Organized by Cut Contemporary Fine Arts Lab (Klitsa Antoniou and Gabriel Koureas)
An International Hub in the frame of the International Walking
Encounters/Conference/Walking as a Question, organized by Visual March to Prespa, Fine and Applied Arts of the School of Fine Arts of the University of Western Macedonia (EETF/UOWM), and by Made of Walking (VI).
Sunday July 4th to Sunday July 11th, 2021, Prespa, Greece
Seminar Coordinator: Dr Gabriel Koureas
Theoretical and Conceptual Underpinnings of the Hub
Around the border that divides Nicosia (Cyprus), space is kept unkempt, ruins of war are un-repaired, wrecked buildings are left intact, garbage sits uncollected, as though purposively marking and re- marking memory. During a walk through the border space of the city, the anthropologist Yael Navaro-Yashin (2003) gives us a list of what she encountered: broken glass, rusted iron rods, a burnt pine tree, spilled garbage, an old oven stuffed with newspapers, a tree growing in what used to be a kitchen, a roof that has collapsed into a house, the skeleton of a bed on the street, a mattress turned inside out and chewed up by the cats, a half-dangling balcony, clothes hung on electric wires, shrapnel holes in walls, windows filled with sacks of sand to make shooting points, wires marking off a military zone, white barrels lined up as barricades, a sign marking ‘the border’, and poles carrying the flags of Turkey, Greece, the Cyprus Republic and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. Items of ruin, rubbish and the abject are intricately related to items of militarism, internationalism and politics. They form what Navaro-Yashin calls a ‘polito-graphy’ (108).
How can divided Cyprus, scarred by wars and ethnic conflicts that have left open wounds in the fabric of the country, try to heal itself and incorporate its traumatic memories within its spatial organization? Is such an incorporation possible? In order to investigate these questions, we propose to examine its ‘polito-graphy’ through the visual, sensorial and affectual language of walking through Cyprus, concentrating on issues of space, borders (both physical and psychic), memory and trauma. What we hope to demonstrate is that walking as artistic/performative practice in Cyprus is embedded in its spatial particularities. Encounters with Cypriot ‘polito-graphy’ produce a real time somatic experience no longer framed as representation. In experiencing both walking and the signs of division we are unable to rely solely on vision, as they call for our hearing, smell and tactility in comprehending spatially and artistically the impact of war and conflict. It is only by understanding the sensorial impact of trauma that we can begin to comprehend the political and social conditions Cyprus and its artistic production.
For Michel de Certau (1984) there are two possibilities in relation to viewing the city: firstly, the arrangement of things into an image to be surveyed by distanced subjects, like in mapping; and secondly, inhabiting the city or creating ground-level practices or tactics of everyday life. We want to take de Certau’s argument a step further in order to argue that the ‘ground-level’ practices need also to incorporate an affectual, embodied interaction with the space that will depart from the strict confines of the visual. As Juhani Pallasmaa (2005) writes, ‘I confront the city with my body; my legs measure the length of the arcade and the width of the square; my gaze unconsciously projects my body onto the facade of the cathedral, where it roams over the moldings and contours, sensing the size of recesses and projections’ (40).
In order to examine the ways in which these discourses permeate the fabric of Cyprus we will attempt through walking experiences an embodied encounter of the space of the island of Cyprus; as Pallasmaa puts it I want to ‘experience myself in the city’, I want the city to exist ‘through my embodied experience’ since ‘the city and my body supplement and define each other’(40).
Objectives of the Hub
Our panel of speakers and roundtable discussion will actively engage with walking/performative experiences in Cyprus in order to highlight and intervene in the political, personal and social conditions in Cyprus thus highlighting the importance of walking as an aesthetic experience in relation to borders, crossings, checkpoints. We aim to expand and relate the particularities of the Cypriot condition to other spaces, movements of population, forced migrations and walking experiences.
Format of the Hub
Five 20-minute presentations with audiovisual material
Roundtable Discussion – 30 minutes