Penelope Georgiou

Born (1949) in Thessaloniki. Since 1970 she lives in Vienna, where she studied for two years at the Max Reinhardt Seminar. In 1977 she directed Urfaust, playing herself the role of Margarita. The next year, she directed in Vienna her own theatrical work Kunst ohne Höhepunkt. Films: Petunia (1980), Tonis und Eleni (1982), Apostolos (1986), Hans (1989), Kallas und Kennedy (1991), Das Symposion (1994), Tierschutzkinowerbespot (1997), Tanzen in der Secession (2008). Projects: Das Schöne und Richtige Handeln, Secession (Vienna, 1993); 3 Gespräche mit Philosophinnen, Depot (Vienna, 1996). Selected group Exhibitions: Die Minderung bei gesteigertem Wert, Galerie der Künstler (München, 1992); Oppositionen und Schwester felder, Secession (Vienna, 1993); Man muss ganz schön viel lernen um hier zu funktionieren, Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt, 2000); Neue Welt, Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt, 2001); Fate of Alien Modes, Secession (Vienna, 2003); The Bar, The Kunsthalle Athena (Athens, 2010).


By her own admission, Penelope Georgiou always feels awkward when asked to talk in detail about her professional and artistic work, primarily because nothing she does can be described in exact terms. Her work defies classifications in terms of artistic cycles and directions and their content. Something always comes out that is fundamentally atypical, like an anti-system within the system. This outcome is not intentional. It is something that happens naturally to the artist. The word “happens” is what prevents any kind of interpretation. But at the same time, this is probably also the main trait that binds Georgiou to her work. No “mistake”. No slip.

It should be noted that the artist considers she is perceptive and feels proud for believing that this is precisely what should be viewed as fundamentally normal in art. That which cannot be expressed by words is inspiration. Inspiration cannot produce art by itself -what follows is the creative process, the process of the actual work, of construction and reflection. She makes films in which she is both director and (at least until now) actress. She has also staged plays in the theater, published texts, organized a symposium and taken part in exhibitions. Nevertheless, she is not a stage director nor a writer or a performance artist or cultural worker. Not because she wouldn’t make it in these fields; there are examples that attest to the opposite. It is because she is not interested in clear-cut forms. She is also repulsed by the gravity of the term “director” and “actor”. She believes they have misleading connotations. The word “director” alludes to an influential person that holds power. The word “actor” alludes to glamour. “Writer” she finds overburdened. “Cultural worker”? No. This is an ugly phrase that comes nowhere close to what she would like herself to be. She is also intrinsically bound to art. So how about “artist”? This is a more apt description, but it sounds too pompous. It sounds smug. She is a narcissist but she is not conceited. Any effort at categorization fails. It would be better if she just said, according to Francois Villon:  “I am Penelope and I need no one’s forgiveness for it”. Not a grande dame de l´art, but a strong-headed person. The last ancient Greek, as Reinhard Priessnitz thought. A sophist, talented and provocative. 




Petunia, 1980, film 16mm, duration : 93', courtesy of the artist
Still from the film
Still from the film
Still from the film

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon