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A contemporary view April 15, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.
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A multi-media, travelling exhibition questions what immigration and nationality mean

It’s crossings bring a group of Mediterranean artists together in a major, contemporary exhibition at the Municipal Arts Centre (‘Palia Electriki’) in Old Nicosia. The touring, multi-media show was first presented in Malta in the summer of 2006 and went on to University of Amiens in France. Nicosia is now the last stop, where it will be showing until May 20.

‘Crossings: A Contemporary View’ is the third action of the project, ‘Crossing: Movements of People and Movement of Cultures: Changes to the Mediterranean from Ancient to Modern Times’ led by the Pierides Foundation. The project has been organised within the framework of the EU programme, ‘Culture 2000’, and implemented with the participation of Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Italy and France. “The exhibition endeavours to bring together artists whose work contains the very idea of crossings in the world today, where cultural output is striving to achieve a dynamic but, at the same time, controversial role,” say the curators of the exhibition, Yiannis Toumazis and Androula Michael.

So what exactly can you set your sights on? Using mainly new media and technologies, the young artists involved in the project present their own experiences and understanding of interaction between cultures and people. Be it a sculpture, video installation, or intriguing picture, it’s all about stimulating the senses and making the viewer question everyday norms and situations.

Upon entering the exhibition hall, you could be forgiven for feeling you’ve entered a car boot sale. Here, French artist Didier Courbot displays all sorts of objects scattered on large cloths spread across the floor. From kitchen appliances to Christmas stockings, a disc-man, old tapes and model aeroplanes, it’s all there. Bazaars are places where immigrants often gather, where goods are exchanged and passed from the hands of one individual to another, where people come together, interact and often form bonds. For immigrants that have crossed boarders, a Sunday bazaar can be their meeting place.

‘Now as Before 2004’ is also particularly intriguing as Andreas Savva, an artist living and working in Greece, has chosen to exhibit black and white ‘before and after’ shots of occupied north Cyprus. An old man stands by an empty plot of land, and beneath this, my eyes fall on the same man as a teenager, arms wrapped around a friend. It’s the same plot of land, but this time, his family home forms the background of the image.

Another artist has chosen to set up a tent-like structure in what looks like a war zone. On the walls, large images of tanks give a disturbing feel. Clothes are scattered on the floor, The Island of Doctor Monroe remains unread, and scrawled inside the structure are words that talk of escape from the ‘rat’. This is the work of Phanos Kyriakou, an artist born and living in Cyprus.

Leave the war zone and enter a room playing a sentimental love song by Barbara Streisand. On the big screen is a couple holding each other tight and slow-dancing. This is actually a slow dance marathon recorded by local artist Christodoulos Panayiotou. The whole marathon lasted 24 hours, where strangers were invited to dance together, to cross a barrier and form a human chain.

While interaction and dialogue are the main axes of the exhibition, it’s also about national and individual identity, boundaries among people, the emblematic ‘other’ and finally, death, which comprises a common place of reconciliation for all humans.

The whole point is to encourage the mutual understanding of differences and similarities among European citizens, as well as people from other Mediterranean countries. “This exhibition aims at recording opinions, at listening, and tries to open a window to honest and frank meetings of both likes and opposites,” explain the curators.

And it leaves you with plenty of food for thought. The works are not there just to be looked at. They’re there for you interact with, to devour in your mind and to take back home in your thoughts. Some of them are even there for you to live in for a few brief moments. Make sure to enter the walk in cupboard that you can spend as much time in as you like.

Crossings: A Contemporary View > Major multi-media exhibition featuring various Mediterranean artists. Until May 20. Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, Apostolou Varnava Street, old Nicosia. Closed Mondays. Tel: 22-797400. www.nimac.com.cy

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