ARTLINES: 'Panayiotou's I Land'
For Panayiotou — writes José Da Silva — these images present the gaze of a country that ‘cannot but turn to the past, however unclear, so that it may manage to look forward again one day’. This work was acquired through the John Darnell Bequest.
Christodoulos Panayiotou works across photography, installation and performance, drawing on his background in contemporary dance to explore aspects of national identity and history. He has replicated the architecture of performance spaces within gallery situations and works extensively with documentation of social ‘performances’ occurring within the public realm. The visual information deployed throughout these works is often derived from archival material; Panayiotou has described his practice as an attempt to excavate these images, objects and events, making tangible that which has been lost or remains absent.
Panayiotou’s trilogy of 35mm slide projections — Wonder Land 2008, Never Land 2008 and I Land 2010 — reflect on expressions of individual and collective identity in the partitioned Republic of Cyprus.1 The slide projects were realised after extensive research at different image archives in Cyprus that hold collections produced for public records. Panayiotou revisits these ‘official’ images in an attempt to obscure and redefine ideas of national identity as well as the complex cultural and political histories of Cyprus. Through the use of slide projection, the legacies of these archives are simultaneously transformed into aesthetic principals, emphasising our relationship to the phenomena of history and its documentation.
I Land draws from photographs sourced from the Press and Information Office in Nicosia, a state-administered agency that has documented the activities of the Cypriot President and his government ministers from the creation of the Republic of Cyprus in 1959. The two-channel synchronised slide projection features 160 photographs from 1960 to 1977, marking the period in which Makarios III (1913–77), archbishop and head (from 1950 to 1977) of the autocephalous Cypriot Orthodox Church held office as the first President of the Republic of Cyprus (from 1960 to 1974 and after partition from 1974 to 1977). While acknowledged as a national hero for leading his country towards self-determination and independence, Makarios III has also been criticised for abandoning the goal of reconciliation between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
I Land repositions the personal and everyday experiences of Cypriots as a strategy for renegotiating the historical and political significance of Makarios’s presidency within the transformative modern history of Cyprus. Alongside the images of Markarios III, Panayiotou presents a series of photographs that were taken during this time by the same photographers and kept on file at the Press and Information Office. They feature a diverse range of subjects, including interior views of domestic spaces, family portraits, still life photography and the leisure activities of young Cypriots.
The contradictory sets of images articulate what Panayiotou describes as ‘the official history and the accidental records of ego-histories’,2 underscoring the relationship between the photographers' personalities and their choices in documenting life in Cyprus. The slide projections, ordered and looped through the artist’s instinctive and poetic associations, reflect differing aspirations and desires that are borne out of conflict over territory as well as a melancholic projection of national identity. For Panayiotou, it presents the gaze of a country that ‘cannot but turn to the past, however unclear, so that it may manage to look forward again one day’.3
Author: José Da Silva, Senior Curator, Australian Cinémathèque, QAGOMA.
Source: Artlines 4-2011, p.61.
1 Since 1974 the Republic of Cyprus has been partitioned into about two-thirds of the island’s areas governed by Greek Cypriots and one-third occupied and administered by the Turkish government. United Nations peace keeping forces control the zone between them.
2 Christodoulos Panayiotou quoted in ‘FUTURA: Christodoulos Panayiotou by Hans Ulrich Obrist’, Kaleidoscope, Summer, Milian, 2010, p.149.
3 Christodoulos Panayiotou quoted in Nikos Charalambidis, ‘Never Land: Christodoulos Panayiotou,’ Art Papers, May/June, New York, 2008, p.37.