Writing Towards Disappearance

Chatter is the title of a new video by Eugenia Raskopoulos. Black, white and grey passages of light flicker on an unspecified surface over a period of ten minutes. Chatter is, ironically, silent. Yet it resounds with a pulsating rhythm that does not allow the eye to rest. It then tapers to a slow, languid conclusion. Chatter is an abstract field of sensations that features luminosity as the very substance of the photographic and moving image. All is fluid. The video defies narrative sequence, and it resists classical forms of identification. There are shadows, but we do not see the bodies of objects from which they derive their source. The shadows flicker, they come and go in a constant state of dissolution. They are also a kind of ready-made, in the Duchampian sense – a found sensation. Amorphous and dematerialised, Chatter operates something like our sub-conscious – ambient and persistent.  These fleeting impressions are always open to multiple interpretations because there is no referent, no focus. They carry within their dance an invitation. The viewer is given the freedom to allow his or her thoughts to wander.

There is another abstract ‘field’ in this exhibition Writing Towards Disappearance, in the form of a square of yellow chrysanthemums. In the video Stutter, we hear this bunch of golden blooms being  cut, and we see the small sliced petals fall onto the cement floor at the base of the artist’s feet. After the last flower has descended, the feet draw the petals together into a square. The artist then stands on this bed, rotates, and exits the video. The act of cutting up a living flower contains a subliminal violence: why hasten the death of a beauty when it is in its prime? This artistic gesture bespeaks the senselessness of violence. As a counterpoint, the composition of the petal square on the floor takes us back to the abstract field. Recalling Wolfgang Laib’s pollen floor works, this small square hints of a sublime past. The soles of the feet rotate in a clockwise direction on this mat, as if to soak up life. At the same time, the gesture also recalls the liberating force of pressing grapes. However, the connection between the body, and this abject composition is momentary. The video concludes with the artist’s exit from the space.

To stutter is to speak haltingly or to repeat a word. For the person who listens to a stutter in another person’s voice there is also the opportunity to hear the cut in a sentence. Chatter and Stutter share a preoccupation with the nature of language, and with notions of temporality. However, if Chatter is our sub-conscious, Stutter invites us into the conscious world of cuts, violence, soul and death.

Raskopoulos’ interest in language is also evident in the sequence of archival prints on paper, diglossia # 1-8. Each of these images carries within it a letter from the Greek alphabet. There is a word in there somewhere, but the order has been disrupted. Like the chrysanthemums, this word, or name, has been cut, and its pieces are now before us as fragments that refuse to re-collect themselves into meaning. As such, the relationship between the letters also becomes temporal, fluid, and heterogeneous opening up the question of translation between one language to another, and one culture to another.

The images have been created using the gesture of a hand writing on a steamed up mirror. The photograph is taken very quickly, before the image, the letter and the mark of the artist disappears. We have to ask, what is disappearing here? Is it the language, the name, the aura of the photograph (in the Benjaminian sense) or indeed the body? For behind each letter we can detect a human presence – the artists’ naked body as she makes the photograph. The apparatus of photography is revealed, undressed and made naked.

Moreover, there are several intersecting planes: the mirror, the letter that has been drawn into the steam, and the image within the mirror. Our eye moves between all three, trying to focus, in a manner akin to the play of light in Chatter. Like the search for the figure in Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blowup, 1966, this is a game of appearance and disappearance. What is reflection, what is surface? What is real, what is imagined? In diglossia # 1-8, photography and painting meet. They are brought into dialogue, the elements interact but do not find a unison. On Raskopoulos’ studio wall, there is a reproduction of Gerhard Richter’s alluring painting, Ema (Nude on a Staircase), made in the same year as Blowup. Ema is depicted naked, descending a staircase (in homage to Duchamp), and out of focus, as if photographed. Behind the painterly gesture is the photographer. Raskopoulos meets our gaze at the surface of the mirror, as if to taunt us, literally, to reflect on the nature of language itself.

Diglossia has been defined as a form of bilingualism where different languages are used by an individual in different aspects of their social context. These images, like the sound of a stutter, are composed from the cuts in language and the shifting spatial contexts in which we both reflect upon and represent ourselves.