Haris Epaminonda

Solo Exhibition, Site Gallery, 2010

This was Cypriot born artist Haris Epaminonda’s first solo exhibition in a UK independent gallery, presenting newly commissioned video work, simultaneously to a complementary show at Tate Modern.

Epaminonda works in a variety of media from collage to film, installation and book works. Often in her work there is a collapsing of time and space, folds of time exist in both her videos and collages, decisive cuts bringing together different parallel worlds and times.

Walter Benjamin said that “history breaks down into images, not into stories” and Epaminonda’s work similarly avoids narrative – the artist suggests that it should not be read for cultural or historical significance, but simply for how the images resonate together. Yet despite the diverse nature of the works, the disparate images, viewed together, inevitably draw us to form a narrative, based on our own associations.

In one work a series of objects, a mix of artefacts from non-specific ancient cultures, are positioned on coloured background and filmed. The objects appear as still lives, but are subtly animated as the fluctuating light of the sun creates an animistic shadow. The objects are uncategorised, but linked by being repositories of time and history each with an untold story. In the context of an adjacent projection which centres around scenes from the Acropolis and Pompeii, they become like micro monuments to time. The still lives are then replaced by the pages of a book containing narrative illustrations, including of foundation myths such as the Garden of Eden. In contrast, the second film focuses on a classical civilisation which is in a state of entropy or decay.  Like the still lives, this second film often seems to be a still landscape, but is animated by the fluctuating light of the sun which lends different dramatic effects, and by the occasional tiny moving figures or animals in the landscape, documents to time passing, as the title of the exhibition – Chronicles – suggests.

In another film, the only action to be seen is the slight movement of a tree caused by the wind – again a natural element is the prime mover in an otherwise still scene. This series of films have much less editing than previous works which montaged and manipulated found and new footage. The editing here is in the selection of the scene to be filmed which is then left mostly unedited, lending a more observational feel, but an element of chance is allowed to enter in terms of the subtle fluctuations in natural conditions. The sound accompanying the work, (produced for the exhibition by musicians ‘Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides’) also focuses on natural sounds, manipulated and melded with haunting instrumentation.

In another film there is a specific action – a car drags an olive tree along a landscape, watched by a pack of feral dogs – but still no narrative as the purpose for this action is hard to grasp. The car circles like the animals in the circus ring in another film, with a similar lack of visible motive.   The looped films extend this circling of time indefinitely. In the smaller gallery the film depicts a circus including performing animals. The timeless nature of the richly coloured costumes and the fact that such entertainment is now outlawed in many countries gives the film an archaic feel, whilst the staging in some cases looks futuristic, placing the film, which is both beautiful and deeply melancholic, in an indeterminate time zone.

The works are all filmed on super 8 film, which renders the time of their capture uncertain. Archaic in feel, they also sometimes seem contemporaneous so the events depicted cannot be pinned down to a particular time – they seem to inhabit a different type of time, not present or past but somehow parallel to our own time. Film also inevitably instils a degree of fragility and melancholy due to the indexical nature of the photographic medium, the fact that that moment cannot be captured again. The visibly moving grain in the image also offers a particular texture and a kind of internal animation which emphasises the fact that these are still frames animated, highlighting the chronicling of instances of time which unites the works.

A link to an interview with Haris Epamononda is here.