Curation, Publishing & Critical Writing 


Delivering Texts - Delivering Views 33: Diaspora / Publication Launch, Phaneromenis 70 Cultural Organisation 
Poetics of Dance Encounters / Publication Launch, DanceHouse Lefkosia 

‘One Life Down and Eight To Go’ is the title of Othonas Charalambous’ second solo show. The works presented were created over the past year with Charalambous using new techniques, materials and mediums. Thematically, the works deal with personal experiences and their inherent capacity to become spaces of a shared sensibility.

The title is indicative of the affirmation of all contours of life and the transformative experiences brought on by the passage of time. It is this attitude that reveals the strength of declaring that one life is already down and inspires his style of working with collected elements - material traces of memories- that are attached to both beautiful and difficult emotions.

A conversation between Evagoras Vanezis and Othonas Charalambous 

EV. My first impulse upon reading your title was to interpret it in the context of a transition, therefore the first question would be about this life that is now marked as ‘down’. Is your title referring to a specific instant - when the end of that specific life became clear to you?

OC. Initially, it was intended as the title for my book; the book I’ve been preparing for the past year. From the moment it started, up until the last stages of editing, that was the title I was considering. And the editing of the book was happening simultaneous to making a lot of new work in the studio. I wasn’t trying to put it all together just yet, but I had the title in my mind and while the exhibition was being planned I realized this was actually going to be the title. Yes, I’ve now renamed the book.  

EV. You are taking this step of publishing a collection of your diary entries. I would compare this to an act of declaration. To declare that something has ended and something new is starting –as the title suggests- can hold great power, as you are making the decision to hold time accountable, as it were. You’ve decided on the quality of an instant, or a moment that must stand for change and I am wondering what this instant was, and what happened in it.  

OC. It’s a long story, as you know, I suffered from creative blocks. When I was doing my MA, in London, that’s how it started. For the first time in my life I saw my work being crossed out. And by a tutor nonetheless. Day after day I had to make new drawings in preparation for the next tutorial, only to see them get crossed out. Little did I know how that was going to play into my life; the very idea of holding a pencil in my hand became distressful. Tutorial after tutorial. Until I could not physically write my own name. As this went on, I started to be afraid of the future, that something which someone else did so mindlessly would have an impact this big on me.    

EV. Hearing this puts the title in even greater perspective. I have gone through something similar and I think that experiencing immense pressures can lead us to re - evaluate the circumstances that we find ourselves in.  

OC. I think several people have gone through similar experiences. For me it was feeling like my own life in London had become unsustainable after about seven years. My body was shutting down. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think. I was asking myself all these questions like ‘how much longer can I do this for?’ and ‘why am I doing this to myself?’    

EV. This is your second show and there seems to be a change in your practice. You are now using some of your own objects in your work, objects loaded with personal significance - even personal letters.  

OC. There’s an extended act, a gesture - to remove something from its initial context, as a ‘rite of passage’ that’s present throughout the entire show. Sometimes that becomes the very subject of a piece.  
EV. I feel that ‘Solid Manifestation I& II’, the piece of work consisting of your own rejection and subsequent acceptance letter from University can be seen as a physical trace of these pressures, retrospectively revealed through the passing of time. I would suggest that there is an element of exploring different types of communication, official and personal.    

OC. All of the works are -in one way or another- exploring different notions of communication. The two letters framed side by side no longer exist in the context of ‘letters’. They were, originally, means of delivering a message to me. Now they are not. The power they were once intended to hold has been reduced in the process of removing them from their initial context and claiming them as personal artifacts of a long-closed chapter. That piece is titled ‘Solid Manifestations I & II’ because I’ve come to regard them as solid manifestations of emotional states. When you think about what the two objects signify everything in your own perception starts to change. By seeing them next to each other, you start to question everything that’s to do with rejection and acceptance, frustration and satisfaction, despondency and contentment. It’s like traveling through a vortex where distance dissolves. 

EV. ‘Always Carry you’ carries with(in) it all the multiple layers embedded in your work that our conversation has only hinted at. The envelope is an object you collected and upon which you acted, sublimating its use and marking it with what would essentially be its content. I am tempted to say that the writing has become a mark of unconcealment, much like the imprint of your fingertip on the work. There’s the urgency of the message being transmitted that weighs upon the envelope, a weight that seems to be simultaneously affirmed and subverted.  

OC. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love writing letters. I started doing that because it felt like the most direct or honest way of communicating. I mean writing letters by hand, not typing them. When I write to someone, it feels like my handwriting transcribes the ‘instant’ on the piece of paper. It captures it and solidifies it. When I was in Paris last year, I thought a lot about certain people. I was walking around Paris on a perfect, sunny day and I felt really, truly content, so I started writing letters and postcards to them. When I would go into a museum I’d get more postcards and write those out to them as well. The piece I have in the show is a blue monoprint I did right after coming back from that trip. It’s called ‘Always Carry You’. And the envelope is from that same Paris trip. I feel that in spite of the fact that the letter has now been externalized on the envelope, part of the contents of the letter remain unbeknownst to the viewer, as the writing is actually reversed. But of course, it may still be read.    

EV. There seems to be a recurring theme here, that of an object going through a contextual shift, and I would like to talk about your ΕΠΙΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΣ piece. I understand this used to once be on your first car.  

OC. Everybody always asked me what the letter Ε meant because nobody knew. I’d never seen one before either. My driving instructor told me I should get a DANGEROUS sticker for my car, when I came around to getting my first car. The Ε stands for ΕΠΙΚΙΝΔΥΝΟΣ, the Greek word for dangerous. I went to the store that sold all these car stuff and asked for a 'DANGEROUS' sticker but the person there didn’t know what I was talking about. After I went ‘that sticker, you know, that E sticker’ he explained the letter Ε stands for 'Eκπαιδευόμενος' which actually means in-training and not dangerous. I peeled the sticker off immediately after my car crash. When a car came speeding right into mine (bang), I peeled the sticker off as a kind of rite of passage. I thought that was ironic or ‘I might be dangerous after all’. There’s still a sticky mark all around where the sticker used to be.  

EV. So this piece revolves around a communicative misrecognition. I imagine your instructor telling you to buy this sticker whilst elaborating his own version of what its sign stands for, whilst keeping a straight face. And then there’s the element of you going out to do as instructed and discovering that he was lying. What warrants discussion is the content of this revelation. I think that your story, your entanglement with the sign, allows a bridge to be built between misrecognition and accident.  

OC. Because I genuinely didn’t know if he was joking or not.  

EV. It was the accident, an actual event that was dangerous, that revealed that the instructor was perhaps trying to explain that any car can be the locus of dangerous situations or that driving is an activity that entails a high risk. 

OC. What’s fascinating is the relationship to the way that Cypriot people drive. The kind of extreme risk, aggression, impatience that’s sort of the norm here. What I meant as a ‘rite of passage’ is this gesture of perhaps moving into a new and next phase as a Cypriot driver.

EV. Isn’t being in-training a way of saying ‘I am learning to mitigate the risks involved in the actions I am expected (or I want) to perform’? And at the end of the day aren’t we all always in training?  

OC. Since I’ve had the accident, I’ve been feeling differently about driving altogether. I feel suddenly aware of the absence of protection, the kind that I used to feel from knowing that the sticker was on.  

EV. There is no foolproof way of avoiding accidents. I think that the event of the accident and the subsequent action of removing the sticker testifies to this, as the framed sign in the gallery space testifies to this moment of realization and change. 

OC. And the irony, again. That sticker was intended to alert other drivers around me to be more patient and careful but instead made them even more aggressive towards me. That sticker no longer belongs on my car, and had it remained there then I probably wouldn’t be here.         

EV. There’s a lot here for the audience to relate to. The question is how this relation comes about. For me, it is to be in the presence of something that somehow crystallizes something I felt and could not explain. Sharing experiences through art can lead to another form of clarity.   

OC. I couldn’t agree more. The way I work with my films, for example, is exactly what you’re describing.   A lot of times when I took the bus to Limassol I felt inclined to film parts of my journey there with absolutely no specific purpose in mind. And it wasn’t until years later that I begun to work with film as a medium and to use clips I’d filmed and voice memos I’d recorded. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, in that specific ‘instant’, I had somehow felt that the moment had to be crystallized. This is, again, why I seem to emphasize the same thing about the importance of distance. It seems to be an indispensible ingredient for clarity.