The mouth fills with words *
Group art exhibition
Artists: Phoebe Giannisi, Virginia Mastrogiannaki, Maria Sideri, Chara Stergiou
Curated by Despina Zefkili.
“The mountains are still nice today (…), that is, we see them as nice, they themselves have no self-consciousness, as Hegel said. To walk again today a path lost by the forest or the watercourses is like the process of psychoanalysis, why we must discover this lost road, build it almost from the beginning, paying attention to the barely preserved traces (…) It is a huge archive of mountain-knowledge all this, never more eloquent than the dusty folders of the archives. It kind of helps us to hear the voices of the body, the meanings of the body of people who were once alive, but are now dead.”
(AngelosElephantis, The Mountains, from the book Three Essays, published by Antipodes)
The exhibition ” The mouth fills with words” started from my interest in works where the (female) voice, enunciation, speech has a leading role. The interviews collected by the “Routes in Marpissa” festival team about the “katikes”, the traditional rural dwellings of Paros, and the rural customs and traditions that are being lost with them formed the starting point for the research. The artists wanted to listen to the elderly, the localdialect, the words that are being lost. The sounds, such as of the harvest or the gear in the well’s pulley. They sat with them on the threshing floors as the wind passed through the fields of wheat, they listened, they recorded, they wrote. Where do lost words go?
In the works created especially for the exhibition, the voices of the body and the landscape meet those of poets and writers, from the ancient Parian poet Archilochus to the pioneering writer of fictional literature Ursula Le Guin.
In her essay “Τhe Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ ” which Chara Stergiou carried with her in her “carrier bag”, Le Guin speaks of the novel as a carrier bag that holds words. Words that hold things together. As the artist points out, Le Guin withdraws into the imaginary fields of wild oats where stories are re-invented in unique ways by returning to the object that ‘brings the energy inside’ that contains, that stores, that has been cancelled by dominant narratives as defective, weak, female. It returns to the vast imaginary bag that contains people and not heroes, away from the Story of the Ascent of Man the Heroand closer to collective and social experience, to another model of collection, a non-heroic schema that validates the language of different experiences, while opening the door to possibilities for new narratives.
In the audio docu-fiction work and book “The Carrier Bag of Theory” presented by Stergiou in the courtyard of SaintParaskevi church, the wild oats of the prehistoric populations of Le Guin meet by association the weed of wild oats in the grain fields of Laou area inMarpissa. The text is adapted through circular translations and is broken by the narratives of the women of Marpissa regarding the memories of the past where “katikia” as another huge carrier of stories, tools, fruits and collective coexistence gives voice to new narratives. “Gathering seeds and telling stories” Ioanna, Marousso, Margarita, Charoula, Margarita, Ursula, Florence and Gala compose this audio docu-fiction, as a theory of one more carrier bag, accompanied by field recordings of grain and wild oats at the site of old “katikes”.
In Phoebe Giannisi’s video “TETTIX”, i.e. cicada in ancient Greek, first presented in 2012 at the National Museum of Contemporary Art curated by Stamatis Schizakis, the architect and poet stands with her head covered by a basket, a reference to the ancient Greek practice of confinement of cicadas in small baskets-cages. The cicada replaces her voice. Returning to her beloved Archilochus and hoping to find some cicadas as a background in the pine trees next to N.Perantinos Sculpture Museum, Giannisi creates a new poetic lecture for the exhibition in Marpissa – a performance about cicadas and figs, summer and erotic desire, the voluptuousness that comes along withthe harvest and songs.
Maria Sideri sets her console on a table in the courtyard of Agrotoleschi, where the children of the island used to be taught botany and learning to plant, graft, prune. In her “carrier bag” she has many words: stivari, spagaki, antralikas, agoudouras, rogos, apalonia, ksegarizo, pinakoti, apalonia, sfichtarolia… Some borrowed by Mr. Nikos Tziotis who spoke to her about daniki (“borrowed”) and words identified with the exchange ofseedsas well as services and skills in the context of the local agricultural economy. In the speech-performance “around the disappearance of words” she looks for the words that are lost but also possibly for our participation.
Another exchange takes us to the video of Virginia Mastrogiannaki “3 times 40 pieces”, that of the believer with the saint, specifically Saint Fanourios who is celebrated on August 27, the second day of the festival. Counting the debts that the believers often accumulate towards the saint for what he has revealed to them from time to time, she takes part in the preparation of the festival in the chapel of Saint Fanourios and the fanouropita in the local bakery and she records.
“the mouth fills with words
blend with the noise of the cement mixer”
As we look for houses on airbnb to enjoy the summer in Paros and return to Marpissa hoping not to see another building springing up on the hill of Antikephalos, we wonder what we can do with the archiveof summer, island, rural knowledge beyond observing it with nostalgia, to record it, to put it in our carrier bag. Could repetition, copying, performance, emotion, and self-theory produce a new form of knowledge and experience claiming a more decisive discourse outside the confines of an ecofeminist gaze that reproduces stereotypes of female experience?
The music of nature. The voices of the body. Writing as a version of (female) bodily action. Speaking, singing, recording, copying, writing.
* verse from the poem by Phoebe GiannisiCicadas I – Archilochus, Rhapsody, Gutenberg ed., 2016.Translation by Brian Sneeden, New Directions (2022).
Phoebe Giannisi, Cicadas and Figs, 2022, Poetic speech – performance
TETTIX, 2012, video.
The project TETTIX has as its starting point the connection of the poet with the cicada in ancient Greece, as presented through mythology, philosophy and poetry. In particular, the poet finds inspiration in the verse of Archilochus “you caught a cicada by the wing” and in the passage from Plato’s Phaedrus where Socrates narrates the origin of cicadas. The artist treats writing as another version of physical action associated with reading. In her new poetic speech-performance, Giannisi focuses on the voluptuousness of women in particular, which is identified with summer and the harvest.
Maria Sideri, A performance lecture around the disappearance of words, 2022
The ice melts, the earth sinks, but who will be left behind to save the words? Where do words go when they are lost? Are they going west? Are they going south? Are they going northeast? And if we don’t meet again, that’s okay, I don’t need a wall of words to save me. It’s enough that we passed by each other. That’s enough for me.
Virginia Mastrogiannaki, 3 times 40 pieces, video, 2022
Fanouropita is a popular “holy-bread” found throughout the territory of Greece, forming an almost daily relationship with the religious beliefs of the place. Once the believer’s request is revealed by the Saint, a fasting sweet is prepared in exchange and read and blessed by the Church. After the pie is blessed, it is then exchanged with other read pieces within the congregation or shared more widely in the community. It continues thus in our days and preserves a primordial relationship of reciprocity, offering and exchange between the believers and the divine. Although Saint Fanourios is celebrated on August 27, petitions and pies to him are a prayer practice that is answered throughout the year. There are times when requests and their satisfaction outweigh the preparations. Then there is talk of a spiritual and moral debt, in which the sacred tacit agreement is satisfied unilaterally, in favor of the believer. This relationship does not always seem to need immediate confirmation. The video-projection 3 times 40 pieces seeks to follow, record and finally show the process of preparation and embellishment of the Monastery of Agios Fanouriosin Marpissa, the preparation of the fanouropita in the local bakery of the village, the formality of the church ritual and finally the process of exchanging and sharing the blessed pie.
Chara Stergiou, Α Carrier Bag Theory, 2022
‘ΑCarrier Bag Theory’ is an audio narrative that connects Ursula Le Guin’s iconic text ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’ with the companionate moment of narratives and manual labor that traditionally followed the harvest (Z. Stellas, 2005) and took place in the “katikia”. The text is adapted through circular translations and is broken by the narratives of the women of Marpissa regarding the memories of the past where “katikia” as another huge carrier of stories, tools, fruits and collective coexistence gives voice to new narratives. “Gathering seeds and telling stories” Ioanna, Marousso, Margarita, Charoula, Margarita, Ursula, Florence and Gala compose this audio docu-fiction, as a theory of one more carrier bag, accompanied by field recordings of grain and wild oats at the site of old “katikes”.
A few words about the artists
Phoebe Giannisi is a poet and architect, professor at the University of Thessaly. Her work is interdisciplinary and investigates poetry in its relationship with space and the body through the fields of writing, speech, performance, representation and installation.
Virginia Mastrogiannaki’s work revolves around the concepts of duration, limit, error, the unnecessary, both in terms of the relationships between her and the materials, but also in terms of the relationships that may develop in her social environment. One can encounter a kind of test of its endurance and also of the endurance of its materials, whether it is inanimate matter or other people.
Maria Sideri is a performer and a researcher.Through sound, text and embodiment and influenced by different research methods, her work focuses on representations of the body through archival research.
Chara Stergiou’s practice focuses on approaching theory through practice and the production of knowledge through possible artistic hybridizations, investing among other things in possible sound modes of study.