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Financial Times

Installation view at Hellenic Parliament + NEON, Greece, 2021


Portals, with 59 artists curated by Neon’s director Elina Kountouri and Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, combines this rupture with one from Greece’s history: this year the country celebrates the 200th anniversary of the start of its war of independence from the Ottoman empire. While the show’s works deal thoughtfully with interconnected histories of independence, nationalism and colonialism, the visitor gets much less about ways forward.


A poignant look at the politics of exclusion is Michael Rakowitz’s “Charta Baghdadia”, which explores Judeo-Arabic language through the annotated pages of a 1936 haggadah (a Hebrew text for the Passover festival) from his Iraqi-Jewish family. The annotations, where Arabic words are transliterated in Hebrew letters, contest Jewish nationalist narratives and the second-class positioning of Arab Jews by both Arab and Jewish communities. The work was conceived in response to the Charta of Greece (1797), a map tracing the borders of a free Greece created by political thinker and revolutionary Rigas Feraios, who fought against the Ottoman occupation. It is said to have inspired the 1821 revolution that led to independence.

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