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Interviews catalogue text personal statemnts

FEAR IS A MAN'S BEST FRIEND

BY Zeynep Yasa Yaman

 

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"I had a dream, last night. I was the king, with a beautiful queen by my side and I was married with seven children. When I woke up it all vanished into dust. And now, I’ve lost my son. Should I be sad for I lost my seven children in my dream, or for my son whom I lost while I’m awake? I can’t tell. Until then, I will hold my peace."

Zeynep Yasa Yaman

Yiannos Economou’s new media video editing technology infused art work inspired by the poststructuralist themes such as “schizophrenia”, “personality disintegration”, ”bidirectional inhibition”, ”being at a stalemate position”, ”direction-less-ness” that are clustered around modernism-postmodernism critique since the early 70’s, as well as uprooting, displacement, relegation, recurrence and the idea of being forced into vagrancy. Most of his works are poetic and enigmatic. Instead of stating political facts in a unequivocal manner, he hints at a few codes that are pushed behind minds, therefore stimulating contemplation and luring the audience into a sense of “reality“ that is near impossible to attain. In a way, he is adapting the silence of people who are imperturbably putting up with fear and violence and everyday suppression brought by technology, into videos. His video art focuses on neo-capitalism and cuts views of the government’s/politicians’ lives that are darkened by an uncanny shadow.

Economou tackles human emotions and perceptions limited by national existence by confronting nature with technology, and fastidiously creates a tapestry of complex and mysterious visuals of a directionless world led by its “schizophrenic“memory. His stories are depicted in a chaotic ambiance enhanced with distinctive music, resulting in a questioning, bitter yet atrocious, and sombre modus moving back and forth between past and the present. His works portray a distinct sense of escape and concealment, followed by uncontainable desire to hit the roads that are visualised through a hazy optical and semantic filter, which allows the audience to “look at” the obvious from a different angle.

He touches upon the android world that has been mechanized, alienated and commodified, as an end product of globalisation, as well as the emotions and sensitivities of members of the societies that have built a universe of phobia around them.

Like other artists who have been sceptical about “modernism“, Economou too, does not fail to question every aspect of the reliability of the contemporary world. Rather than the serene fountains and sweet smelling breeze or ways of protecting oneself from the summer heat, he is  concerned about the meaning of life. He’s associating the personal and national deposition with the fact that no one can escape from fear or death. He seeks to attain the ultimate truth, by tasting both pain and pleasure, and eventually absorbs the fact that there is no way of wriggling oneself out of any other connections than these.

Marshall Bermann explains the paradox of being modern in the preface of his book “All that is Solid Melts into Air” : “They are moved at once by a will to change – to transform both themselves and their world- and by a terror of disorientation and disintegration, of lige falling apart. They all know the thrill and the dread of a world in which ‘all that is solid melts into air.”

To be modern is to live a life of paradox and contradiction. It is to be overpowered by the immense bureaucratic organisations that have the power to control and often to destroy all communities, values, lives; and yet to be undeterred in our determination to face these forces, to fight to change their world and make it our own. It is to be both revolutionary and conservative: alive to new possibilities for experience and adventure, frightened by the nihilistic depths to which so many adventures lead, longing to create and hold on to something real even as everything else. We might even say that to be fully modern is to be anti-modern.” Economou lives in the Paphos region which is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The Paphos region, as if to recognise the “melting into air” phenomena, is trying to resist modernisation, while it is taking over the rest of the island of Cyprus. And if this is possible at all, the grappling question is whether resurrection could be possible in an environment filled with white noise and chaos. It tis the same paradox, irony and thrill, that links John Cale’s The Velvet Underground White Light/White Heat, dark, sinister, aggressive and flaming furious album, produced in 1968 to Don DeLillo’s White Noise produced in 1985. In other words, his art witnessing everything that is modern turning into white. Economou can’t hide behind the safeguarded historical geography. Instead, he’s focusing on everyday life’s daunting ‘heavenly light’. The light that is made of a substance so close and so hot and bright that  it glitters: an escape from the strong feeling of terror that we can’t or won’t put into words, which reminds me of “Three Monkeys”. Taking or not taking shelter behind the white light, white hot and white noise. Economou’s job is to unearth what lies behind channelled perception.

When Samad Behrangi’s Little Black Fish story was proposed as a theme for the Little Land Fish Exhibition, it was no coincidence that it reminded Yiannos Economou of the power of fear that is strong enough to paralyse people’s minds as to cause the communities, just like the fish shoal in the story, to go astray, and away from the right direction that leads them to freedom. This story is brimful with hints that shaped his youth and existence.

Just like William Turner who depicted and dramatised the struggle of the raft boat rowing against the waves, refusing to give in to nature, other natural and atmospheric disasters, as well as other natural phenomena such as the sunset, the sunrise in a catastrophic, yet romantic, even fairytale-like manner, Economou too, strives to escape from the burden of technology and takes shelter in nature, presenting his art in a riddle-like perspective. In a way, through new technological visual techniques, he is blurring and yet clarifying such natural and national disasters, traumas, that many people have either never experienced, or would seek to avoid.

He not only refrains from presenting a clear cut ending to this particular horror movie, but also avoids sharing his thoughts with the audience . Issues are approached in an unworldly manner that is not visible to a discerning eye within a vulnerable, horrifying, vicious, cruel, blurry, obscure and open/closed-ness.

The fact that Economou neglects the modern war fortification that has taken over Cyprus and focuses on seemingly obsolete bunkers, and turns the frivolous and threatening walls within claustrophobic labyrinths into television images that cannot be explained by an educated mind, reminds me of Michel Serres’s “Who’s going to teach me how to think? ”. The way codified messages are turned into visuals and audio materials through television also brings to mind long forgotten La Fontaine fables. The privity that brings man built bunkers whose aura are horror and true life experience placed in nature closer to Don DeLillo’s White Noise, also touched upon in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, lies behind the idea that it is impossible for people to remain sane within an environment of intense scientific research and technological innovations which became increasingly overpowering around the post-WWII period. Just after the Second World War, in 1947, Huxley criticises this situation ironically: “The benefactors of humanity deserve due honour and commemoration. Let us build a Pantheon for professors. It should be located among the ruins of one of the gutted cities of Europe or Japan, and over the entrance to the ossuary I would inscribe, in letters six or seven feet high, the simple words: Sacred to the memory of the world's educators.. Si monumentum requiris sircumspice.(Latin for “If you seek his monument, look around”.

“Fear is a Man’s Best Friend, 2010” video opens with a bunker, seen in its utmost solitude in nature that almost looks like a portrait with its eyes carved out, becoming increasingly clearer within whiteness. It has an air of a sophisticated woman of the world with gray hair over an old face. Plant roots and spider webs holding on to the decaying walls and peepholes of the upstanding, proud bunker, crack the door open to its history of reflex of defence.

In his works, Economou focuses on the mental inferences of vision-restricting bunkers built once high and low around Cyprus to protect people’s culture, religion, and ideals, now abandoned and in ruins, by reading from the inside; he is chasing the map of fear that is drawn all over the island of Cyprus. The fact that the video “Fear is a Man’s Best Friend” - named after John Cale’s “Fear” album- suggests that he had been thinking about the refrain “Best Friend” for a long while. The feeling the lyrics express are moulded with upheaval and anger in the music itself, then these are swapped with the sounds of nature, creating the “white noise”. If the audience wish so, they might as well sing the John Cale song to themselves.

At first sight, his works suggest war, defence/less-ness, fragmentation and segmentation for the Cypriot communities, along with their monumental enigma, hallucinations, visions that are explicitly provocative way of day dreaming. Built by adults for post-war children, long expired for their original purposes, forgotten and nowadays being used as a playground , when regarded as a building built for defence purposes, these bunkers are reminders of innocence, ruined virginity, as well as eerie, dazzling imagination of those who preserved such visions. It is almost like an invitation to an inner outdoor movie theatre to revive those visions. These bunkers that engulfed Economou into themselves functioned as a mediator in the process of putting together, then decomposing his mental process that he pulled out from his deepest memories through fantastic kaleidoscopic collages. This object focused analytic points at a slippery and cubist perspective, as well as the way it blocks others or the obstacles themselves.

Just like a probe, he points his camera at images produced through sound waves, vibrations and the transformation of quartz crystals within, as if to be navigating within the womb of the island of Cyprus, and it keeps travelling until it reaches its destination where the sound wave that left the probe and hit the body is reflected, refracted or absorbed into heat. The malignant dark tissues are then reflected onto the screen, and the image is shared with the audience just like a movie. By crystallising the invisible, Economou produces images that resemble Ultrasound or Magnetic Resonance (MRI) Scan results, which deliberately and effectively intercept visual/verbal structures. Is he burning with desire/will to create something to hold on to while everything fade away, just like what Marshall described as “all that is solid melts into air”? It almost appears as though he searches for a cut view in several platforms to be able to witness an imminent rebirth amongst decomposed pixels that vowed death, and by making use of sound waves not audible to human beings; he reflects real images onto the screen synchronously. Scanning and tracking the possibility of a rebirth in Cyprus' womb, just like a physician, not only from personal experience, but through MRI and Ultrasound techniques also. It seems as though he's making use of major technological developments that dramatically increased in early 70's in order to perform a national check-up; regardless of the diagnosis, what makes the whiteness and blackness in images very difficult to be disclosed at ease lies behind the difficulty of the method regarding how the gray shades are formed.

Economou reinvigorates lost memory, and imprisons the plans, sounds and decaying walls of the future stuck in the past, into his camera. Despite no physical hindrance in preserving them, these temporary walls built in the name of the communities, are turning the audience into a metonymic illustration locked into Cyprus’ history and national deadlocks. By tracing back the boundaries that are melted away by the new culture as product of globalism, perception of nature and technology, Economou helps us contemplate about what we have been through by making use of high barriers built as a result of political preferences and strategies. In a way, he is peeking through the images and sounds of space and nature, as well as diversifying mind and body’s perceptions. One could say that, his videos are some kind of short film or documentary in which no explicit or dictating sound or speech exists, and no expert opinion regarding the execution of the movie is needed.

Woken and diversified with the first signs of the summer, visions and sounds from the surrounding flora, fauna, birds, cockerels, dogs, donkeys, grasshoppers, crickets, frogs, flies etc slowly disintegrate into the white noise. Within the whiteness, cornered problems are followed by the sense of reconstruction of them with the sound of a hammer and footsteps: “tock tock/tap tap”

 

As the camera moves through maze-like defence structures - the eeriest example being the undefined bunkers - the point of view focuses on the peephole, and layers and layers of obscure sounds of people, combatants, and soldiers fill the screen. The rants and raves from the militarists swearing oath in unison to obey the commander, and obscure, almost inaudible rumble coming from the nationalists whose minds are jammed with dogmas. The blocked electronic sounds of the dead souls (EVP: Electronic Voice Phenomena) fade into electronic ghosts. Is this parapsychological approach and the fear inserted in our DNA's, a reflection of a big explosion that occurred once which is still being released into the universe from the other side in a form of microwave frequencies?

Economou problematizes the possibilities within the transcendental and the mundane knowledge through “fear” as a paranormal concept. Just like MrMy Jason’s White Noise movie, in an environment of high technology, modern urban life, city lights, sounds coming from the depth of death turn into fear created by visions, and return to their death journey through the darkness into the white light. This is a realisation of the fact that we cannot get rid of the fear by breaking the screen filled with corrupted visuals.
Economou employs a supremacist recording technique without making any explicit representation and the video comes to an end with darkness in an intrinsic motion, which conjures up Kasimir Malevich's “Black Square” that is dubbed as the "Death Square" by critics. He refers to the sublimity of new forms, makes the fact that nothing it as it seems clearer than ever, and returns back to square one. In his work, mundane things are recorded with a cosmic interpretation. Similar to Malevich's art, he's questioning the possibility of resurrection from brightness and innocence, gouging off a small piece from the Orthodox part of the complex world art history.

On the island of Cyprus, comprised of exiles, refugees and Cypriots burdened with the weight of the history, living on the same island, but on different sides of the border, the privileged, discriminating and different lives, aggressors blinded by their hunger for takings and triumph, along with nationalists adamant on ensuring the integrity of the nation in a corporate manner are all determined to turn this geography into ruins both physically and emotionally with their apparent intent of spending the rest of their lives in Procrustean beds. In this totalitarian axis where borders melt and the centres are multiplied and replaced with money, Economou strives to problemitize the sustained militarism in the name of some form of rowdy and un-con-sci-entific-ous slavery through art, impartially. He gathers that in this universe of changes, everything people cling on to will some day get lost, but nothing will be erased off the face of the world. What he engages himself in is a form of meditation. Recognising the meaning of existence and in quest of enlightenment, hope against all hope. Living down the negative connotations of communicating with spirits carries, he lures his audience into the world of a warlock-artist. The mixed feelings of reverence and fear that fills Economu’s videos that are products of his memories in his brain screen must have something to do with his prophecies.
The only outlet leads to televised images of a horrifying incident that took place some years ago on the dividing line, watched on line by the entire population. This image which crumbles too into unformed data, impossible to become information, into knowledge, into enlightenment, is one more electronic ghost from so many that haunts history and freezes reason. Only from zero, white noise, chaos a new genesis can come.“

Ankara, March 2011.

 

 

 

 

 


Anonymous, an Eastern adage.

Marshall Bermann,1994., All That is Solid Melts into Air, Translated by: Bülent Peker, Ümit Altuğ, İstanbul, İletişim Yayınları, s. 7-8.

“White noise” is the noise created when all audible frequencies of sound are combined at the same time and the same density. It is similar in nature to white light, which occurs when all the colors of the spectrum are brought together. For more information about white noise please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_noise and http://www.wisegeek.com/m/what-is-white-noise.htm (accessed 23 March 2011).

The exhibition emerged from a collaboration of the European-Mediterranean Art Association EMAA and The Cyprus Chamber of Fine Arts EKATE, and was organised in collaboration with the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency and The Management Centre and NGO Support Centre, funded by the UNDP-ACT ENGAGE, “Do Your Part for Peace” Project’s and supported by the Small Grant Programme, which took place between 19th June and 19th July 2010 at Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency - The Art Port under the name of “Portable Art” Project at Antrepo No. 5, and the opening took place between 3-10 March 2011 in Cyprus, Nicosia - EMAA Gallery.

From the preface section of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1947), Translated by Ümit Tosun, İstanbul, İthaki Yayınları, 5. B., 2007, s. 7.

For the lyrics please see:. http://www.xs4all.nl/~werksman/cale/lyrics/fear.html (Accessed: 17 March 2011).

Zehra Şonya (1973), stated that the bunkers that were built all over Cyprus used to be playground for children, which were later demolished and replaced by apartments

Gregory Flaxman (ed.), 2000:., The Brain is the Screen: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Cinema: Deleuze and the philosophy of cinema, Trans. Marie Therese Guiris, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Yiannos Economu, http://www.yiannoseconomou.net/pages/works_Fear.html (Accessed: 11 March 2011).