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Work, placement, testimony - between geography and imagination: Thoughts on the Imago Mundi Cyprus Collection

The existence of islands, according to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, is proof of man’s renewal. That is, this existence endures by forgetting that the war between the land and the sea essentially never ends. [1] An island, the geographic phenomenon that is created either by an emergence resulting from underwater eruptions or as a consequence of being cutting off from somewhere, is bridged with continental land through a desire to accept the invitation of a fraternity of the future that is already here. This desire also reveals the attraction between geography and imagination: imagination always cites the dynamics of a movement that pushes us to continually discover -albeit always with surprise - their symbiotic relationship; a relationship that frees the imagination from the storm of (existential) placement, since the geography of insularity proves that the project of creation and habitation is always, from the outset, a question of a double origin or of a movement that always remains relational, which forces us to answer 'yes' to the question 'why'.

The neologism "insularity" allows us to draw power through a new scheme, or better, a fabulation. This power is in touch with the historically denatured use of this spatial idiom as a subject in numerous exhibitions that have taken place in Cyprus. These exhibitions have developed the historicity of the identity of the Cypriot psychism. This narrativity works through a return: through art, we try to create ways of existing that coexist with the (ontological) dynamics of the double origin and the desire that unites imagination and geography. In this way, we add synchronicity to a geography that is simultaneously attached to and divorced from the human. Cyprus, the emergent island of Aphrodite, the island of copper, the island in the closed sea of the Mediterranean, the divided island, the green line, the dead zone ... All these characterizations of the place have marked its artistic production and the methods of presentation of its art as a mechanism for structuring identity.

The Imago Mundi collection presents the works of Cypriot artists through a structural mechanism that flirts with the generosity of providing another, virtual space. The field of contemporary art in Cyprus develops particular sensory codes, through which we can observe the artists' journey as "…intensive local recording[s] of the global expressivity-movement of the traits of expression" [2]. The local scene has never been so lively, but at the same time so precarious. The main ingredients of this liveliness are the great concentration of artistic vitality in the country, the development of new networks and the strong sense that we are again creating in the wake of another small disaster, which has 'rewarded' the island by modernizing it through the influence of the global tendency towards neoliberalism. In this way, through the economic crisis and its consequences, the brief history of attributing honours to "modernistic art" has also been interrupted by the temporally cut off place and so we have the connection of the process with the narrativity of materiality.

Each work in the collection takes shape from a canvas of predetermined dimensions. The presentation of the (re-) action of the artists to the defined framework seems to be an additional question, disguised here as a form of solution: at a time when the concept of borders is shaken, no matter what our ideological position is regarding them, the assembly and the presentation of the collection allows the unique sense of an almost spatially perceptible time experience. Thus, it records and preserves the possibility of the union of the past with the present and, by extension, with the future. The adoption of the collection as a point of the times is the subject of a multiple statement-synthesis, which constantly generates a present, part of which is always projective: that is, it allows the projection, in this case, of the composition of differential pictures-maps that open to us pathways to a new emotional and empathetic economy.

If we consider the collection as a set of beautifully arranged fragments, then its structure also involves the dynamics of expressing multiple national identities that look outward: the generation of a commonality to which this word is attributed, both as an audience and as a community. The confrontation of artists with this white square gives the sensation that the collection is a state of disordered materiality, with no other connection between the works, other than the space that separates them, the opening between them. Each work is an island that acts as a vibration of the visual palette, which varies from the interval in which the thought recognizes images of multiple departures that compose and are synthesized by the act of free expansion of diversity. If we perceive spatiality as a plastic meaning, which involves the distance/the set up between the works as a concept that allows us "to [invent] ...through friendship, love, thought, art ..., the asymmetrical original versions of existence" [3] and the collection as a body that is not placed in an existing space, but creates space, we conclude that they constitute concepts that can help us to understand the synchronicity of such different approaches.

The artists who are called upon to create the montage of the collection, create in effect a molecular world and call on us to touch what we forget and what overcomes us: to recreate our myths by the awareness of the power of our weakness. The viewer faces a montage of pictures: apart from the obvious positioning of the montage as a visual and formalistic technique of the moving image that unites things dissimilar in place and in time, the concept of the montage also acquires an allegorical meaning. In this sense, the presentation of the works constitutes a cosmic body, which always defines its position in relation to the situation in which it is viewed at a given moment. The organs of this body, the association of which causes the disruption of perception and of the senses, are reorganized around their own plasticity and invite us at the same time to consider the great plasticity of spacing.

This allegory is united with the idea of insularity. The curator of the collection has chosen the title 'Wonder Island: Contemporary Artists From Cyprus'. Wonder: miracle, surprise, but also a query. It is precisely this query that awaits its answer: between the allegory of spatiality and insularity remains a geographical place that emerges through the collision of the Eurasian and the African plates, without ever being united with the surrounding areas. It maintains, that is, incessant separation and creation as an invitation for the creation of new diagrammatic relations. These diagrams (or the intention of building new relationships) have the possibility of giving prominence and managing differential flows: historical, symbolic, material. The relationships that develop between the works in canvas are also intentions of objectivity  [object-ification], that create a special quality, articulating the exposure of the flow. This flow, which is united ineffably with the sense of conscious spatiality, also signals the viewing of bodies on the move. The seclusive island supports its hope for joining with the fraternity of the future in practice: the creative exploitation of the plasticity of the spatial dynamics that we call distance. So we can wonder, what's going on in, existing between, this distance? And can the eye perceive something that appears there?

"But slits, holes and zones do not present things to be seen, do not reveal anything: vision does not penetrate, but glides along swerves and follows along departures. It is a touching that does not absorb but moves along lines and recesses, inscribing and escribing the body. A mobile, unstable caress, seeing the image in slow motion, fast-forwarded, or frozen, seeing as well with touches from other senses, smells, tastes … or even, with sounds... " [4]

Empathetic economy is the result of a touch that strives to come into contact with an inwardness that is cited to us only as an opening, as a work, as a desire for co-operation. Although the works are completely different, if compared to each other, their common point lies in the fact that these artists worked to add something somewhere else, to put it in a case, in a multiple place. In this place our imagination leads us to feel it to be a horizon of the possibility of our coexistence. Work, placement, testimony - between geography and imagination.

[1] Deleuze, Gilles, Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953 - 1974, Los Angeles: Semiotext (e), 2004, p. 9

[2] Alliez, Éric and Bonne, Jean-Claude, Un-doing the image Vol. 1, Falmouth, United Kingdom: Urbanomic Media Ltd,, p.44 [translation in Greek by the writer for the purposes of this text].

[3] Iacovou, Vicky, from the presentation on the back cover of the Greek translation of the book The Truth of Democracy, by Jean-Luc Nancy, Athens: PLETHRON, 2017

[4] Nancy, Jean-Luc, Corpus, USA: Fordham University Press, 2008, p.47