Key elements of my work such as identity, trace and memory are consolidated in ‘Persona non grata’, a project dealing with the concept of ‘nonperson’, tracing the history and events of Greek Genocide in relation to my family’s refugee background. My intention is to create silent objects that convey the meaning indirectly through abstract qualities, using a variety of materials and minimal geometric forms. Creating links between present and past, the work is evocative of absence and memory, representing personal view on erasure of history and heritage.
Project gathers intimate and family objects that deal with trauma and abuse faced, suggestive of violence and discrimination. Personal items are used as silent traces, carriers of history and emotion that dig into themes of my relationship with sorrow, injustice and amnesty. These are crystallised to concrete structures with powerful potential hidden in their implicit associations. Distorted, reshaped, attacked, trapped, broken, fragmented and marked, forms convert psychological and somatic strain to silence. Objects with strong emotional properties function as extensions of physical bodies, removed from their place and frozen in time they take the role of preserving loss. Anthropomorphised remains stand as witnesses of tragedy that violates human dignity, while displacing past into present. Confronting and interpreting history, I aspire to give material incarnation to the forgotten in an effort to strengthen memory as the last frontier against oblivion.
Installation is shaped by geometric elements, each one of the in the form of a cube. The dimensions of the cube are such so that its volume matches personal ‘lung capacity’ as specified by a pulmonary test. ‘Lung capacity’ (the maximum amount of air lungs can hold) is different in every person and further relates to environmental factors, such as altitude. People who live at higher altitudes have increased lung capacity. So do the ones that run. Thus, air volume directly links to place and environment. Referring to the forceful expatriation, I relate the displacement from the shores of Turkey to the mountains of Greece and highlight the importance of place in the lives of refugees. Exiled individuals are forced to readjust not only mentally and psychologically, but also physically transform their bodies in order to adjust to new location. I want to draw attention to the relationship with place for people that have no ‘home’.
My aim is to examine how objects of domestic scale can control and re-orientate environment. Cube is a fixed, rigid structure and has always an unseen face. Cube has orientation. The sides of the blocks are aligned with the cardinal directions so that they provide an element of orientation in space. The pieces operate as a compass for the people that have been lost. They stretch between east and west forming a chain that connects their places and traces their journey. They form a border that splits and divides space. Resting directly on the floor they stand as insignificant configurations, placing the outsider in a position of superiority next to them. Objects merge, embed and confuse, through a process that opens pathways for those wishing to engage further. Below eye level, if the observers wish to approach and inspect details and marks, they must lower themselves to the ground.
Interruption of space creates a silent reminder of unwanted individuals being vanished, while viewers are called to work out their own mixed emotions set against tombs of memory. Piece examines how life leaves its mark in place and time and how actions are recorded on objects as evidences of hardship and human suffering. Remains of destruction bear witness to violent stories, articulating narratives as a way to open discussion about conflict. Through insistent materiality that shapes sculptural creations, artwork is converted into a storyteller. Fused among the tensions of presence and absence and dealing with emotion and reactivation of memory, work proposes a look at lost heritage, negotiating what we consider important and what we forget. With the geometric rigour purposely replacing fragility, artefact is turned into voiceless mourning. Pieces oppose the desire to obtain a comprehensive perspective, as viewer tries to grasp the complexity of the conflicts.
Floor is covered with salt surrounding the sculptural volumes, capturing visitors’ steps as they walk around the installation. Salt holds a special position in my culture. When babies are born their first bath is in saltwater. If they don’t bathe in it, they would become ‘unsalted’, meaning unwanted, unimportant and hateful. When a calf was born, the farmer would spray salt on it so that its mother would lick it pleasantly. It is when you want to get rid of an undesirable visitor that you should spill salt behind their back. Salt is offered as a gift in reconciliation with an enemy. Salt is a preservative. But if you throw it in a land field it makes it infertile. Salt is the sea. The mineral salt on the floor is similar to that extracted from the Turkish mines by the exploited Greeks. Salt is obtained as a residue. It is what remains behind. Salt traces the outline of a final absent piece which highlights the sense of loss. Sculpting psychological space, it matches the subject of destruction, extermination and elimination. Forgotten and omitted from history.