Andreana Fatta’s research-based practice is informed by Cypriot cultural displacement which she activates through archives; expressing colonisation, war, lost histories and identities. For this exhibition, she will digitise photographs, home videos, letters and literature addressing Cyprus and its complex colonial history.
Ξεριζωμένη Γενιά (An uprooted generation), is a previous archival installation of copper pipes and melted wax stumps with publication. This creative archive holds 25 out of 126 documented objects belonging to my grandmother who is subject of colonialism, war, and displacement. It is built with domestic communicative materials, fundamental to Cypriot culture. Copper, an ancient trade material and melted votive candles from Greek Orthodox churches around Birmingham, representing a key element of culture and history, reworked to form the pillars of the archive itself. This piece is a personal response to the late discovered Cypriot State Archive founded in 1972, two years before the country was invaded in 1974.
(Ξεριζωμένη Γενιά (An Uprooted Generation), 2019, copper pipes, Greek Orthodox candle wax, archived objects, and publication.)
Influences that strongly inform the artists’ practice include Cypriot female artists Haris Epaminonda and Maria Loizidou.
Maria Loizidou is a visual artist who primarily creates works re-appropriating and experimenting with objects, offering a consideration of collective history through her Cypriot origin and memory, using spaces and materials, which are both fragmented and familiar. It is this familiarity and collective history that Andreana tried to explore through her own use of family archives, and cultural displacement.
Haris Epaminonda’s concerns for history is reflected by Cyprus’s artistic heritage – which spans over the rise and fall of ancient Eastern and Western civilisations. Coming from the south side of the divided city of Lefkosia (Nicosia), Epaminonda transforms her home country into a backdrop for a variety of mythological identities. Epaminonda uses existing materials such as found objects, videos, and text, all placed purposefully on borders, on edges, and hidden away layering materials, giving them purpose and narrative, which are sometime unknown to the public. Similarly, carefully narrating and using existing archival materials, Andreana takes the histories which are of interest and uses them to create a web, that at first glance may not be directly understood by the audience.
(Haris Epaminonda, VOL. XXVII. 2019, Mixed media installation. Venice Biennale)
During the displacement of thousands of Cypriots in 1974, many Cypriot artists – who lived in the north of Cyprus - had to leave their homes, studios, and artworks behind. Objects and material that had the potential to be collected were lost or difficult to access, due to the period of war and division. The concept of connecting to what cannot be connected, and the impulse to archive started with this reality and research topic.
Many artworks during this period were thought to be lost or destroyed on the other side of the green line. Ongoing talks and negotiations seemed to always end with no progress or little signs of hope for a solution, until very recently, when more than two hundred works which had been left behind in 1974, were returned to the artists who made them. This positive step allowed those artworks to be preserved and recorded. To this day, all around the world, archivable material, including artworks are lost or destroyed due to political circumstances. Only through conversations the memory of these materials can be preserved and kept alive.
Links to articles: Cyprus Mail | ABC News
(Georghiou, G. P. (1956) Cypria Saga. [Oil on wood], 121.9 x 219.5 cm. In: 136 Hermes Street and the painter George Pol. Georghiou, pp.98-99.)
The body of work which led to the outcome for this exhibition started in 2019, through an active and ongoing archive. Due to the current pandemic and the artist’s displacement, family members have been scanning and sending family photographs and material, which helped build the foundation of the archive for this current project. Two family videotapes, over 5 hours long, and over 90 family photographs have been digitally added to the artist’s archive and thus informing the content shared with the audience. The artwork invites the audience to converse with the personal footage and to follow the narrative of ‘An Endless Conversation’, to form an opinion and question the material presented.
Cypriots in the UK form a minority group. According to The National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, the official representative body and acknowledged voice of Cypriots, founded shortly after the illegal Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 to coordinate and represent the UK Cypriot diaspora, the Cypriot minority now consists of 300,000 people. Archiving and sharing these stories is an important aspect to the artist. Given the extent of the Cypriot community in the UK (rather large when compared with the population of Cyprus, made of around 1 million people), the content presented hopes to activate a Cypriot collective memory through its visuals and sounds. The audience can interact digitally using the QR codes provided to hear the film and experience the displacement acoustically, allowing to participate in the decentring, in this endless conversation.
(Ref: O13. Video 0:01:32. Footage of Grandmother Eleni with Alekko, also contains footage of uncle Tello and his garden)
Short story from the Green Line. ‘Annie’s House’
‘The tour starts with Annie’s house, testament to the whimsical nature of border and people’s insistence in navigating them. Its owner, a Greek [speaking]Cypriot woman, lived there until her death in 1991, aged ninety-one. The house has a back wall resting on the [South] side of the border and a front door opening into the UN-controlled area. This meant that for her to meet her shopping and other daily needs, the UN had to escort her out through the iron gate a few paces from her house, out into the South side where the market was, and later back in. We are told that UNFICYP adopted her, as her family wanted nothing to do with her after she decided to stay in the house post-1974. Annie’s house points to and undermines the governmentality of the Green Line; a Buffer Zone that separates opposing militaries, an area vacated by civilians, a Dead Zone, but also a place from which the restoration of life can begin.’
(Μια Ατελείωτη Συνομιλία (An Endless Conversation), 2020, video still, found footage 1981, collage of No-Man’s Land.)
Annie’s House’ pg. 109 in Refugeehood and the Postconflict Subject: Reconsidering Minor Losses. By Olga Maya Demetriou.
Reading and Research
Reading and research are a big part of the artist’s practice. The new work presented includes quotes from Lawrence Durrell’s “Bitter Lemons of Cyprus” embedded throughout the video piece. The story narrated in the book takes place between 1953 and 1956, when Cyprus was under British sovereignty and acts as an impressionistic study of the atmosphere of the island during the troubled years which led to the intercommunal violence. This research material gave the artist three separate time periods to converse together, in the outcome of the film. A period of political instability between 1953 and 1956, the year 1981, when the family footage was taken, seven years after the war and the consequent displacement of the artist’s family and the year 2020, when the footage has been given a different narrative during the Covid-19 pandemic. All three different time periods are interlinked by a feeling of imbalance and decentring.
Some readings recommended by the artist, that are insightful to her practice and research and vary in style, from theoretical to novels, are listed below. They contain informative content about Cyprus, the Cypriot problem, but also include theories on colonial imbalances, which Cyprus was and still is vulnerable to.
- Hostage to History: Cyprus From the Ottomans To Kissinger Christopher Hitchens
- Thomson J. (1985) Through Cyprus with the Camera in the Autumn of 1878
- The Island Everyone Wanted: An Illustrated History of Cyprus Marina Christofides
- Orientalism, Edward Said
- The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon
- Cyprus, As I Saw It in 1879 Samuel Baker
- Getting It Wrong: Fragments from a Cyprus Diary, 1964 Martin Packard
- Bitter Lemons of Cyprus, Lawrence Durrell
- An Archival Impulse, Hal Foster
- Queens of Amathus, Christina Savvas and Panikos Panayiotou
(Image Credit: Μια Ατελείωτη Συνομιλία (An Endless Conversation), 2020, video still, found footage 1981, quotes from ‘Bitter Lemons of Cyprus’.)
An Endless Conversation.
The United Nations came to Cyprus in 1964, ten years before the division, in hopes to prevent fighting due to intercommunal violence and to restore normality. This was only four years after the Independence of the island from British colonialism in 1960. A green pen on a map, drawn by the coloniser, divided the island and forged a term which is now part of the Cypriot identity. The Green Line, or the Buffer Zone, was established 56 years ago and accounts for around 3% of the island’s area, spanning around 180 kilometres in length and ranges from 20 meters to 7 kilometres in width. The UN peacekeeping operation in Cyprus, with its 56 years, is the longest in the world. This dead zone, isolated from the world around it, has been frozen in time. Lefkosia (Nicosia) remains the only divided capital in the world. The mandate to keep the UN forces on the island has been extended more than seventeen times since their arrival on the island, with 21 nations serving in Cyprus and more than 150,000 soldiers who have assisted in supervising the ceasefire along the 180km border. The year 2020, marks the 46th year since the island’s division, another year of hope for the thousands of displaced Cypriots longing to go back home, including the artist’s grandmother.
(Μια Ατελείωτη Συνομιλία (An Endless Conversation), 2020, Chapter 8: Walking in the Buffer Zone, 0:00:34, video, found footage 1981.)
It takes approximately 62 seconds to walk 50 metres at leisurely pace. That’s how long it takes to walk the border crossing in Lefkosia (Nicosia) from south to north. It takes approximately 25 seconds to walk 20 meters, the shortest width of the Green Line. These timings determine the chapters of the film and their length, the times it would take for someone to walk the Buffer Zone at different points. The chapters longer than three minutes show footage taken by the artist’s uncles, who, using a camera and a magnifying glass, try to catch a glimpse of their abandoned home seven years after being displaced. Conversing and exposing such apparently marginal stories allows room for knowledge and awareness.
(Μια Ατελείωτη Συνομιλία (An Endless Conversation), 2020, video stills, found footage 1981.)