TRIBUNE : Photography as Performance / “Reframing memory, performances” – Athens Photo Festival 2015 – [6th Edition].

In May 2009, I have co-curated the 1st International Festival of Performance , in the framework of 2nd Biennale of Salonica, organized by State Museum of Contemporary Art and during those days of artistic actions, we have discussed with the Stavros Moressopoulos the idea to develop a specific Festival of Performance in the context of Athens Foto Festival. As artistic advisor of the APhF:09, I was charged to prepare the 1st version for 2009 and since then, the Festival, with the title “Photography as Performance” has been organized every year, and so for this year the 6th edition has taken place. Two arguments have been formulated: the first, organizational-practical; the second: esthetical.

The 1st argument.
The exhibitions of photography are excellent occasions for demonstrating the achievements of the photographers(by using the institutional tradition of the painting’s shows, personal or collective) however there is also a static aspect , a format well established but without strong surprises , briefly no-dynamic. The idea was to reintroduce , by the performances, the flow of time and the unpredictable nature of human action.

The 2nd argument
Modern art (early, late, mature, forthcoming) prescribes and promotes the mixing of species and work across conventional boundaries of “expressive fields”. The continuous interaction between artistic practices and the emergence of intersections, links and nodes is a constant search, care of artists, regardless of their origin and ancestry.
Photography is (historically) in constant dialogue with painting, in continuing mutual influence with the moving image (cinema, video) and in continuing influence of the graphic arts that increasingly rely on information and telecommunication systems. The coupling of the photograph with music or performance is less developed. Especially with performance which requires the presence of the artist and the exchange of words, feelings, images and thoughts with the public in a relationship “corps a corps”, the instantaneous (time) and the printing (spatial) of the photograph creates a challenge for the consistency of both artistic “vehicles”. Thus, the circle performances, which has begun in 2009,it continues in the Athens Photo Festival 2015, is an opportunity for testing how an art between life and art (performance) and a major audio-visual art (photography) can cross to produce ultimately interesting hybrids. The collective and individual performances permit to investigate how the two -dimensional character and the grasp of the moment (features of photography) function as departure, as catalyst for the body’s expression in time(features of performance).

During the six editions , over of 60 performers and 6 young curators (see archives of Hellenic Center for Photography-HCP) have contributed to give a more precise character to the Festival of Performance by taking initiatives to experiment at the limits of photography and performance.

Concept for the 6th edition
Contemporary art encourages the interaction across conventional boundaries of expressive fields. Since 2009, Athens Photo Festival has been an excellent opportunity for experimenting with the ways through which an artistic medium between life and art (performance) and a major visual art (photography) can cross boundaries and create interesting hybrids.

During the 2015 Photography as Performance Event artists from diverse backgrounds (visual arts, theatre, music, photography, graphic design) will enact issues concerning self and alterity and will develop liminal situations through secular rituals. They will appropriate symbols, representations and social roles towards the reframing of memories depicted in photographs (The Black Swan, Vasiliki Psarou-Apostolos Plachouris, Stavros Taktikos, Thodoris Trampas, Kostas Voulgaris), the reframing of childhood memories (Alexandra Ioannidi, Markela Kontaratou, Evangelia Raftopoulou), the reframing of symbolic and social memory (Happlnk, Foteini Hatzimichail, Andri Lazarou, Maria Lympoura, Nikos Stathopoulos, Filippos Vasiliou, Nefeli Voutira), the reframing of memories from works of art or pop culture representations (The Flower Girls, Anastasis Grivas-Rilėne Markopoulou-Eva Giannakopoulou, Eleni Tsamadia, Antigoni Theodorou) and the reframing of memory stored in the properties of natural or man-made materials (Maria Iliopoulou, Vasiliki Sifostratoudaki, Myrto Vratsanou).

At the official Opening of the Festival , two collective actions have been conceived. The first, with the title “One minute memory”, gives the opportunity to artists to choose a photography of the Festival and in front of it, to perform for 1 minute, by commenting , critizing and crediting the selected photography .(see photo _1). The 2nd , with title “Frames, framing”, gives the opportunity to artists to use a frame made of paper and to reframe objects, persons and space.(see photo _2).
The ultimate aim of the artists is to explore some unexpected ways of restructuring individual and collective memory by testing the ambiguity and the multiple significations of widely dispersed visual representations of human experience.
( [Curators: Nikolaos Stathopoulos, Sylvia Solakidi, Demosthenes Agrafiotis .]

From the extremely varied actions of the performers, some photos are presented here ( see photos_ 3-11); it is clear that the dialogue between Photography and Performance is both rich and fertile. Nevertheless, a crucial question has to be formulated about the interaction of performance and photography. In simple terms, what is the nature of the “fusion” of these two artistic practices as they are existed in the contemporary cultural scene? In performance art, the duration required to execute an artwork is ‘equal’ to the actual artwork. Photography is introduced in this process, as an attempt to capture the artist’s corporeal existence or a trace of the figure in action. The tension between these two artistic expressions is brought forward through the contrast of a performance’s duration unfolding over a specific period of time and the photographic instance capturing only one frame/moment of action. As a result, the ephemeral dimension of performance art is quoted by the resulting photograph, which can be treated as a document referring to its original source. Yet, the detached photograph can be experienced as autonomous artwork coming in contact with similarly treated artistic output.

The main lesson from the 6th edition and from the other five too, is that the relationship between the performer and the photographer(vice versa) is formulated according to the structural elements of these different types of artistic creation. As a result, a crucial (and an urgent)effort is needed to re-evaluate the relationship of performance art vs photography in order to investigate the complexe interaction between an artist’s body and a photographer’s camera lens and the inevitable dialogue between the practices of photography and performance.

Demosthenes Agrafiotis
Poet, intermedia artist_photographer
Emeritus Professor of Sociology, NSPH, (GR).

1- Flowers girls – photo D. Priftis / 2- artist : N. Stathopoulos – photo D. Priftis / 3- artist : D. Agrafiotis – photo D. Priftis / 4- artist : A. Iokeimidi – photo D. Agrafiotis

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