Works and Projects

Therianthropes |Lessness | Sonitus Urbanitatis | The Morphing Aphrodite | Sissyphus | Difficult Journeys | The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Prostitute | Living With Colours | Dancing Landscapes | Fear Is A Man's Best Friend | Afternoon Echoes | Home | Camera Travels | Forest Loops | Still Lives | Pyrkos | The Machine Dream | The Liquid Reality | Cross-country Run | | One Day At The Quietest Sea | 2000 Miles (and thirteen years) | In between | Early Videos | Ars Moriendi

THERIANTHROPES (2022)

A Video Composition in Five Acts

he work consists of six video screens playing in synchronicity with sound, and a small collection of photographs. The footage was shot in Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Iceland over a period of 10 years, with a contribution from musician Galina Dimova – Georgieva and sound artist Patricia Jäggi, on two of the five acts.

This is not an artworkabout the Minotaur, Anubis, the Sphinx, the Sirens, the Medusa, the Gorgon, Scylla, Hydra, Pan, and all the other half human half animal creatures. What is important is the underlying belief that humans were part of nature, equal to all other living forms, as fragile and vulnerable as the rest.

Humans did not come out of the dust, the grime, the dirt in one fashion. It appears that their separation from nature was a long process of trial and error, in many different social modes and in many small geographical locations around the globe, each, even if closeto another, with its own characteristics. We know now that they lived and intermingled not only with other humans such as the Denisovans and the Neanderthals but also with other primates. However, all evidence from early art pointsoutthat they did not see themselves as the centre of the earth. A universal approach of depicting animals in highly realistic and elaborate manner as opposed to the schematic oversimplified human forms,andTherianthropic figures confirms this. From what we know, humans thought that animals had soul, were equals, and though they were hunted and killed by necessity, they were respected and even asked to be forgiven in special rituals.

Greece was not the beginning of everything but played an important role in the formation ofEuropean civilisation. The Greeks put men, n ot women,at the centre of the universe, and demonised Therianthropes in the form of female,mostly monsters like The Gorgon, the Medusa, Scylla, the Sirens and other creatures, which were possibly remnants of previous religions. Unlike the Egyptians, they consider animals inferior, possibly because of their apparent lackto reason, and with the advent of patriarchal andmonotheistic religions a new perception developed, culminating in the Enlightenment, when animals were nothing but unthinking, unfeeling tools,machines, living robots. Interestingly anthropocentrism was being established in the Chinese Empiretoo,at about the same time, if one takes out the impact of Buddhism, introduced from India. In art, from Medieval manuscripts to Hieronymus Bosch, and from the Symbolists and the Surrealists to modern pop culture, animals are a source of fear, of psychoanalytic threat, the “Big Other” Them , as the aptly titled B-movie about radioactive ants suggests, and the most benign, harmless and gentle animals and other living things are portrayed as vicious, destructive forces.

A new perception can be discerned growing since the end of the last century. The environmental crisis, the massive extinction, the geological interference, all caused by human activities underscores the impossibility of living isolated from nature, not only from other living things but also fromthe inorganic elements surrounding us. We know now that we are not the centre of the universe; we are a small, though disproportionally disruptive, part of an indefinite whole. We understand now how dependent we are on everything else for our survival, even our bodies rely on tiny creatures in our guts, and the oxygen we breatheis reallyplans excrement.It could be caused by modern anti-Cartesian rejection of binaries, or the advent of biology and genetics, the pandemics andtheforces of nature, but we feel again small and vulnerable like the early Sapiens. This can be scary, but is also opening exciting new possibilities.

Back in the 70s, Murray Bookchin, in a short pamphlet put environmental politics in frame for the first time for me,in a “Marxist”nutshell:”Progress without transformation leads to catastrophe”. The maxim does not seem to have aged very wellas far as capitalism is concerned,as the free marketers have adapted and restructured,andreshapedthe system successfully.But there seems to be an inner conflict that is inescapable as Bookchin repeats in 2005: “...Bourgeois society cannot continue its devastation of the ecosphere without destroying the biotic and climatic foundations of its own existence.”

It is no longer afading working class against capital but the whole planet against a shrinking in numbers and expanding in power oligarchy. Maybe Timothy Morton would say that the rallying cry now is “Lifeforms of the World Unite”, but really this is the end of free market consumerism, one way or another, as we will move, by necessity into a new mode. It will be a shock at first, but we need to rediscover old as well as reinvent new pleasures. People will do nothingif you throw apocalyptic visions of disasters at them. Given that our pleasures have shrivelled down to smart phones and shiny cars it should be easier than it seems. The alternative would be absolute control over our behaviour, and yes this would not be much fun at all.

Working on the project after the pandemic intuitively I felt that the emphasis should on creativity and joy and not on discipline. Theodor Adorno writes in his unfinished “Aesthetic Theory” that beauty in oppressive societies can be liberating, and he sites Impressionism in the 19tyh century and Renaissance art. Many would argue that contemporary work ethics, wealth obsession, and success driven behaviour are not very different from traditional Victorian values. Artists have been too keen to produce work that is relevant to our times unwittingly adopting Platonic, Christian or Stalinist principles. But these are different times.And though landscape art, like all other art forms, has been commercialized, and the love of nature has beenconverted into crass touristpackages, there is an overriding necessity to envisage new routes, that come from the past and head into a viable future. Just when every grand narrative died, everybody’s lilliputian effort became necessary. Artist should get involved by doing what they can do best. Like many have argued, sustainability means democracy.

Yiannos Economou 2022

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