Introduced through a conversation between artists Adrianos Efthymiadis and Iria Vrettou, and curator Nadja Argyropoulou
Nadja Argyropoulou: I would like to start by acknowledging the critical involvement you two had in the development of this project and thank you publicly for your commitment and hard work.
You contributed as curatorial assistants, you helped us customize the online platform designed by Aestetic design studio for ACG, you researched and prepared the pop ups that unsettle the microsite, and you created the four teasers that announced the project in the social media. You made this breathtaking suit of serenades as a labor of love and care. You are the project’s youngest participants, so I would like to hear from you on how you engaged with a context which, in some ways, is quite remote from you – The Doors, the 60’s – and in other ways focuses directly on some of your growing up routines – the net, virtual communication, digital tools, etc.
Adrianos Efthymiadis and Iria Vrettou: We were captivated by the contradiction you just described. And then realized it was not that much of a contradiction anyway. It was quite a scary but tempting opportunity to think on contemporariness, along with Giorgio Agamben, as “that relationship with time that adheres to it, through a disjunction and an anachronism”; to speak about the obscurity of this era from a point of con/temporal extimacy; to consider the demands of that era as something that still concerns us. The theatre of shadows in our work for example, the presence of marionettes and karagiozis puppets is a saddle bag that we carry since our childhood, what we grew up with, agents which shaped the future that became our present.
NA: The future-filled past is a quite pertinent concept within this curatorial on the matter of ceremonies. Agamben’s final metaphor is giving us a clue as to how to become contemporaries of “not only our century and the ‘now,’ but also of its figures in the texts and documents of the past”. He says that “It is as if this invisible light that is the darkness of the present cast its shadow on the past, so that the past, touched by this shadow, acquired the ability to respond to the darkness of the now”.
Your response, your work here is filled with shadows; animation is your language of choice in order to interpolate the present into other times and cite history in your own unforeseen way. Iria, your studies are in animation and moving image practices. Adriane, your studies are in architecture and philosophy. You both work in a transdisciplinary way that adapts and transforms according to the task at hand and for this video you blended your voices and merged them with a host of other voices in order to question authorship itself.
IV: Hand-drawn animation incorporates untimeliness and revels on mistakes and glitches. It is the kind of animation that retains the trace of pen-to-paper gestures, it captures and evokes mood, time sequences, hues, textures and differentiations within the sensorial and the material. It is a long meditative process that suddenly convulses into action: hundreds of drawings gather to make a second of movement. Time is getting out of joint so that the joints of figures can come alive. It is the magic of the trick and it is a celebration of the accident, in repetition, in painstaking elaboration, within a laboratory (or a temple) that eventually transmutates to the exhibited work.
AE: I was introduced to animation via this collaboration with Iria, and it was an aleatory experimentation that for me is quite related to the world of theatre, the connection between craft and action, the manufacture of exigency, the recourse to forms of automatism.
We produced a huge amount of drawings and incorporated a cascade of experiences and knowledge bits –music, literature, films, web references, art encounters. We brought them together and this was the moment when we had to accept their communion and incompatibility – a traumatic instant.
Hybrids (Iria’s most favourite notion) emerged. We put them in motion.
IV: We choreographed their moves and were moved by their motion; so we added words and sounds that come from places of love and wonder: Ursula Le Guin and “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, Nick Cave, Virginia Woolf, Anne Carson, Artaud’s “Heliogabalus”, Jim Morrison’s cry, Karen Barad’s entanglement of matter and meaning, Humpty Dumpty’s mischief, Mihalis Lekakis’s most weird verse – “The eclipse became flesh, and it brought upon change”- and more.
NA: Curioser and curioser… The moment when you forget “to speak good English”.
So the accident becomes an opportunity of learning, of understanding both the normal and what lies beyond without exhausting it though.
AE: A quite important moment of osmosis for us. Hence our research on Burroughs’s mistrust of language and his cut-up technique. “When you cut into the present the future leaks out” said the man who credited T.S. Eliot for this. Eliot pointed us towards poetry as a few words sounded by a large amount of silence. We considered our lock-down time and decided that we could not yet talk about it. We are too close, we have no perspective and hence, too little silence.
So we extracted ourselves and dived into the project’s reality. We forgot language, engaged with the ambiguity of time and started performing a series of divinatory incisions on imaginary bodies. We visited Morrison’s body of poetry exposed in the post-mortem album “An American prayer” the same way an exacto knife approaches the surface of paper – Morrison was not present when it was made but he was called forth in it. We were utterly fascinated by the image of Lekakis’s empty toolbox (“A hollow tomb”); we visited all the bodies that have at times entered our imagination and prompted our creativity; we visited the body of the ACG Art Collection, we examined the bodies we drew on paper and then cut, the exquisite corpse made out of all the disparate amputated parts. We created the text for our video by writing and cutting and performing a disorderly piecing together of our thoughts. We made this into an oral account – spoken words by an androgynous voice – that blends with sound bits and intensifies the experience of polyvocality and collective dancing. There is a panygiri that formed beyond our intentions, made out of things that we did not see coming, like Greek music and the spectacular recording of a bouzouki. Everything was absurd and everything made sense at the same time.
NA: You describe an assembly of intuitions. I had this impression from the teasers and all the way to the parade of odd characters that appear in the last serenade of your work, titled “Everything is broken up and dances”.
IV: The teasers that you asked us to make, presented an entry point that we followed. You might say we danced along with it. There was a lag in the computer program that we used. We loved it and followed it, reproduced it thereafter. The whole process that brought us from the teasers to the work was quite random. We engaged with the incomplete, quasi-accidental look of the ACG Art collection web site and its various story lines. There was a parade of accidents that we discovered, followed, simulated, released. There is not a sense of a chorus chanting in harmony but rather the gathering of very different voices, or even howls, in this work. Things are etched in our memory very differently than how they happened. We explore this gap as if we make a documentary on the void.
AE: A mosaic started revealing itself out of things quite unknown to us. The teasers assembled themselves from the most concrete to the most abstract as we engaged with absence, what we did not know, a void.
We felt that unintentionality was permeating the whole project and we mimicked, examined it as a possible research method. Not to demystify it but to make a story of it. We cannot really see what happened within the three months that we are working in the project but we moved in and out of it – from complete ignorance to full immersion and back – so that we could eventually create this last video in the series of responses. This exit-position we were assigned made us feel quite conscious of the question of the ceremony.
IV: We made these nine and a half serenades to ritualize this process of necropsy of the void, to sing the impossible process of conceptualizing the void and cutting into it, to conjure ghosts past and ghosts future, invite them in a dance, much like the dances that are lost to us because of the pandemic, in the break that we experience.
AE: The idea of exorcism then sneaked in. The question of conjuring and expelling, inviting and ousting. There is something at work during such incantations that feels like the tap of a foot in a dance, at the very moment when an older person gets up from their chair, tunes in and takes up the rhythm. The whole spirit and truth of “The Bacchae” are in this tapping. In the moment that gods and mortals, heroes and chorus equally dance the plot awake; in their presence they all tear apart and reassemble meaning.
NA: Anticipation is what moves the many feet that follow and synchronize with this one foot. This whole project shivers with anticipation articulated in episodes as it is – like Scheherazade, the female story teller who had studied sciences and poetry, arts and accomplishments and could call forth and weave their stories so as to delay her death in the hands of the ruthless, loveless king.
AE: I often think of the storytelling process as an act of putting someone to sleep – my mother did this for me. Sending one into a deep sleep is of a both macabre and beautiful nature. You go through a sort of death in order to live within dreams. ‘Dream’ is a word that comes up a lot in our text which unfolds in the reality of waking dreams: essentially made out of a children’s book that met a fiction novel that met a couple of records that met several poems that met Greek fairytales that met digital and analogue manipulations that met the absence of the names of those who made monuments and palaces, and so on and so forth. We were mortified by the void, by what is forgotten next to what is remembered. Authorship becomes a collective yearning for us, in this examination of the void, in the necropsy that somehow attempts to discover, uncover, recover what can be salvaged, reborn, reconstituted to life and love. This summoning is no simple task and I feel that Iria and I re-evaluated our friendship through the whole process.
IV: We kind of blindfolded one another and gradually a set of characters appeared and assembled. Wild hybrids, no singularity, multiple directions.
AE: When we printed out everything that we had and started the animation process we were greatly surprised. Blind folding, as Iria put it, is a very good way to describe how we prompted the unexpected and the relinquishing of certainties; then we had to proceed with anatomical accuracy in order to animate everything and move beyond the preliminary space of chaos to the emergence of creatures.
NA: There is a ghost in the centre of each of your serenades. And you told me that the first, the last and the middle must hold their positions.
IV: The serenades can be moved around. Their order here is one of the many possible. The one titled “(The) Day” is a flash of white and the soft cry Awake that shutters and reassembles the song.
AE: Epic tales, of all sorts, trick you into believing in some sense of continuity even though they are made out of distant oral traditions, dreams and recounted experiences. Iria painted an image of the hero as a bottle that contains stories, which we can, in turn, lift and press it against our ears or throw back into the sea. We consider this sense of heroism and the responsibility it entails.
IV and AE: It is a matter of love and how we dance to its music. These are the ceremonies we believe in.
NECROPSY OF A VOID. 9 ½ Serenades for the Exorcism of Ghosts
2021, Animated film, b&w, sound, 8’46”
Created by Iria Vrettou and Adrianos Efthymiadis
Work commissioned by curator Nadja Argyropoulou for the project:
“Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin”
1. “In Sleep Ghosts Are Summoned. In Song They Are Expelled”
“Matter is spectral, haunted by all im/possible wanderings, an infinite multiplicity of histories present/absent in the indeterminacy of time-being”, from “No Small Matter: Mushroom Clouds, Ecologies of Nothingness, and Strange Topologies of Spacetimemattering”, by Karen Barad
2. “Everything is Broken Up and Dances”
“Everything is Broken Up and Dances” from “Ghost Song” by The Doors, from the album “An American Prayer”
“Can you feel my heart-beat? I’m transforming, I’m vibrating. Look at me now”
“Jubilee Street” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, from the album “Push the Sky Away”
3.“The Color of the Eclipse”
“The Color of the Eclipse” from ‘Totality: The Color of the Eclipse’ by Anne Carson
“The eclipse became flesh, and it brought upon change.” from the notebooks of Michalis Lekakis
4. “The Bottle as a Hero”
“A stringent reevaluation”, from ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ by Ursula K. Le Guin