Heading West (project in progress)
The western and northwestern region of Greece were among the 20 poorest regions in the European Union in terms of GDP per capita in 2015, when I started photographing in this region. However, what attracted me to the area of Missolonghi and Amvrakikos Gulf in the first place was the distinctive landscape, the energy and the aura of the region and the fact that it reminded me of some Walker Evans' and Stephen Shore's photographs; or perhaps the morbid atmosphere of Visconti's Death in Venice. Nevertheless, the Missolonghi and the Amvrakikos Gulf wetlands are not usually visited by aesthetes and the locals are not in the tourism business. They are usually poor fishermen; kind and a bit timid, in my eyes at least. But then again, when I start to seek a meaning for the photographs and a meaning for the place, I remember Ian Jeffrey writing about P.H. Emerson's Norfolk. "Norfolk's meaning was crucial to Emerson's enterprise. It was not simply a beautiful spot. To its devotees Norfolk seemed like the last enclave of ancient life in England". West is my East Anglia. A distant world, a kind of romantic landscape fantasy, with all the ethically problematic detachments of a remote perspective. A perspective which I am questioning.
Paradise on Earth
The photographs have all been taken in Ruegen, an island in the Balitic Sea.
Ruegen attracted me photographically as the romantic topos par excellence. It was the favorite place of German intellectuals, religious men and Romantic painters like C. D. Friedrich and P. O. Runge, who have painted here iconic Romantic landscapes. Yet, the reason I visited Ruegen for the first time in 2009 was to photograph for my “Leisure Time” series the so-called “Colossus of Prora” the 4,5 km long modernistic building that lies along the Prora bay. It was conceived by the Nazi “Kraft durch Freude” (Strength through Joy) organisation for mass vacation by the sea (originally planned to accommodate 20000 Aryan vacationers). The war prevented the KDF from completing the project. The partly finished complex was used extensively for military purposes during the war and during the GDR (DDR) era.
When I started this project in 2009 the fate of the "Colossus of Rügen," seemed uncertain. Politicians, investors, historians and scientists had different views and interests. Today the various parts of the building offer sublime modernistic ruins, a Documentation Center, a dance club, a privately owned cheap fantasmagoric museum, a café-restaurant and most recently two of the remaining blocks (almost 500m long each) were transformed into luxury apartments - hotel rooms. In Prora, history, aesthetics and politics are closely interwoven. It seems to me that something like a conundrum emerges here; or a breach in managing the memory.
Furthermore, what I find of a particular aesthetic interest in Prora, is the juxtaposition of the visitors vulnerable bodies who come here to see the spectacle or to have a swim, against the brutality of this massive architectural Nazi artifact. Just like in Friedrich’s paintings the human figures that turn their back to us remind us that in this (natural as well as historical) spectacle we are only latecomers.
The German word ‘Riss’ means ‘breach’.
Riss #1 depicts the Colossus of Prora, the largest Third Reich building in existence. The gigantic 4,5 km long Prora seaside resort was designed by Clemens Klotz and built between 1936 and 1939 as a Kraft durch Freude (KdF) project that sought to provide cheap or free leisure activities for the working class.
In Prora, history, aesthetics and politics are closely interwoven. There seems to be a breach in managing a site of memory.
This diptych was created on the occasion of the Forgetmenot exhibition at Elika Gallery, Athens
Riss # 1, 2011, KdF Prora Resort, Ruegen, Germany
archival inkjet print, 52 X 66 cm, edition of 3and 78 X 100 cm, edition of 3
Riss # 2, 2011, Ruegen, Germany
archival inkjet print, 52 X 66 cm, edition of 3, and 78 X 100 cm, edition of 3
23 February - 24 March 2012
Leisure Time or a Fantasy of [not] Belonging (on-going project)
This on-going series started in 2005 as a photographic investigation of the leisure time geography - typology. I was and still am interested in recording the open public spaces (parks, beaches, for instance) that host or suggest "leisure time". In this context I am interested in depicting the appearance of people in these spaces-areas, and in describing the concept of ‘absorption’ in the public realm. I am also trying to explore the obvious political connotations of this leisure-time geography.
Nine photographs of this series formed part of the "Heterotopias: Society Must Be Defended" exhibition which was curated by Jan-Eric Lundstroem in the framework of the 1st. Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art
Through this series of photographs taken in the London underground during the years 2000-2005, I explore the notion of 'absorption' in the public realm. This notion is in accordance with what Georg Simmel in 1908 described as the ‘blasé outlook’, which is the typical outlook that city people adopt, as a the consequence of an intensification of external sensual stimuli in the city.
In the subway we seem to ignore that we are being observed by other people. The presence of a photographer and a visible camera also seems to be ignored. However, on the same time I wonder whether we have to do with a kind of attitude similar to what Michael Fried described as “theatricality”. Whether by being conscious of our roles as 'subjects' to the gaze of others we pretend to be absorbed. My series includes photographs that show people who are aware that they are being photographed but still remain unresponsive and have a blank expression, as if they are looking inwardly. I did not use a hidden camera as other photographers did (starting with Walker Evans in New York subway in 1938 and most recently Luc Delahaye in Paris metro in 1999), as I was not after an 'objective' recording or ‘truth’. However, the result was similar to theirs.
In limbo, 120 images presented in 10 grids of 12 pictures each. Each picture is 32 x 38 cm, grid 180 x 105 cm. Lambda print mounted on aluminium. Edition of 3.
Part of this series (4 grids) was exhibited in a solo exhibition in Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center, Athens (May 2001). 8 grids were presented in a solo exhibition in the House of Art in Bratislava (in the framework of the International Month of Photography in Bratislava, November 2003). 6 grids were exhibited in Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. (September 2006) www.blueskygallery.org.
2 grids belong to the permanent collection of the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography.
3 grids belong to the Portland Art Museum, Oregon, USA.
in limbo I, in limbo II and in limbo VI participate in the exhibition "Flesh and Bone" at the Portland Art Museum, in Oregon, USA. Please visit the following websites http://www.portlandartmuseum.org/fleshbone and http://www.portlandart.net/archives/2012/10/flesh_bone_at_p.html.
This series by Eleni Mouzakiti explores the concept of the grid. Repetitive elements characterised by geometrical regularity compose spaces, which, although inhabited look two-dimensional. We tend to organise a living space based on repetition. Repetition offers security, makes one fell at home. These photographs try to offer this same feeling by isolating parts of the urban space. The presentation of the works conveys a similar structure. The framing (parergon) repeats the framed reality (ergon). This is the main feature of the grid as it was formulated by American art criticism during the 60’s and the 70’s. Both Michael Fried and Rosalind Krauss, although in disagreement about the evaluation of this so common artistic structure , acknowledge the fact that the structure of the grid implies the work’s continuation into the world (beyond the frame). Michael Fried notoriously condemned this tendency criticising it as “theatricality”. Mouzakiti’s boxes do look like little stages that convert reality into a scene. Krauss traced the roots of the grid back to the bedrock of the avant-garde. She perceived in these structures the ambition of the avant-garde to reorganise the world according to a new spiritual order. Behind the geometrical purity of the grid lies a deep ambiguity. Grid is an obsession. Obsessions resist rationalisation.
In contrast to a conventional quotation my visual references do not relate to a concrete subject. The pre-text to which they refer remains open. Since I have not systematically written down their original context most of them are in a limbo state. Moreover looking at them I have the impression that they refer to biblical scenes. They form an attempt to illustrate the Book par excellence of the western tradition, something similar to the medieval laicorum literatura.