Wor(th)ship. Tassos Vrettos

Organized by the Benaki Museum.

Curated by Nadja Argyropoulou and Yorgos Tzirtzilakis.

Organization: Benaki Museum.

Exhibition Design: Nadja Argyropoulou, Vassiliki Maria Plavou, Yorgos Tzirtzilakis.

Golden Sponsor: Onassis Foundation.

Supporters: City of Athens—Organization of Culture, Sports and Youth, European Bauxites S.A., Athens International Airport S.A., NEON Organization for Culture and Development, Karavias art insurance, The Newtons Laboratory.

Technology sponsor: Samsung Electronics Hellas.

Media Sponsors: I Kathimerini, Athens 9,84.

The photographic "fieldwork" of Tassos Vrettos, depicting the makeshift places of worship of migrants and refugees in and around Athens, is presented for the first time at the Pireos Street building of the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece.


The photographer records an invisible, unknown network within the city: basements and rented flats, apartment blocks and garages, playing fields and outdoor public spaces, squares and courtyards, structures made at hoc in temporary or permanent addresses for groups of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Spiritualists and Christians of various denominations and multiple ethnic origins (Ethiopian, Afghan, Egyptian, Pakistani, Nigerian, Senegalese, etc.).


It is a "work in progress" that began in 2012 with the collaboration of these communities' members themselves and continues to this day, when such communities are waned by the economic crisis and affected deeply by the incoming waves of new refugee populations.


This special anthropological material, with its eloquent social, political but also aesthetic connotations, is original; it is also a collaborative effort, in the sense of the various relationships that were sought and cultivated before it could be recorded in photographs. The project does not stop at the level of the foreign migrants' and refugees' arrival and survival or their "forwarding" to their final destination: it extends radically to delve into the area of a primordial experience which remains invisible, even as it brings together people from diverse origins and backgrounds as they are forced to turn what little and precarious they find and collect into places and ways of worship.


Brimming with activity and cared for with astonishing ingenuity (albeit shrouded in obscurity), these loci of worship constitute an everyday reality that is porous and largely ignored.


The English title of the show, Wor(th)ship. Tassos Vrettos, echoes the Greek title's untranslatable pun between "topoi ('places') and tropoi ('ways') of worship," and reflects the etymology of worship from the old English word worthship, i.e. the act of ascribing worth. Athens of 2015 is one of the few cities in the world today where issues of identity, the exercise of religious rights and the understanding of worth form a new dense fabric of political realities and people are involved in multiple levels of migration. A city that is experienced as an open mosaic of pockets, inasmuch as it spawns our factual perceptions about the additionality and symbiosis of cultures: a kind of constellation of differences in a state of flux and urgency.


The exhibition was designed and curated with the aim of addressing all these catalytic parameters and creating the context for receiving this ongoing research of Vrettos.


Composer Mihalis Kalkanis responded to the invitation of Vrettos to record in sound an indicative sample of what was captured by the lens, and then to musically process this unique material which will  be presented in the show in specially designed audio installations.


The exhibition and the accompanying bilingual publication present a total of 44 of those places of worship in Greater Athens. The book, designed by K2 design in Athens, is meant not to reproduce the exhibition as a conventional catalogue but to comment on the very process of approaching this seemingly invisible social and anthropological material. The corpus of texts attempts to shed light on this complex phenomenon in some of its key anthropological, religiological, ethnological, artistic, sociological and curatorial aspects, which make it central to our contemporary culture. It features texts by the curators and D. Graham Burnett, Brian Dillon, Efie Falida, Dimitris Halazonitis, Ioanna Laliotou, Savas Michael-Matsas, Panayis Panagiotopoulos, George Prochnik, Kostis Stafylakis, Fotis Terzakis, and Nanos Valaoritis. It is edited by Nadja Argyropoulou and Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, the curators of the exhibition.