I never look at you from the place from which you see me

I never look at you from the place from which you see me, 2023. Courtesy Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin


Olaf Nicolai


Panathenaic Stadium / Kallimarmaro


5 June 2024, 20:00


5 June–7 July 2024

Collaborating parties:

Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin, Stiftung Federkiel, TAVROS

Architecture consultant:

Evita Fanou


Maria-Thalia Carras, Manto Psarelli

I never look at you from the place from which you see me is an installation by Olaf Nicolai presented opposite the Panathenaic Stadium in central Athens. 

The two photographs displayed on billboards were taken in June 2022 in Ancient Olympia, Greece, using a parabolic mirror—the very mirror used every two years to ignite the Olympic torch with the sun’s rays. The parabolic mirror conjures media images of the ceremonial lighting of the flame and the ensuing torch relay, rituals inaugurated for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. These symbolic gestures are embodied in the parabolic mirror, still in use today.

The photographs taken by artist Olaf Nicolai depict the landscape and historical site of Ancient Olympia as anamorphic, ethereal, floating distortions. Anamorphic images fracture classical notions of perspective, creating visual disruptions which destabilise the concept of stable subjectivity, suggesting a more circuitous process of seeing. Within each distortion, the subject’s perspective is always somehow present, prompting the question: Who exactly is looking at what? Or as psychoanalyst Lacan wrote in his chapter Anamorphosis, in turn quoting the French poet Valery, “I see myself seeing myself.”[1]

The displayed works reveal images that emerge when a parabolic mirror is confronted with another type of mirror—a camera—instead of a torch. As Nicolai says, “My photos make a paradox visible.” These images are produced by a mirror designed to reflect as little as possible.  Parabolic mirrors are not designed to reflect light. In terms of images, they rather let them “collapse.” Therefore, these photographs were produced by a mirror designed to reflect back as little of the world that they face as possible. 

In these two photographs, we encounter images that present spectral narratives of previous games at Ancient Olympia and the Panathenaic Stadium. These images also reflect on the inherent complexity of a photographic process, as well as the reciprocity of seeing and the affects of the relationality of being. 

In the context of these works displayed facing the Panathenaic Stadium, originally designed to host the first modern Olympics in 1896,  there is a playful twist in viewing points, reflecting an ancient perspective of the modern and a modern perspective on the ancient, which were essential to the formation of the Modern Greek state.

In the run-up to the 33rd Olympic Games in Paris, these works on site, in front of the stadium, probe into the complex history of the contemporary games in relation to their ancient referent, the role they play in building Modern Greece’s national identity, as well as the political and social role that the games mirror. The games are an echo of their times, as are we.

Olaf Nicolai (1962) is an internationally renowned German artist who employs a conceptual approach in his work with diverse media. The artist emphasises the material forms of objects to stimulate reflection processes. He lives and works in Berlin.

[1] Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London: Routledge, 2018), 80.

With the support of:

City of Munich, Stiftung Federkiel, Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin. The permission for the on-site installation at Kallimarmaro was kindly granted by the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

Hospitality sponsor: