EPISTEMOLOGIES OF THE SUN // 12 May – 9 September 2022
Group show curated by Marina Fokidis
Duration 12/05/2022 – 09/09/2022
Photo credits: Stathis Mamalakis
How can an encounter take place under such a paradoxical and yet familiar title? What might happen in an exhibition where the sun is seen as a motive force and at the same time as an “existential home”? Is the notion of light the starting point for the artists who are co-presenting their works in the “common” space of Rebecca Camhi’s gallery? Or are they linked – perhaps – by the degree of “proximity” between the different topographies in which their works were conceived and created?
The genius loci of a “particular” place is defined by a “particular” natural light. The sun informs the soul and the mind, perhaps even shaping our knowledge and sense of the world. In his allegory of the Cave (found in The Republic), Plato states that those who manage to break free from their chains and emerge from the cave will either be blinded by the radiance of the sun and return inside or will become accustomed to the light and realise that the things they experienced in the cave were merely projections, shadows of the truth. Yet, beside the sun per se, it is also the “orientation” (towards the sun) that seems to shape a person’s “identity” and, at the same time, induce a state of identification across boundaries and borderlines. In this sense, the very “places” from which the participating artists face the sun might constitute the cardinal “reason” for this encounter. The way in which their daily life is formed by a set of specific habits, desires, ways of living, geographical and religious ferment, under the unruly sun, is their “common country” – and the condition that governs this exhibition: a sense of trans-local kinship.
Born and raised in the South – in the broader sense – in places where the sun is not easily “tamed”, such as Athens, Belgrade, Kythira, Parnassos, South Africa, and Rhodes, the artists in the exhibition share references from south-eastern cultures, with all their political idiosyncrasies, social relations, economic realities, handcrafting techniques,myths and traditions, “shapes” and “colours” – elements that have survived beyond the hegemonically imposed “white” purity of the Renaissance and Classicism, beyond the Enlightenment’s rationalism and the global prevalence of “Western Thought”.
A series of weavings on disused fridge grills, (by Zoe Paul) are intermingled with a set of painted portraits of animals, selected from ancient Greek mosaics and friezes (by Iasonas Kampanis). The combination of works by these two artists sheds light on correlations between popular and ancient Greek culture that have been “forgotten” in the fog of the North-West’s “misinterpretation” of Greek antiquity. Close by in the same room, an assortment of devotional ceramic sculptures and vases – some in zoomorphic shapes and others in more abstract forms (from the Yugoexport collection) – converse with a display of face-mask sculptures (by Panos Profitis), which refer to the iconography of ancient Greek vases. Hanging on the walls, these side-on visors with their characteristic frontal gaze seem to be patiently waiting to be “performed”, thus taking an even more active part in the overall narrative. Will they follow the ode of the plaster relief goats hanging further down the wall? There’s no way of knowing in advance. The situations themselves will determine the flow. These situations are usually shaped by a process of encounter between, humans, animals, nature, spirits, and ghosts. They cannot be predetermined either through a set of prescribed arbitrary “appropriations” of historical facts or by their manipulated post-narrative forms. The latter is a stale tactic – the Southand the East being interpreted and narrated by the North and the West. Finally, another work (by Eleni Kotsoni), which will continue to be constructed for the duration of the exhibition, seems impossible to concretise a priori. It consists of conceptual and material “fragments” of the past that are reused together with constantly emerging new “stories” to compose a narrative that may have no end. Formalistic and conceptual references from the wider genius loci of the region, which are evident in all the other works, are also used here, thus maintaining the rhythm of the continuum between past, present, and future, and vice versa.
The “epistemologies of the sun” – the sun that appears and disappears, that warms and burns, that illuminates and reflects, that can disperse all clouds and heal the soul. The sun is the ultimate source of energy that everyone wants to be around, both those who are born next to it and those who come rushing to be close to it, hurrying from their grey far-away climes. The sun demands respect. It cannot be controlled, cannot be tamed, and most probably cannot be sold (at least not for now). Greed transforms the sun into a source of catastrophe. Perhaps it is for all the reasons outlined above in this “sunstruck” text that the word epistemology is used in the title of the exhibition. Although ontology would have been a more fitting term to describe the essence of the sun (since it is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of reality), epistemology goes deeper and investigates the methods of acquiring knowledge: the relationship between reality and the searcher, the artists and their surroundings.
And it is this relationship which we would like to explore with you too, through multiple vantage points and orientations, coming together this summer on many different occasions, among them the summer solstice, when the sun will be at its zenith.