Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani Dynamis

Egg-balancing in a fragile economy

By Mike Watson

Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani, Dynamis, 2017 (installation view). Photo: Giorgio Benni. Courtesy the artist and Marie-Laure Fleisch, Rome & Brussels

Marie-Laure Fleisch, Rome 11 March – 6 May

Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani’s fourth solo show at Marie-Laure Fleisch centres on the German duo’s HD video Dynamis (2014). Though made three years ago, the work, which focuses on the precarity and resilience of Greece’s inhabitants, remains as relevant today as it was then, particularly as the eyes of the artworld are fixed upon Athens as cohost of Documenta 14. Dynamis was originally commissioned by the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki, and documents a collective performance whereby the duo randomly encountered and interacted with the city’s residents and tourists. Over its 22-minute runtime, it focuses upon willing volunteers who have agreed to undertake the task of balancing an egg upright on one of the stone or marble surfaces that characterise the city. With parks, café terraces, an indoor market, a butcher’s and the seafront as backdrops, the viewer witnesses individuals do something with, and seemingly for, the city: that is to say, the simple, patient act of balancing something fragile – which takes the protagonists anything from seconds to minutes to achieve – here assumes a new symbolic relevance, connecting locals and visitors alike to a regional capital deeply affected by Greece’s debt crisis.

Once a major centre of investment under Ottoman rule, Thessaloniki currently endures the fate of the Greek economy as a whole, brought about by structural weaknesses, corruption and the pressures of being tied to the EU. As such, the painstaking effort put into balancing an egg on a wall that is revealed – as the camera pans away – to be part of a branch of the National Bank of Greece conveys the adaptability and ingenuity of Greece’s inhabitants in the face of financial hardship. Perhaps most striking is not the fact that almost all of the participants managed to balance their egg upon the given surface, but how differently people approached the task. Efforts range from the scrupulous attempts of one teenage boy, who celebrated eventual success with a victory cry as his egg stood upright on a granite bench, to the effortless first-attempt success of a teen girl who placed her egg on a sliver of marble atop a ruined wall. Elsewhere, a poultry and egg vendor takes seconds to place an egg upright on a wooden stool in his store, before proudly surveying the shop while puffing away on a cigarette. Of course, personal sensibilities dictate how tense or carefree the various participants are, though common to all is a sense that something enormous is at stake.

Besides the video, the gallery also displayed a floor piece (Untitled, 2017) consisting of a plinth with a wooden base and granite top, modelled on a plinth situated on the seafront of Thessaloniki. Gallery visitors are invited to take an egg from a glass bowl placed upon the plinth and to try to position it upright on the stony surface. With the video running and the gallery assistant having retreated to the office space, I succeeded on my third attempt; it seems eggs have a natural centre of gravity that, once found, enables them to stay up. That can’t be said for the Greek economy, though its people will surely persevere with their balancing act. 

From the May 2017 issue of ArtReview