A series of twelve online ‘pop-up’ advertisements, obscuring the Out of Focus homepage.
(Out of Focus (OOF) is a UK-based online commissioning platform established in 2012 by curators Rosie Cooper and Ariella Yedgar and initiates three to four projects a year. For each project an artist is commissioned to make a new work for the homepage of the OOF website and as part of that process invites two other people to participate; one person from an art background and one from a non-art background. The nature of the invitees’s contributions and whether their contributions sit alongside or form part of the main commission varies from project to project.)
For his contribution to Out of Focus #1, Adam Chodzko, every week for three months, presented a sequence of 12 different pop-up advertisements obscuring the Out of Focus homepage. These advertisements were made by the artist to promote small, ‘offline’ businesses in an area of Athen’s old town, where he was staying at the time, in the midst of the Greek government-debt crisis (working on a parallel series of ‘advertisements’ for the Benaki Museum, You’ll see; this time it’ll be different ). Even without a recession these are the kind of Athenian businesses (in the ‘flea market’ area north of Monastiraki and to the east of Psyri), mostly run by migrants, that wouldn’t normally have the financial means or inclination to advertise themselves anywhere locally, let alone online. Chodzko was not only bringing the marginal into focus in this work, but was also doing these businesses a service they will likely never be aware of. However, the work plays with the question as to what value this service might really offer? Although online, Runners ‘advertises’ to a remote audience who will still largely be based in the UK and who are perhaps unlikely to follow Chodzko’s graphic recommendations to buy a lighting fixture or a fish from a store in Athens. The advertisements load on top of, and outside the URL you clicked on with the intention to access a website full of artworks. The Runners operate as an irritation, an error, something to be clicked away, an unwanted gift.
Chodzko’s 12 designs are performed to rectify a problem, to ‘help out’, to demonstrate a concern for a people and place in the centre of an economic crisis. The apparently poorly composed, ‘messy’ visual and textual language that Runners employs suggests that the particular subjectivity that has developed in order to be open to, and empathise with, the precarity of these small businesses seems to also require (or provoke) a state of naïvety, an innocence in complete disregard for the rules of visual marketing.
Instead, Runners invents new rules; It is oblivious to, or misjudges, all hierarchies of beauty, value or meaning within the image so that, for example, in Zacharkis, storehouse… the name of the business is embellished with a piece of graffiti defacing that same shop. Chodzko (playing the role of aberrant, ignorant amateur designer) only uses what can be seen within the picture. Runners seem to be made with no visual knowledge beyond what was originally there in a source image. There is, apparently, no understanding that, in the culture of commodities, objects have different statuses. Here there is no differentiation as to what might distinguish the shop from its merchandise. What is offered are each store’s specific circumstances, its place together with its accretions of signs of neglect and damage. In Travellers shop an air conditioning fan mounted on the shop’s exterior is incorporated as though deemed a crucial motif. In Haberdashery, delicate things… a car parked across the street with its wheel, by chance, reflected in the shop front has this apparently irrelevant and mundane event repeated as though it is a vital selling point. In Here we sell parking cards… sections of stains around a forlorn note taped to a wall are proudly repeated as a flourish of embellishment. In Food products… the arc of the groove of a shutter is presented as a vital graphic element, framing the selling of a solitary tin of luncheon meat.
The text for each advertisement includes the Greek lettering and signage inherent within the image together with their pedantically literal English translations superimposed. Each of the Runners has its shop’s coordinates listed precisely in latitude and longitude (as though anticipating an aerial visit, at least via Google Earth). These small, backstreet shops occupy an exact mathematical global position, along with everything else in the world, including the Whitehouse, the Kremlin, and the headquarters of Toyota.
The title Runners refers to stolons (horizontal connections between organisms) which in botany often occur below the soil’s surface as a propagation strategy, reappearing above the soil as new plants in different places. The store appears in a small street in Athens and then produces a runner in the form of its affect (on the artist) determined by its particular design, condition, atmosphere and apparent ‘expectation,’ to then appear, later, in a new state on an art website based in London.
Chodzko has made other versions of Runners, (eg: Runners (2011)) and they are closely related to to his early series Transmitters (1991-) and are evolved in the Next Meeting… posters.
In culo alla balena! [“Into the ass of a whale!” ] (2012)
We love you here, even though you are there (2012)
The God Look-Alike Contest (1991-1992)
We are Sorry (July 9, 2013)
Secretors (1993 – )
Flashers (1996 – )