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  • Chemical architecture: Iris Touliatou


Chemical architecture: Iris Touliatou

INTERVIEW! After making quite a splash at the ABC art fair last autumn, Touliatou experiments with formulas in her solo exhibition Can You Wash The Water, on at DUVE. Catch her latest exhibition before it closes Sat, Feb 26.

Image for Chemical architecture: Iris Touliatou
Photo by Viktor Richardsson

Iris Touliatou experiments with formulas in her solo exhibition Can You Wash The Water, on at DUVE through February.

Touliatou, who works between Berlin and Athens, got the art world’s attention with her installation at the ABC art fair last autumn. The marble sculptures and ‘conference room’ scented with imitation cologne drew on her obsession with a potentially forged Greek artefact and set the stage for Can You Wash the Water, titled after a line in Krisma’s 1982 song “Water”. Here she’s also referencing the writings of George Elliot, Catherine Malabou and more, to question synthetic materials as powerful, eternal substances.

In April, you moved your Paris studio to your birthplace of Athens. Has that changed the way you work?

I have always spent a lot of time reading and writing as part of my practice – the material part of my work was always an outcome of that thinking process. But a shift has happened in Athens. I’m less rational and more intuitive there. But I still use analytical processes, research and notes, along with my mind maps and drawings, which are actually included in my show this time. And then there are elements that coincide with my emotions. I ask how to translate them into materials. I’ve been working a lot like a chemist, using formulas, thinking about the arrangements and alignments between substances.

Did you use that approach for your ABC installation Centuries will squeeze between your thumb and your index?

Yes. For one part of that installation, I composed a formula after reading about all the mineral deposits and elements that were found on the surface of the Getty Kouros, an archaic Greek sculpture acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1985. The deposits were examined by scientists, analysts and art historians to find out if the sculpture was an original or a copy. After all the testing, they still couldn’t tell if it was made in 1982 or in 600 BC, which inspired the title of the show.

What’s the connection between that installation and what we’ll see at DUVE?

The ABC installation commented generally on the relationship between humans and artefacts, and between natural and technological worlds. It served as a switch. It was like putting a diver’s mask on, helping me see more clearly as to why I was dealing with this idea of artificiality. Now I’m questioning the impact of artificial imitations and chemical fragility, and how that relates to artistic techniques. It’s about the poetics of the inorganic – an ode to surrogates.

What does that look like?

I’ve made a series of laser-etched drawings on synthetic rubber, and a series of sculptures that act as formulas as well, composed of varied artificial materials: plastics, liquids and resins. I’ve also collaborated with the project 2008daughters, founded by the artists Isa Griese and Derek Di Fabio, to make clothing patterns that we’ll incorporate in the installation.

Is your work related to other fields?

A lot of people related my past work to architecture. I think my main concern has always been synthesis, combining materials and forms. A chemist’s approach took over – but for me, a chemist is still an architect.

CAN YOU WASH THE WATER Through Feb 26 | DUVE, Gitschiner Str. 94/94a, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Hallesches Tor, Tue–Fri 11-18, Sat 12-16