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Interviews catalogue text personal statemnts Fragments from a notebook, 2004-2006  
 

The divide

For those of us born in the Greek speaking Cypriot sector around 1960, the year the colonial rule had ended, at a time of global economic, political and economic euphoria it was natural that the first years of our lives would be surrounded by optimism. Our generation would reach goals denied to us throughout our previous history – self-determination, prosperity and education. At the end of the day our time had come in parallel with the rest of the world.

Trouble creeping in was there for anyone who cared to take notice but not many did. We, as kids sensed the first inter-communal strife like a dark fairy tale - half real, half fiction. For most of us in the Greek sector it seemed far and safe enough. Fabulous modernity came in with the late 60s into the 70s, the colours, the sounds, plastic and long hair, blinded us and we knew that the future, whatever it was going to be, would look like nothing we knew before. As we were discovering life and toyed in our innocence with the politics of a generation that tasted power for the first time and was intoxicated by it we could not have known that they would be so stupid. so when in 74 through military coup invasion surrounded by refugee camps and images of pain, our fantastic future was laid in ruins instead of severing all emotional links with such a pitiful generation we clang to them as if they could ever be in a position to  provide a solution.

The island was divided - in such a way that nobody was or could be content. The Green Line, drawn 10 years before, was redrawn clearly, solidly with no enclaves or grey areas. An impassable border, it was like the line that separates life from death, the body from the soul or any other binary mystery of humanity. We never knew what it was like on the other side; we could only see their signs from our view point. It was as if we lived in front of a one way mirror knowing that something was behind our reflection which was beyond our grasp.

And our society acquired the project of re-unification, with a language borrowed from all kind of spheres - religion, historical materialism, 19th century nationalism, third-world[ism], right wing supremacism. But paradoxically, for thirty years, history stopped. Nothing and nobody moved. Our great future was suspended and the divide became part of our selves. It felt secure. As the market, the media, the tourist industry, land development and lately the stock exchange exploded and captured the aspirations of society we kept intact basic suppositions about the divide, reluctant to admit that they were eroded by reality.

 

1974 [1993] was one of the first video animations.  Dealing with the desolation, the dead zone, the desert of no man’s land, the great divide of the “island of Aphrodite” as the Cypriots themselves call their place, a rather sentimental [and definitely commercial] title. A pre-historical cyclical time based on the sun, the moon, on land, a female sense of time gives way to a linear, rational, historical time. A narrative takes place just like any other whatever the story maybe, obeying the rules of continuity. A seamless world like the psychoanalytical construction of our identity is unfolding. Until the unified land divides in two and two mirror images, two identical figures with two identical points of view, from different sides of the mirror, emerge. From there on nothing much takes place except their silence, their isolation and their preoccupation with each other.
The divide in such clear cut terms would never appear again, because for better or for worse it no longer exists in such terms. Yet the suspended time, the frozen landscapes, like in the work of most Cypriot artists, will recur.

 

In the video Fire [2003], a collaboration with choreographer Ariana Economou shot at the isolated coal making village of Pano Pyrgos, burnt out spaces portrayed in slow or no motion await with their inhabitants a form of regeneration. Trapped between the Green Line and Kokkina, a Turkish army enclave, their experience of stillness is both visual and political. Their temporal slowness caused by a spatial interruption becomes an iconic allegory of the deep impasse of the reunification process.

 

The fragments

By the 80s Cyprus caught up with whatever was happening in the rest of the world. Globalization and the market, communication technology and media moved in; tourists, immigrants, labourers, sex slaves, repatriated Cypriots, political refugees, criminals, millionaire outlaws   and natives mingled in a melting pot. We were no longer alone in this little island. Air traveling diminished distances, the TV screen and the computer modem opened up our view points, space lost the solidity of a single point perspective, time lost its historicity – and it became clear that crossing borders was not merely a question of a physical transportation from point A to point B. We traveled and lived abroad, we made emotional ties around Europe and America, our intellectual development was not confined to a single national location.

Yet the conventional “return” scenario spoke of a straight line that linked the past into the future, peoples’ memories and the places that they were to go back one day. “Reunification” meant to pick up history from the point that was so rudely interrupted at 08.15, 15 July 1974, and carry on from there. To acknowledge that things were changing was politically incorrect; it meant accepting the authority of the invading army. Photography, the greatest embalmer of all arts, played a role in purporting the freeze: In a typical example of how this worked, the state TV channel CBC [PIK] used to show black and white photographs of occupied villages, taken before 1974, with the caption «ΔενΞεχνω» [I remember] for a number of minutes. That meant that somehow, somewhere this image/memory would one day become a reality, as it appeared there, captured in an unspecified time. Thus time at the invisible half of our island was stopped as far as we could see.

 

 

 

 

 

2000 MILES (and thirteen years) a 16 mm short film using live action, cut out and stop frame animation tried to negotiate visually the new universe we found our selves in. Taken from a personal perspective -[2000 miles is approximately the distance from Cyprus to the UK, and 14 years is the total period of absence from the country] – a fragmented universe where time and space travelling can materialise  in a world of images. It is no longer a unified single point perspective, nor is it dualistic mirror reflection of two parallel worlds but a multi-layered collage of life at various levels. Distorted, made up between fantasy and reality, it re-addresses the use of photography to reproduce not reality itself but a desired version of it. The haunted landscapes can become a refuge and a labyrinth at the same time, an escape route and a trap.

 

The Machine Dream, a 35 mm film, shot and edited with digital technology, deals with the distortion of memory in another way. The story is very simple; someone who invents a method to digitally re-master his own fond memories finds himself among millions of others who do exactly the same thing in an impersonal and rather strange manner.
In a purer world assisted mainly by words and thoughts, past experiences were visualised in a more personal manner. The abundance of photographs, video, 3d animation and so on inevitably will affect whatever experiences were deemed to be private. Such a surplus of images will work its way into our individual spheres, and suck our vision into a larger pool, with imagery shared by millions of others. Whatever we think that it is subjective and purely ours cannot stay unaffected by the commercial prototypes propagated by the industry – be it advertising, pornography or pop video clips. The film uses text and piano music, reminiscent of the form of early silent movies, when the lack of sound took away some of its realism and relate the medium to the experience of dreams.

 

Space

Most people who were children in the 60s and 70s will tell you that in their linguistic innocence they interpreted words like enosis [unification with Greece], and taxim or dichotomisis [partition] in literary terms: some visualised enosis with huge cranes towing the island towards Greece, or the building of an enormous bridge, and partition with saws or scissors cutting it and then pulling it apart. Something in our history made us very space sensitive.

 

 

There is some ambivalence in our attitudes towards land; as people we always saw our emancipation realizing   in locations outside this island- usually the two national centres, but also Moscow, the UN and so on.
on the one hand it seems that it is highly valued as it would be in an until lately agricultural society, and yet we show no qualms to use it, abuse or sell it off for ephemeral financial gains.

Cyprus history is told in spatial terms: “Enosis”, “taxim” and “reunification” are all terms that denoted different national or nationalist projects at different times, yet somehow they allude to the land. This is manifested more clearly in the interpretation given to those words by children in their linguistic innocence. Ask anyone who was younger than ten years old in the 60s and they will all give you a different version of how they understood these words. Enosis [unification] for some meant building a bridge from Greece to Cyprus, for others to tow the island with huge cranes to the mainland, taxim [partition] meant cutting it with a saw, or a pair of scissors and so on