HOME-on-the-move-and-in-place: towards a strategy of emancipation

03- street installation: the Wall on the move

Paper presented at the workshop: “Dislocating Agency and Moving Objects”, ASCA, Amsterdam, 17-19 April 2013

///// ABSTRACT:

This paper presents ‘the Restoration of a Wall’ an art-project that follows the transformations of the accumulated home objects of a migrant (myself) and it examines how these transformations could change notions and practice of Home. This process -and this paper as part of it- strives to apply such a change in a more relational and collective way.

The project stems from the presupposition that value and meaning are inscribed on objects and that they participate in turn in the construction and perception of our reality and the self. In the course of time, the project as the material manifestation of Home, adopts various forms and formats. This shift from one form to the other, from one context to the other, becomes a simulation of migrations. These migrations of home and of home-objects raise issues of individual consciousness, aspiring to contribute to an identity-’migration’ towards self-emancipation. /////

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[if interested, you can find the paper here]

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ALEPH

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participatory project + installation presented at the group-exhibition ‘Out of the Attic’, at Sint-Mariastraat 112b, in Rotterdam.

Viki Semou invited the visitors of this exhibition to search for the ‘Aleph’ as J.L.Borges describes it in his short story with the same title. In order to see it, they should follow the instructions as given to Borges.

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Aleph

  • It is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the Mother letter, the beginning.
  • In mathematics, it symbolizes the numbers of which every part is equal to the whole.
  • For Cabala, it represents the divine, the infinite, the air.
  • In Tarot, it is related to the fool, the unknowing. It is a null-signifier, symbolizing what is beyond thought.

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In 1949 Jorge Luis Borges wrote the short story ‘The Aleph’. In the story, Carlos Argentino Alvaro says that Aleph is a point in space that contains all the other spaces of the universe. He claims that it is in his house cellar. Borges verifies that he saw Aleph as well, following Alvaro’s instructions. This happened shortly before Alvaro was evicted and before his house was demolished for the expansion of a bar-salon.

Rumors say that, although this story is true, Borges intentionally changed some crucial details in his story to protect Aleph from misuse. For example, Aleph was not in the cellar of a house in Argentina as Borges implies, and it was not demolished. It is said that Aleph still exists and that it is in the attic of a house in the Netherlands that is threatened to be demolished again and again through the years. There are reasons to believe that this house is at Sint-Maristraat 112b.

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Instructions to see Aleph as they were given to Borges

First a glass of pseudo-cognac,” he ordered, “and then down you dive into the cellar. Let me warn you, you’ll have to lie flat on your back. Absolute darkness, absolute stillness, and a certain viewing angle will also be necessary. From the floor, you must focus your eyes on the nineteenth step. Once I leave you, I’ll lower the trapdoor and you’ll be quite alone. You needn’t fear the rodents very much — though I know you will. In a minute or two, you’ll see the Aleph — the microcosm of the alchemists and Kabbalists, our true proverbial friend, the multum in parvo!

[...]

“Of course, if you don’t see it, in no case your incapacity will invalidate my witness. And now, go down.”

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Sint-Mariastraat, a chronicle

1892- the houses of Oude Westen in Rotterdam are built. Rumors start about a particular house in a street of the neighborhood. The street is named Sint-Mariastraat, to consecrate the ground.

1940- the german nazis bomb Rotterdam and they stop the bombardment just before they reach Oude Westen.

1927- Alvaros come to live in the Netherlands on Sint-Mariastraat 112b. Borges comes to visit them very often.

!947- Borges sees Aleph, following Carlos Argentino’s instructions, just before the Alvaros are deported to Argentina. They have no access on Aleph anymore.

1949- Borges publishes his short story ‘The Aleph’, to make its existence public. However, he changed some crucial details to protect Aleph from misuse.

1970′s – The local authorities decide to demolish the houses in the Oude Westen neighborhood. The action group of the residents succeeded to prevent this from happening. None of the houses were demolished and they were all radically renovated except from the houses of Sint-Mariastraat.

2010- Rosa Montero, a resident of Sint-Mariastraat 112b, confided to Viki Semou that she saw Aleph in the attic of her house.

2012, May. Montero disappeared just before a court-case for her eviction took place. She was one of the 8 people still resisting displacement against the plans of the owning company to renovate the houses by demolishing them and keep their facades. An argentinean friend of hers took her place in the defense of the house.

2012, June. Viki Semou taking advantage of the exhibition ‘Out of the Attic’ invites people to search for the Aleph in order to convince them about Montero’s claims. As Montero said: “If people know about Aleph, then, they will protect it from demolition”.

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LOCOMOTIVE PROP in Street Blogging

Platanenweg2

sculptural media platform, archive and street actions,
in collaboration with Mara Karagianni, February 2011 and on /////

Interventions on protest for social housing against the governmental budget cuts and the housing shortage,
+ on protest of residents’ collective of Platanenweg against the speculations of the houseowner
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

More info at the blog of mlff.org and at the Paper : “Digital and analogue recordings as repository of memory and vehicles of interjection”

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A platform with both digital and analogue media of announcements, hijacking two  shopping carts, creates and presents an archive of opinions and demands.

The shopping cart, a symbol of consumption, multiplied and distorted, it is turned into a semi-absurd object attracting the attention in order to support the voices that struggle to be heard in the public discourse. As in the case of homeless, it serves a totally different role, becoming something more than a storage or a transport. Announcing and propagating our messages or the messages of the people whose cause we support, it is used to create a kind of street blogging. In demonstrations, in public spaces, in public events.

So far, half of our sculpture participated in three demonstrations. While marching, there were played pre-recorded demands in 4 different languages. People added pickets on our cart, put brochures on it and used the megaphone for slogans, speeches and announcements. We took interviews of some attendants and, whenever there was a free wi-fi, we broadcasted them in an online radio during and after the demo.

The material collected forms an archive that stays active and plays a significant role to every future action. In this direction, the demands for better social housing for everyone from the first demo joined and strengthened the voices of the residents in the second.

We aspire to use it as an info-kiosk for issues we-as individuals and artists- want to address and as the setting for more and different public actions. Please, contact us, if you are interested in any collaboration. We are also open to any suggestions.

We have received a grant by xminy to further equip the platform.

 

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PALIMPSEST: a Game of Reading and Writing

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a game for sharpening our communication through objects

a book for exploring the richness and the limits of such a communication

 

///// ongoing project since 2010. See also the project’s website: www.palimpsestbook.net /////

 

The project ‘Palimpsest: a game of reading and writing‘ is a game played with a box that looks like a book that contains objects. The players read the story that the objects of the book-box tell to them, continue it by adding one more object, write their complete story on the project’s website and give the book-box away to someone that wants to play the game.

The life-story around the objects of the box is recreated from the fragmented traces left in the present, and like a forensic scientist, each player is challenged to solve the enigma behind a scene of crime, where miniscule details become enormously important. The players reconstruct the systems of value and meaning reflected on objects and they have to imagine the events, actions and the time passing that have been inscribed on them. This ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ of stories through objects aims to make conscious and reinforce the creative and communicative processes that take place in the practice of our everyday life.

[More about the project here: palimpsestbook.net/the project and here: Reflections on the Palimpsest Game]

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‘Palimpsest’ has been presented so far in the:

‘KunstXBuch’, group exhibition, Künstlerbund, Tübingen, 17.05.14 – 21.06.14

‘Rosa Lux’ Buchhandlung, Tübingen, June 2013

‘Kunstvlaai: INexactly THIS’, art-exhibition of the independents, DAI, Amsterdam, November 2012

‘Lost Objects’ Summer School, NICA, Amsterdam, June 2011

‘Unbound Book’ conference, Amsterdam, May 2011

 

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the RESTORATION of a WALL

a multifaceted project on-the-go

about home and object accumulations:

1. sculpture,in a storage spage, Thessaloniki 2009
2. art-publication, in collaboration with J.Gilbert (writer) + I.Vaverka (designer),
Publication Project of DAI with Delphine Bedel as Editor, Enschede 2010
3. street-installation, Thessaloniki 2011
4. installation, performance and other events, presented at the group exhibition ‘Symbiosis’, XV Biennale de la Méditerranée, Thessaloniki, 2011 /////


‘The Restoration of a Wall’ follows the transformations of the accumulated home objects of a migrant (the artist) and it examines how these transformations could change notions and practice of Home. This process strives to apply such a change in a more relational and collective way.

In the course of time, the project adopts various forms and formats. In brief:

at first, the accumulation of home objects -in boxes and in a moving out or storing situation- becomes a Wall (a refuge or a prison?)(Thessaloniki 2009).

Then, a ‘restoration study’ -through a publication- analyses the structure of such a Wall and the value and meaning inscribed on the objects that compose it (DAI, Enschede 2010).

Towards its restoration the Wall changes contexts: from a storage room, to the streets, to a hotel-exhibition space. It changes forms: from a line to a space, from its stillness of moving/storing to its activation.

In its most recent phase, the accumulation of home objects unfolds in a multiplicity of temporary sites, of everyday personal and public activities as well as individual and collective situations (readings, meals, a discussion, a jamming session, a give-away-shop).

This shift from one form to the other, from one context to the other, becomes a simulation of migrations. These migrations of home and of home-objects raise issues of individual consciousness towards self-emancipation.

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You can see more about the project in the paper ‘Home on-the-move-and-in-place: towards a strategy of emancipation‘. The paper was presented in the ASCA workshop ‘Dislocating Agency and Moving Objects’ in Amsterdam in April 2013.

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CLOWN INTER-VIEWS

clownInter-views

art-research and videos, presented at the Symposium “communi(cati)on of crisis”, PI Institute for Live Arts, Nafpaktos, 20-25 june 2011

“Clown interviews” is an artistic investigation initiated by viki semou and catherine grau. It looks at the potential of the CLOWN as a figure of reading, reacting to, and embodying crisis. In the frames of the project, clowns are asked to respond as clowns and as people-being-clowns to ‘what is crisis’ and ‘how to deal with it’.

performers:

#1 Rosy de lux / Raquel Rives, #2 Clolonel / C., M., and Y., #3 Psychopath / Ian

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Communicating with their bodies, actions and gestures clowns operate on the periphery of the power structures of language, offering new reading through marginalized forms of communication. Maybe this is a reason why they are usually perceived as figures on the edge of the society.

Like the fool in Shakespeare’s work, clowns are in a position of ‘commenting’ the ‘main’ action. They mirror it with humor or tragedy. How can this mirrored image be enlightening for the understanding of this ‘main’ action? Could it be a starting point for the interaction with or reaction to or even subversion of it?

A clown is also seen as a figure in a permanent state of crisis, directly linking situational readings with personal experience and always taking the plunge in facing inherent failure. So, how can the clown contribute to a discourse on the theme of crisis? What does crisis mean for a clown? How can the clown connect with all the different scales in which a crisis can take place? Could they maybe show us the way out of a society/situation of a permanent crisis? And how can we begin to understand crisis within a crisis continuum? Could we learn how to deal with crisis using clown techniques?

We asked a professional clown, a clown-activist group and a clown-performer-artist to reflect and respond to these questions as clowns and as people-being-clowns. Their responses resulted in 6 videos.

 

HOLISTIC HALLUCINATIONS: Ways for Objects to become Subjects

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Paper presented at the summer school “Lost Objects”, NICA, University of Amsterdam, 8-9 June 2011

Interdisciplinarity as a key notion of the School. For more info about the call and the program click here.

///// ABSTRACT:

This paper presents my research of how objects become things and subjects that ‘do’ and ‘are’ and that can form a basic matter of thought, discussion, investigation… Presenting two of my projects in relation to objects, I discuss the ways objects contribute to our reality and subjectivity. One of these projects refers to economic, social, political emotional, affective and other codes and value systems inscribed on them while the other investigates the communication potentials of these codes as well as their limitations.

My effort to perceive at once the different, contradictory ingredients of meaning and value inherent to objects, is like trying to see a 3d image through its printed 2d form. I assert that interdisciplinarity tries to achieve such a holistic perception of the world. That explains why this term is per definition positive and it has no negation. That is why, it starts having religious or godly characteristics. In my striving for such a holistic overview, I am careful about hallucinations of apocalyptic visions and at the same time, fascinated with the magic hidden in objects. /////

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[If interested, you can find the paper here]

DIGITAL AND ANALOGUE RECORDINGS as repository of memory and vehicles of interjection

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Paper PRESENTED AT ‘Post-Autonomia’ conference,

SMART Project Space, University of Amsterdam,

By M.Karagianni & V.Semou, Amsterdam 2011

 

/////ABSTRACT: In this paper we argue for an art practice that is autonomous in terms of its mode of production and we examine the re-enactment and appropriation of recordings as one of the artistic methods of resistance.

Our case studies refer to the practice of 2 artistic-political collectives: the Mountain Theatre in Greek resistance to nazis occupation in the 40′s, and the contemporary art collective BLW in California. In the former case, guerilla fighters took part as amateur actors, the appointed time schedule of each performance was adjusted so that most people could join, while the play was adapted to illustrate personas found in the villages for integrating a revolutionary message within everyday life. In the latter, the collective involves the memorization of significant recordings in the history of radical media speeches by inviting audience members to publicly re-enact them. Through this practice, the artists recover the power of speech in a culture where oral competence is displaced by media forms.

Inspired from the above mentioned practices, our discussion in the paper shifts to our own practice and experience as artists within the contemporary milieu of activism in the Netherlands. Digital and analogue recordings of previous actions join the live broadcasting of the voices and demands at protests that address social problems, such as housing shortage and budget cuts. Unlike the saturation of media archives that stay inactive for passive viewing/ listening, the re-use of our recorded material and live stream during protests show the continuation of the struggle that can result in the empowerment of peoples’ engagement.

[For more information about the call and the program of the conference click here.] /////

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[If interested, you can find the paper here]

 

 

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HYGIENE I-III

Three-fold intervention about Dirt and Cleanliness: installation with stickers, audio installation and performance

presented at group exhibition: ”Affectionately Yours”, curatorial project: “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution”, DAI and Wyspa Institute of Arts, Gdansk, Poland, May 2010 /////

Impersonating a sanitary control agent, viki semou inspected the space, the objects and the people visiting the exhibition. What or whoever had been approved was stamped or noted with a sticker. As an anti-statement, in the toilets of the exhibition space, an audio-piece on a loop talked about the power structures integrated in the definitions of what is dirty and what is clean.

More specifically, the sanitary control started with the inspection of the envelops that were handed out personally to promote and advertise the event. Inside them, there were notes, fragments, cards, whatever each one of the participants wanted to imply or say about their work before the exhibition. They were all approved. The control continued with inspecting the way to the exhibition spaces, through the shipyard where they were located. Not everything was inspected, not everything was approved. Then, the exhibition spaces themselves followed.

During the opening of the exhibition, as a sanitary control agent, the artist stood at the entrance of the exhibition. controlling who could enter or not. She was pointing to whoever looked ‘suspicious’ to her, asking them strictly and stifly in greek to step aside. An assistant of hers would take them aside and check their faces. If approved, they would have to lift their sleeve and get stamped

The audio installation sheds light on the toilets as the site of our everyday purification rituals, as a private area, as a dirty place nobody talks about. but also as an area of communication of dirty, forbidden messages. Most of all, in this case, as an area of propaganda of opinions and statements that do not have the room to be expressed elsewhere.

hygiene-sample of the audio piece

In this project, dirt and cleanliness, are approached as an affective pair, that saturates all aspects and scales of our lives. It is stated that notions of what is clean or dirty are inscribed on space, objects, patterns of behavior, the body and that we affectively communicate our point of view about them. ‘Hygiene’ points out:

  1. the arbitrariness of such definitions of dirtiness and cleanliness;
  2. the direct connection of such definitions to control when approving what is clean, and rejecting what is dirty.
  3. at the very end, that there are power relations created through this whole process that are as well arbitrary. Because whoever defines what is dirty or clean and can check and control the application of these definitions is in a position of power concerning the rest of the people.

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The project has been also presented as a video-lecture-performance in Dutch Art Institute, in June 2010.

 


 


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First to be Saved in Case of Fire

performative action + video-documentation
in collaboration with Yota Ioannidou and Sevgi Ortac, and the participation of 14 residents of Detroit. April 2009, Detroit, USA./////

14 residents of Detroit were invited to visit 3 abandoned places in the city (an elementary school, a courthouse and a house) and choose something from there ’to be saved in case of fire’.

A camera was filming them while they were looking for something to be saved, wandering into the buildings as long as and as far as they wanted till they were done or tired or interrupted by the conditions surrounding the buildings; the limits of accessibility, danger, cold, police… The project was conceived as a platform to build up a network and get to know the city of Detroit by its people. It was conceived as a specific route to save this knowledge and experience of a place that, albeit dramatic and decadent, promised counter interventions of urbanism and social change.

In this process of looking for something to be saved in abandoned and already destroyed places, the significance of such a goal fades away and what becomes important instead is the relationship of the camera-us-the tourists/strangers, the persons invited-the locals, and the places visited. The Detroiters (re-)visit these places to guide us through them. We see them through the camera, through their trajectories and their stories and they (re-)see these places through the conscience of our presence.

It was an effort to deal with both the ‘spectacle of decadence’ and the disappointment abandonment brings.

/////This project was made in the frames of the curatorial project Detroit Unreal Estate Agency, of Dutch Art Institute & Partizan Public, Detroit, USA /////