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“Zoe” is an ancient Greek term and means life - the simple fact of life that is common to all living beings. According to Plato, “Zoe” is also tied to Fate that can be lived well or badly. However, it is not always in our hands whether our life is peaceful or whether it is suppressed and persecuted because certain aspects are not considered compliant by religious or political authorities.

Queer interpretations of ancient Greek mythology and society are the focus of the photographic project ZOE by German artist Maik Gräf. A series of photographs taken during the artist’s art residency in Athens in 2021 will be presented at Romantso gallery.
The exhibition is curated by Konstantinos Menelaou and Maik Gräf and produced by the art platform and gallery The Queer Archive.

Ancient Greek sculptures embody ideals that are thousands of years old and speak of a special sensitivity. The bare marble of the ancient statues, depicted in an intimate, emotional and abstract way is a recurring theme of Gräf’s photographic work, who believes that Greek spiritual heritage offers a promise of a queer future and is traced in the contemplation of ancient representations of the human body.

During his time in Athens, Gräf closely engaged with the local queer community and further explored his ongoing passion and curiosity for ancient, as well as contemporary Greek culture.
In ZOE, marble sculptures are juxtaposed with recent portraits of members of the queer community of Athens. Gräf personally interviewed members of the community and this fruitful interaction informed him about the current state of queer living in Athens. Discrimination, violence, injustice, but also newly acquired freedoms, solidarity and love have balanced the view of history with the present political and social state of society.

Maik Gräf‘s work deals with queer theory and history and formulates questions about queer subjectivity. His photographs address topics of bodily and emotional perception. His aim is to evoke emotions in viewers while conveying the aspect of vulnerability through the use of the material. Based on the understanding of photography as a sensitive medium, the sensitive surfaces of analog photography form the working basis, which resembles the vulnerability of human skin.

Maik Gräf (*1986) studied at the Bauhaus University Weimar and the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg, where he graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in 2018. Among other awards, he received a working scholarship from the Stiftung Kunstfonds in 2023, the stART.up scholarship from the Claussen-Simon Foundation in 2021/22 and the Hamburg Future Scholarship in 2021. His work has been shown among others at the Museum für Photo- graphie Braunschweig, Kunsthaus Hamburg, Frappant Galerie Hamburg, MOM ART SPACE Hamburg, f2 Fotofestival Dortmund, and during the triannual der Photographie Hamburg. In addition, he publishes his work in artist books. His last artist‘s book »ZOE« was published in 2022.


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