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) and the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMΣΤ) are pleased to present the major outdoor installation Return to Sender by the Nairobi based collective NEST, curated by Katerina Gregos. The installation will be on display at SNFCC’s Esplanade from April 26th to September 30th, 2023, with free admission for the public.
In Athens, the NEST Collective are presenting their major installation Return to Sender specially commissioned for Documenta 15 in Kassel (2022). The installation’s first version after Documenta 15 will be exhibited at the SNFCC. The work consists of a custom-built pavilion made of bales of used clothing - called mitumba in Swahili - the majority of which ends up in landfills in Africa, constituting a major environmental problem. The installation will be displayed at SNFCC’s Esplanade and is made of textiles and clothes collected from Greece and intended for recycling or reuse in industry, where they will end up after the exhibition.
Installation of Return to Sender at the SNFCC is made possible through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), which will also support a number of educational and creative activities for all ages accompanying the project throughout its stay at the SNFCC.
Return To Sender alludes to a dystopian waste landscape. The installation made of old clothes echoes the true breadth of the uncontrolled consumption in the Global North, and the stringent regulations that overtly force the movement of these materials to the Global South, to become the business and headache of less industrialized nations to deal with, as both waste and non-waste. An inordinate amount of textile waste comes to Africa—up to 40 percent of each bale of imported second-hand clothes is completely unusable and thus taken straight to landfills—also forcing the folk who trade in them to incur high overheads on the risk of a useless bale.
Return To Sender is also accompanied by a video installation, entitled Return to Sender - Delivery Details that explores the complicated situation of mostly second-hand textile waste in Kenya and Africa, through the viewpoints of different contributors. The work is a companion piece that explores the context of the mountain of litter which the public will have the chance to visit in Athens for a period of approximately six months but is a current unending reality in Kenya and many other African countries. During the presentation of the installation in Athens, NEST will add local material.
The project materialized after an invitation of SNFCC to EMΣΤ to submit a proposal for their annual outdoor installation. Artistic Director of EMΣΤ Katerina Gregos stated that she proposed this work in order to “raise awareness of the negative consequences of high-street or fast fashion – clothes bought, worn for a short while, and discarded quickly – and to raise awareness of the issue specifically in Greece. The environmental footprint of the fashion industry is an issue that needs to be talked about more and consumers need to be made aware that cheap clothes constitute not only an environmental problem, but also a political one as the wealthy West continues to dump its waste in the Global South and poorer countries.” She added, “EMΣΤ is absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to work in the extraordinary public space of the SNFCC that engages so many Athenians, in order to promote art that casts a critical eye on society at large and its political urgencies, examining key issues of our times such as democracy, governance, equity, economics, the environment, the effects of globalization, while highlighting the importance of public life and dialogue and the challenges facing humanity today. Within this light the work of the NEST Collective is completely aligned to the museum’s mission.”
SNFCC’s Managing Director Elly Andriopoulou noted: “Through our cooperation with EMST, Return to Sender, this year’s major installation displayed at the public space of SNFCC, brings into focus some of the most critical questions that concern us as an organization. What is the role of a cultural organization in the face of the imperative of sustainability? How do we transform, through contemporary art, the public space into a platform for learning, interaction and dialogue about art itself, society and the alternative perspectives we seek for the future of the planet? Aiming to create such a platform, the installation will be accompanied by a wealth of parallel programming, which will include educational and school activities, workshops for children and adults, as well as guided tours, which will be made possible with the support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).”
Alexandros Kambouroglou, SNF Global Programs Director, stated: “Public spaces like the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) have a vital role to play in society, offering opportunities for recreation, rest, reflection, and redefinition—for small, refreshing breaths. We are delighted that, through a collaboration between the SNFCC and the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST)—two important Greek cultural institutions—and with our support, this role is being fulfilled and enhanced through the free access SNFCC visitors will enjoy to an internationally renowned outdoor art installation. This work is sure to provoke a multitude of thoughts, reactions, and emotions, and we hope it will leave no one unmoved.”
About the NEST Collective
Founded in 2012, the NEST Collective has created works in film, music, fashion, visual arts and literature. These projects are designed to engage multiple audiences and important contemporary issues. While their practice refers to African urban, contemporary and post-colonial experiences, as an enquiry into their histories and reflections about possible futures, it often responds to and is aware of the interconnection of important contemporary issues (such as the climate crisis) at a global scale.
Their work usually unfolds in multiple platforms, spaces and audiences, including academia, and public space. In 2013, the NEST Collective also founded HEVA—Africa’s first creative business fund of its kind—to strengthen the livelihoods of East Africa’s creative entrepreneurs. In 2018, the NEST Collective founded the Strictly Silk program—a dance party and multimedia space that provides joy, safety and a sense of community for women and non-binary people of all origins, religions and generations. Last year, NEST was included in Monopol Magazin’s annual 100 list, the German art publication which selects the top 100 cultural practitioners making key contributions in the field of contemporary art.
Return to Sender | The NEST Collective
An SNFCC-EΜΣΤ co-production curated by Katerina Gregos
26 April – 30 September 2023
The interior space of the installation is open to the public during the following time slots:
27/04-31/05: Monday to Friday 11.30-21.00 and Weekends 10.00-21.00
01/06-19/09: Daily 10.00-21.00
20-30/09: Monday to Friday 11.30-21.00 and Weekends 10.00-21.00
ΕΜΣΤ realizes the presentation of the NEST installation and the collaboration with SNFCC in the framework of the ΕΜΣΤ Extra Muros programme.