The exhibition SPOLIA – 22 Transcripts is on view at the Institute for Advanced Study’s Simons Hall and the Historical Studies – Social Science Library from May 4 to October 31.
“Spolia” are recycled stones—building blocks, reliefs, tombstones, etc.—removed from their original context to be re-used in a different one. A squeeze is a reverse copy of a surface that has been sculpted, engraved, or carved. It is a non-aggressive method of reproducing an accurate copy of the surface; it requires suitable paper, a good brush, and water. Squeezes can be easily carried and stored. The Institute for Advanced Study hosts a unique collection of thousands of squeezes of ancient Greek inscriptions.
The squeezes presented in this exhibition were made by the architect and artist Nora Okka, who has introduced a new technique of multi-layer squeezes, imprinting reliefs of ancient and medieval spolia built in the “Little Metropolis” of Athens. This 11–12th century church is a unique example of spolia architecture. Its walls are entirely made of marble spoils, including reliefs with decorative and figurative motifs of different origins, spanning more than one thousand years (ca. 300 BCE–ca. 1100 C.E.).
With her work, Nora Okka takes the interaction with spolia to a new level: the multi-layer squeezes can be viewed closely as three-dimensional objects and in continually new combinations and arrangements. The relief negative of the squeeze suggests the relief image of the original. The making of squeezes transforms the spolia to movable objects of art. Their history continues as they are integrated into new architectural settings representing a complex configuration of past and present spaces.
Nora Okka is an architect, artist, curator, and theorist of architecture. She holds a professional degree in Architecture (2006) from the National Technical University of Athens, a master’s degree in Digital Arts and Cinema (2009) from the Athens School of Fine Arts, a master’s degree in Advanced Studies in Scenography (2012) from Zurich University of the Arts and a doctorate diploma in Architecture Curating (2017) from Vienna University. Since 2010, her spolia series constitutes a multidisciplinary research and artistic experimentation that demonstrates the concept of spolia as a micrography of the constitution of architecture itself. This dual approach results in a new multi-layer squeeze technique of imprinting reliefs of precious architectural fragments of the past. It seeks to be interpreted and experienced as a symbolic reconstitution of the authentic spolia but also as a performative continuation of the practice of spolia. Furthermore, the spolia series allows us to perceive the contemporary cultural techniques as continuous transcripts.
View the catalogue here.