8 - 11 June

Learning From Athens: The Syllabus at Documenta 14

Spike Island is taking the Syllabus II artists on a group visit to documenta 14 in Athens. 

Syllabus II at Documenta Athens

This is an opportunity for the group to experience a wide range of contemporary practice together, while considering questions of democracy, the politics of the present moment and participation. Sessions with visiting artists will open up space for each individual to consider their own practice in relation to issues of display, with regard to power relationships, choreography, place and context.

As the meeting point of the economic and migrant crises that have consumed Europe, and as the foundation site of European democracy itself, Athens is a loaded site from which to explore current global complexities.

The reading list includes extracts from documenta 14's series of journals entitled South, all of which are available online and which expand upon various ways of thinking of and around the exhibition. Recommended reads:

  • Keeping Score: Notation, Embodiment, and Liveness by Hendrik Folkerts - online.
  • The Construction of Southern Ruins, or Instructions for Dealing with Debt by Aristide Antonas - online


The weekend kicks off in the afternoon of Friday at the Athens Conservatoire.

The artist artist Cally Spooner will discuss the exhibition display and its curation by Pierre Bal Blanc. Exploring ideas of improvisation, participation and repetition the work embodies notions key to the composer’s concept of the ‘continuum’, an idea the composer explained as: ‘the work might last for any stretch of time. Anyone wishing to participate in the continuum is welcome.’


The group will visit the EMST-National Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday morning.

After lunch, we will visit The Breeder gallery, co-founded by George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis and formed organically from The Breeder magazine in 2002. Following the Greek financial meltdown in 2009 and the subsequent economic and social crisis, one of their main goals was to promote a group of emerging Greek artists on the global arena.

The gallery and residency program serve as a link connecting cultures and supporting a deeper understanding and exchange of Greek culture, political ideas and ideals and contemporary production.

We will see the exhibition SI SEDES NON IS curated by Milovan Farronato and the gallery team will discuss the work of the gallery and the local art scene in Athens.

Saturday evening, a member of the documenta ‘chorus’ will lead us on a walk around the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA). 


On Sunday, we will visit the Benaki Museum, Pieros Street branch, which hosts a group exhibition as part of documenta 14 featuring artists who were invited to respond to the museological collection and histories housed there.

After lunch there is plenty of time to see others sites in the city for both documenta 14, as well as general sightseeing around Athens.

The Hills, The Paintings, The Dema (a fact free walk that considers duration as an antidote to instantaneity)

On our final afternoon, Danish artist Jesper List Thomsen, writer and part of the collective Am Nuden Da will take us on a walk, over the 3 hills next to the Acropolis: Filopappou aka Hill of Muses, Hill of the Nymphs and The Pnyx (hill). 

We will visit Vivian Suter’s paintings at the Church of Agios Dimitrios; considering their making, material, hanging, looseness and straightforward generosity. We will discuss agency, response, brevity, infinity and the relations between site and subject.

Continuing on to The Dema (stepping stone) a plateau carved out of the local rock, which served as the first site for public speech, as it was conceived as, in the early days of democracy c.500BC. The idea of a participatory system of governance in which all voices are encouraged to make themselves heard in public, seems appropriate in relation to how one might choose to engage Vivian Suter’s paintings. 

Please note that we have selected the artists for the Syllabus II programme. 

We will announce those selected for Syllabus III in mid June. 

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