...in the frame of Athens Photo Festival
Photography Center of Thessaloniki is participating with an exhibition, under the title: “FAITH - Places and Manners of Worship” , in Athens Photo Festival
Matteo Danesin (ITL), Miya Ando Stanoff (US), Guillermo Srodek – Hart (ARG), Jan Van Ijken (ESP), Nermine Hammam (EGYP), Patrick Brown (THAI), Toledano Philip (GB), Marco Ambrosi (ITL), Janek Markstahler (GER), Paula Muhr (GER), Dimitris Prokopiou, Stefania Mizara, Basilis Karkatselis, Stavros Dagtzidis, Thanassis Raptis, Argyris Liapopoulos, Efthimis Mouratidis, Dimitra Ermidou, Avraam Pavlidis, Giannis Chologounis (GR), Florence Messager (GR-FR).
The exhibition “FAITH - Places and Manners of Worship” is the outcome of a long-standing effort to explore faith and the way it can be rendered in terms of cross-cultural photographic time.
Many artists in the history of photography traced, documented or analyzed through their images, this eternal power or weakness of man. Still, nowadays, for a large number of creative artists, this is not enough. We know things we never knew before, we conceive inconceivable situations, we sense globalization, all in spite of our inner immutability. The language of the medium has changed and so have our expectations regarding art, the ways in which a photographic work is met and perceived by the public, our concepts about the coexistence of different elements; thereby, the way we talk about faith and worship, the way we photograph it, have also changed.
The way and the extent that the spirituality of the fixed photographic image is involved in the spirituality of any faith is a primary feature of this exhibition. Transcending the already known through desire for a future integration of the transaction, results in actions and defines manners that, despite their singularities, have much in common regarding art and worship of the divine.
In this exhibition documentary and documentation photography coexist with scenographed, conceptual and pictorial photography. What is manifested is the intention of the artists to blend traditional with contemporary elements: the given elements with questions that may be generated, the eternally impulsive with the documented (and therefore dead) present, the respect for the principles of others and the undermining of those principles.
The insatiable curiosity of the creative act crosses the complex and manifold ways of expressing faith and worship, as a means to be grateful and explore what lies beyond man, and therefore, beyond photography.
Matteo Danesin (ITL), born in 1971, has opted for an emotional approach in his study of the religious rituals and festivals of the African Pentecostal community of Verona. These Africans have found a relatively easy way into Europe, combining faith, the finding of employment and immediate obtaining of the necessary residence papers. The intermediate link is represented by the orders of monks and missionaries who work in their birthplace, Africa, attempting to make converts. Without any attempt to hide behind his lens, the photographer demonstrates that the Africans’ embracing of the faith was not a conscious fraud designed to help them secure a visa.
Miya Ando Stanoff (USA) presents her audience with minimal landscapes, landscapes of meditation and prayer, landscapes which have no message – these are not photographs of something, but the thing itself. Stanoff’s images are not representations of sky, sea or land; they are not landscapes of the real and do not challenge us to identify them with a particular place, an atmosphere, a situation or time; they do not even evoke or refer to anything specific. These photographs are neither colour nor black-and-white, but landscapes of another Orient – Zen landscapes. Is the spectator reflected in the work? Is there any place for him in this transcendental universe? Is this a place to relax and meditate?
Guillermo Srodek-Hart (ARG), born in 1977, has made the main focus of his work the innumerable offerings, all coloured red, to be found all across Argentina – left at shrines to the country’s contemporary Robin Hood, Gauchito Gil, who deserted from the army because he refused to fight against his own fellow citizens. On the day of his execution all sorts of strange events occurred, interpreted as miracles, powerful enough to transform him into a folk hero.
Jan Van Ijken (NL), born in 1965, takes photographs of Easter celebrations among Catholics in Spain. Holy Week is marked with services in which the faithful wrap themselves in shrouds, wear painted cowls and touch one another with the heavy statues and crosses they carry in their hands. The service, a centuries-old tradition in Seville, only ends with the setting of the sun.
Nermine Hammam (EGYPT), born in 1967, photographs the Ashura, in which the Shiite Muslims of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain honour the memory of the struggle to the death, many centuries ago, between the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. On the day of commemoration they flagellate themselves with chains and sharp instruments – the self-inflicted pain being a proclamation of religious faith.
Patrick Brown (GB/THAI), born in 1969, records in his photographs a vegetarian religious ceremony which takes place each year in the south of Thailand. The celebrants honour their gods by placing their hands in the fire, piercing their bodies with needles and inflicting on themselves other forms of suffering.
Toledano Philip (GB), born in 1968, offers a visual representation of the hopes and anxieties of contemporary America, in a challenging and caustic commentary on the lifestyle and morals of a country riddled with contradictions.
Marco Ambrosi (ITL), born in 1959, seeks to photograph the West African immigrants of Verona, who find their way to Italy with the assistance of the Pentecostal Church. He makes arrangements beforehand with the congregation, drives up to the church in a van and arranges an armchair (always the same one) in a little makeshift studio. As soon as the service is over he invites the congregation one by one to assume a pose they feel comfortable with. All are apparelled in their Sunday best, and the photographs highlight the imposing dignity of these worshippers.
Janek Markstahler (GER) has for years now been observing the religious practices of members of various faiths (all of them – and this is no accident – sharing many common features), their uses of sounds and objects in their worship of the supreme being.
The crowns of thorns, rosaries, crosses on chains around the neck, the robes of monks and vestments of priests and the painted sculptural compositions we find in the work of Paula Muhr (SER/GER), all these integral features we associate with the interior of Catholic churches are photographed in a way which seems to bring us closer, in a mysterious way, to the faith and piety of the devout.
Dimitris Prokopiou visits the houses of friends and acquaintances and photographs them in front of the little household shrine, a little corner of a room where icons of the saints rub shoulders with photographs of their youth, of distant relatives, children and grandchildren. He depicts ordinary interiors which have been transformed into places of devotion, adorned with images of familiar faces, weary and worn with the daily grind of life.
Stefania Mizara has taken photographs in three villages of Macedonia where the ritual of the firewalkers is still observed. Rooted in the ancient Dionysian rites, sanctioned by Saints Constantine and Eleni, the ceremony is performed by barefoot villagers walking across red-hot coals, endlessly chanting the phrase Stacht’ na yen… stacht’ na yen…
Vassilis Karkatselis (born in 1952) is going on with destruction of the ‘holy’ elements of the photography image. He destroys the specific place that has been photographed, and the decisive time of the image in order to create a new ‘holy’ time, place and image, an out of the reality image. His work is as for a unique sculpture. He is working beyond the boundaries of the medium.
Dimitra Ermeidou creates images that refer to religious visions. Actions of suffering, with known religious symbolisms are revealed in utopian settings, where the element of the inexplicable and transcendental is evident. In her work, concepts such as Sin, Good and Bad, Sacrifice and Punishment dominate. Each artwork is an autotelic episode, in a research for the eclectic kinships between faith as human behaviour and the individual’s mental outlook. The final question is placed on this basis: what is the deeper relation between religion and psychology?
Stavros Dagtzidis, born in 1948, photographs one of the biggest religious festivals to have survived in Greece, the festival of Aghios Simos in Mesolongi, which takes place each year in June. Large numbers of the faithful congregate for the festival, among them many Gypsies from all over Greece who bring their children to be baptized, to renew old vows and make new ones.
Thanasis Raptis, born in 1962, is fascinated by the saintly qualities of ordinary, simple, innocent people who, in the midst of life’s many trials and tribulations, ascend their own Golgotha - but without ever losing their decency and integrity. His message is that all these simple souls are worthy of the halo of the saint – and ventures himself to crown them with that very halo they deserve.
Efthymis Mouratidis, born in 1961, helps us to trace the divinity which lies inside each of us, through the shadowy form of an X-ray. What lies hidden beneath our clothes, in the inner recesses of the mind? The simple symbols of faith (crosses, charms, stars of David, writings of the prophet, and so on) are elevated, shrouded in a special atmosphere – the result of the distortion imposed by the requirements of the medical procedure. The awkwardness of the patient before the merciless, stainless steel surfaces of the machine is transformed into a mysterious and sensual beseeching.
Argiris Liapopoulos presents the dance of "whirling dervishes". Turning towards the truth, the dervish grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives to the "Perfect,". Then he returns from this spiritual journey as a man who reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation, to all creatures without discrimination of believes, races, classes and nations...
Abraham Pavlidis holds a special place in contemporary Greek photography. Photography is a natural extension of his keen interest in travel and his desire to record the places where people work, worship and live their private lives – places charged with memory and tradition.
Yiannis Hologounis photographs the festival at Aghios Nikolaos in Halkidiki, known as “the eikonismata”. The custom, its origins lost in distant antiquity, is also encountered in other parts of Macedonia. It takes place immediately after Easter and is accompanied by special services and prayers for a good harvest.
Florence Messager (GR-FR) uses photography and painting, in entirely abstract terms, to express the deification of the high priestesses of the contemporary cinema, both Greek and foreign.