Times Athens is a series of photographs Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff took of themselves in Athens in February 2012. At that point, the two Americans had been running a space in Berlin called Times Bar, which catered to a mostly expatriate community of artists. During opening hours, artists were invited to hang their works above the bar and, consequently, to “perform” for other artists. This setup facilitated a dialogue between peers and allowed for works to be experienced outside of institutional or commercial contexts.
Times Athens imagines the franchising of Times Bar in the Greek capital. The series was spurred by ongoing conversations overheard at the bar about the means of artistic livelihood in Berlin, paired with an ostensibly bottomless pining for the next city with cheap studio space. In a time when German-enforced austerity measures against Greece hardened, Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff framed their project against the backdrop of Athens as the symbolic birthplace of European democracy. Looking for hotels that advertised rooms with a view of the Acropolis or the Hellenic parliament, they gained access to these prized vantage points by passing themselves as fashion photographers from Berlin.
While Times Athens forms a self-evidently satirical, allegorical tableau of conquering Americans on European soil and, more significantly, of the fundamental inability of the artist class to engage with the immediacy of history, these pictures also function as candid documentary photography. As Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff say: “Much of our photographic work deals with the production of avatars, the ways the pictures we share of ourselves are seen as a reflection of identity, markers of politics, lifestyle, class, and desire. Our images arise from the inevitable slippages that takes place between fact and fiction, stage and architecture, character and person.”
Times Athens was first exhibited in late 2012 at the gallery T293 in Naples, where the photographs served as props for a performance written for artists Joe Kay and Mathew Lutz-Kinoy, and acted out for the gallery staff and a few friends right before the public opening. The script reads: “Hands in wet paint, Joe Kay will hold a drill between his legs, pencil in mouth, both arms bracing the frame. Matthew Lutz-Kinoy will stand back with a hand on hip, the other hand holding a level. Loudly he will say ‘lower on the right.’” A second version, now in MAMCO’s collection, was subsequently printed for an exhibition titled A New Norm, organized by Fabrice Stroun in April 2017 at Hyle, an Athenian art space run by the artist Georgia Sagri.