Greek artist Angelo Plessas explores the ways Internet technology affects and redefines human interaction. Born in Athens, in 1974, he was already an adult when the world wide web became the global commercial and administrative network by which much of the planet lives today. “There is a mystical side to technology,” explains Plessas, whose lived experience of this paradigm shift feeds into his work. A self-described “techno-shaman,” he seeks “ways to bridge spirituality and technology so we can understand something new.”
One way to do that, Plessas has found, is through special ceremonies, the first of which he staged in 2017 at Documenta 14, which took place in Athens and Kassel. Called the Anima Noospherica Ritual, it is a sort of group meditation that both banishes and exalts technology. “It’s a way to force yourself away from the screen, so you can come back more energized and inspired,” he explains. For each ritual, Plessas wears a specific handmade cape to ward off electronic overexposure. “The capes are like a digital detox,” says Plessas, who uses a special polyester that is designed to shield the wearer from electromagnetic radiation. The circular garments, which also look good hung on the wall, are sewn with patches, each one a different symbol taken either from the universal lexicon of e-communication — emojis, emoticons, and the aesthetics of cybernetics — or from mythology.
Depending on where the ritual takes place, the design of the cape will also evolve. “When I did a ritual with a shaman in Korea, I was surprised by the similarities between ancient-Greek symbolism and Korean pagan iconography,” recalls Plessas. The most recent ceremony took place in the house and complex that architect Eric Lloyd Wright (grandson of Frank) built into the Malibu Hills (see PIN–UP 6). Plessas was there at the invitation of Acne Studios, the Swedish fashion powerhouse and creative company. “(Acne Paper editor) Thomas Persson came to my studio in Athens about a year ago, and he was immediately interested in the capes,” Plessas recalls. The result of that fateful visit is a piece in the most recent Acne Papers as well as a limited-edition capsule collection of about a dozen of the garments, produced by Acne Studios. Worn by participants in the Malibu happening — who were accompanied by a drummer, the singer Caroline Polachek, while guests drank herb-infused wine —, the capes will be on view in select Acne locations, among them L.A., Paris, and Stockholm. But Acne is also releasing a more accessible collection that introduces Plessas’s magic patches to staples such as hoodies, T-shirts, and bombers. “Each patch is like talisman,” the artist reveals. “They stand for different things: hospitality, sisterhood, prosperity, generosity, and even fertility.”