Left & Right Fingerprints: Thumb, Index, Middle, Ring, Little.
Herodotus, Aristotle, Epicurus, Homer, Hippocrates, Plato, Democritus, Socrates, Solon, Pythagoras.
This project is inspired by my personal experience of the biometric security protocols in effect in a number of countries throughout the world, such as the United States of America. As a Greek national in the US, along with millions of other foreigners, I had my ten fingerprints screened multiple times by borders security and immigration authorities, to be added to what is now the largest fingerprint database in the world.
Since selfhood is inscribed by such systems of information, security, and control, our fingerprints become fragments that define our national identity, always under the label of “other”, “alien”, “foreigner”. As borders are being shifted or closed all over the world, and forced migrations are redefining our notions of displacement, exile, home, and belonging, I’ve started to wonder about nationality’s role in our conception of identity.
Mapping my own topography of self through these tiny parts of the skin, I used my fingerprints as a filter, through which I photographed ten portraits* of the most significant ancient Greeks in terms of their global influence. All these portraits register as stereotypical samples of Greek national and cultural identity. However, all the classical busts I used have been displaced from their original homeland, and are now located in museums outside of Greece, ranging from the British Museum in London, to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Their faces are blurred and almost unrecognizable, as they appear enveloped within my fingerprints.
Reflecting on the idea of my body fragments as vessels for ethnicity and cultural heritage, and the schism between private and public, between personal and national identity, various questions arise: Is history inscribed in us? Can the body have national memory? How many diasporas of people, ideas, objects, and cultures lie behind us?
** The portraits were created photographically, NOT by digital manipulation.
Power Players Projected
Video Installation, 24 min loop video, 23 ft wide black fabric, 14 black chairs.
Stills and installation view, New Boon(e), 2014.
Power Players Projected video installation features a video work based on the Power Players Series images, in a narrow, dark space. A group of black chairs is organised in the setup of a conference room. No table is present and the tight arrangement of the chairs excludes the possibility of fulfilling their purpose.
The Power Players Series
The Power Players Series consists of 9 large-scale portraits of some of the most powerful people in the world, as identified by the annual ranking of Forbes. My selection from this list focused on individuals highly associated, through their role, with the interrelation of democracy and neoliberal economics.
Working with found images from their public speaking appearances, I employed a re-photography process, to transform the highly recognizable public faces into unknown, faceless figures. The Power Players’ characteristics dissolve into multicolored particles in a dark space, challenging the authoritative nature of institutional portraiture, and questioning what may constitute a portrait of global power.
Demos - For a Hall of Portraits
For the project Demos – for a Hall of Portraits, I photographed a selection of destroyed and faceless figures found in ancient Greek reliefs at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. Among the iconic masterpieces and the abundance of appealing exhibits, these incomplete figures go largely unnoticed and are often dismissed by the visitors as insufficient illustrations of the Classical idea of beauty and achievement.
The resulting series of Demos portraits highlight the representational and ideological stereotypes around the rationality, harmony, and humanistic values of Classical art and its influences throughout history. The title refers to the ancient Greek dēmos, defined as both the common people and the political unit of the democratic state. The accompanying suggestion “for a Hall of Portraits” draws a connection to the subsequent tradition of institutional portraiture, a genre used by powerful groups and civic leaders to promote individualism and authority.
Ultimately, this project explores the surviving notion and the potential redefinition of Homo Democraticus. It is fully realised in the form of an installation that temporarily replaces the existing imagery of an institutional or corporate hall of portraits with the Demos faceless figures.
Parthenon Wall of Columns
Archival pigment print, 3ft 7in x 11ft 2in.
All the visible columns from one side of the Parthenon, without their architectural refinements, pushed together. The discrete parts, optical illusions, and architectural refinements associated with the Parthenon’s humanistic character are negated.
Photo installation, 14 Archival Inkjet Prints.
High-resolution digital scan of a Parthenon postcard, that has been edited so that only the remains of its interior are visible.
Photo-installation, 2 layers of 56 inkjet prints each, wall staples, 5ft 8in x 12ft 10in.
Peripheral views from the Parthenon, Greece, bearing Aristotle’s definitions of democracy in his “Politics” written through the code of punch cards.
The punch card is an obsolete medium for data input used in governmental socioeconomic processes throughout the 20th century, and recently utilised by voting procedures with problematic results. It is specifically chosen for its symbolic representation of the state’s power and association with the first critiques of people’s abstraction into numbers, manifested in protests advocating for political rights such as the Free Speech Movement in the 60s.
Photo-installation, Temple Contemporary 2013.
Works from left to right: Polis, Postmonument, On the Steps of the Parthenon (“If all the men are good men and good citizens…”), Fist Portrait (A. Merkel on Greek TV), and Parthenon Wall of Columns.
Synecdochic Democracy problematizes the adverse impact of the Western recession on democratic functions drawing from the illustrative case of Greece, where democracy is challenged by the loss of public rights in governmental politics. Working from a self-imposed exile in the wake of more globalised issues and manifestations of civic unrest, this work reconsiders the widespread presumptions concerning democratic values, questioning how democracy, the public sphere, and the role of the citizen might be redefined.
In this installation, I question assumptions regarding the enduring symbolism of classical architecture as a conception of democracy, appropriated by projects of enlightenment and subsequent economic and political structures. Synecdochic derives from the Greek word ‘synekdoche’ (συνεκδοχή), a figure of speech by which a part stands for the whole or vice-versa. The title refers to the inadequacies of an elitist conception of democracy within extant politico-economic systems that do not live up to the standards of equality, participation, and public sovereignty.
On the steps of the Parthenon (“If all the men are good men and good citizens…”) carries definitions of democracy from Aristotle’s “Politics” in punch card code.
Fist Portrait (A. Merkel on Greek TV) is a disintegrated, elusive image captured on television, commenting on the concealed violence of neoliberal politics as a starting point for a series that explores the semiology used by both politicians and protesters.
The Stryker Bullet Series
In the Stryker Bullet Series I combine and repurpose rejected photographs, created by the FSA Photography Project* during the years of the Great Depression. The black holes of the punched negatives become a metaphor for the violent impact of the Depression on human lives. The feelings of instability, fear and despair that rise in the threat of a similar financial crisis today imply a close connection between the historical imagery and contemporary audiences. Additionally, the lack of image information addresses the role of censorship and politics in troubled times, questioning at the same time photography’s documentary function.
** The purpose of the Farm Security Administration Photography Project was to document the workers’ hardship and the nation’s conditions at the nadir of the Depression, while distributing free images for use in newspapers and publications. Roy E. Stryker, the project director, planned out specific shooting scripts and was responsible for selecting the exposed negatives that would be printed. His authority was evident in the way he treated the rejected ones: he would punch holes into them, deleting parts of the image and making them unusable for reproduction. Around 68,000 negatives were rejected and listed as “Killed”.
In the Art Places series I examine the special character of what we consider to be the natural place for art, the gallery or museum. In these spaces, art as an axiom is isolated from whatever might divert attention from it and takes a life of its own. Exhibition sites express what Michel Foucault describes as “heterotopias”: empty spaces, filled up at regular intervals, juxtaposing in a single real place several sites that are often incompatible with each other.
These true conditions of viewing art, as experienced by the visitor of major art events, walking among the streams of other viewers, became the starting point of this work. Digitally removing the artworks, but still preserving a notion of their presence, my interest turned towards revealing the previously “invisible” space. Showcasing not only constructed perfection but also every shortcoming, I underline the sacralized, ritual character of an imperfect, incomplete place, which, by transcendental ways of presentation, makes art into a dreamlike spectacle.