ARIS GEORGIOU, ...imon progonon...

ARIS GEORGIOU, "...imon progonon..."

Black and white photographs 1987-1990. Photographs from eight archaelogical sites: Athens, Delphi, Delos, Dion, Epidaurus, Thasos, Knossos, Samothrace. Macedonia - Thrace Bank, Thessaloniki, 1990. (Bilingual, greek-english). Texts by Antonis Anezinis, Dimitris Pantermalis, Demosthenes Agrafiotis, Aris Georgiou. 120 pages, 98 duo-tone photographs, 27x27cm., hard cover.


Preface to the book ARIS GEORGIOU, "...IMON PROGONON...",
Black and white photographs 1987-1990,

Macedonia Thrace Bank , Thessaloniki 1990

The archaeologist, besides collecting, studying and analysing the material remains of past civilisations, also contributes to man’s continuing endeavour to come face to face with his ancestors from the distant past, in all their transformations. The surviving monuments and artefacts are not of concern to archaeologists alone. Geographers, architects, collectors, illicit dealers, tourists, painters and photographers all play their part, each group with its own aims and practices. In the realm of photography, the tradition of photographing monuments goes back to the very beginnings of the art. Greece and Egypt have a special place in this field, since the first photographic expeditions headed straight for these two cradles of civilisation. Although the scope, style and technique of photographing monuments and archaeological sites have since changed, nowadays this practice has come to constitute standard procedure and part of the archaeologist’s duties.

A quick survey of archaeological photography over the last few decades in Greece will provide a sample of the varying approaches. In photographing ancient monuments, particularly the Acropolis, “Nelly’s” sought to establish a historical and ideological, almost biological, continuity between ancient and modern Greek civilisation. Two other photographers, Voula Papaioannou and Spiros Meledzis, worked in close cooperation with archaeologists and tried, each in their own way, simultaneously to convey both the photographic dimension of the archaeological sites and the plastic features of ancient sculptures. Sokratis Mavromatis, a member of the multi-disciplinary working party for the restoration and conservation of the Acropolis, has focused his attention on the details and texture of fragments. Marilyn Bridges, on the other hand, used aerial photography to render the horizontal stratigraphy of Greek sites.

The photographs of Aris Georgiou intersect with this line of descent, but show a different perspective. Georgiou’s interest lies mainly in giving a photographer’s view, suggested by the sites and buildings. He is not concerned, in other words, with providing a documentary record of the monuments, but with looking into different ways of approaching them through photography. He has two constant points of reference: firstly, certain aesthetic anad photographic preoccupations current today, and, secondly, the complex relations that come into being between archaeological sites and their various devotees. His photographs may thus be divided into two groups. In the first group of works the buildings and sites photographed serve as the occcasion for “pictorial” impressions not unrelated to painting and particularly to modern painting; they may be seen as starting points for an investigation into the representation of space in photography. The second group of works, on the other hand, depicts the human presence among the ruins. it is easily seen that these two groups of photographs intersect with each other; nevertheless the photographer’s two focal points of interest clearly and firmly define their boundaries.

The first category of photographs by Aris Georgiou attempts to reconstruct texture, architectural detail and natural elements in landscapes which range from the “classical” to the “intellectual”. Archaeological finds, human intervention, natural forces, erosion, wind, trees, soil, stone masses, hills - all recombine to meet the demands for plasticity of composition and for their interaction in the given space. While referring to archaeological evidence, the photographs at the same time induce the viewer-cum-reader to become aware of related trends in contemporary painting, whether this is through a Mondrian-type asterity, the immediacy of an “objet trouve” or the devices of land art.

Aris Georgiou is also interested in drawing attention to elements which are undervalued or ignored in other approaches. Thus a broken fragment may dominate a view of an archaeological site; a landscape portrayed in a windswept moment may challenge the typical picture-postcard scene; or the form of a tree in the midst of an ancient habitation may point to the fragility of both natural and human things. He proffers, in short , imperceptible shifts and refocusings, with perceptible effects on our sense of what is worth seeing.

The second category of photographs points to the multiplicity of relations which may be called into being by “homo touristicus”. It constitutes a record of the interest, admiration, puzzlement or indifference of even the most routine moments in the perfunctory ritual of the tourist track. Meanwhile, it also points to the sublimity of the archaeological setting which receives these hasty visitors, and to surrealist aspects of the presence of people among the ruined structures and natural surroundings. The human figures are shown by the camera as disturbing the geometry of the structured site, since they intrude into a network of geometrical relations and necessities from another era.

In the history of painting the conventional Italian “landscape with ruins” was the goal of many artists. Travel writers and artistic travellers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries sought contact with the past through viewing and reproducing such landscapes as these. Aris Georgiou in his photographs, however, urges his contemporaries to appreciate the past in its present material form. What the two approaches nevertheless have in common is their aim to activate memory and to show its stratified character. There is no doubting the fact that Aris Georgiou puts forward his images with the purpose of giving greater substance to the present day, as it were, through the medium of yesterday. As he brings the viewer closer to ancient remains and fragments he makes the proposal that meetings with the past should take place in a spirit of equality and reciprocity. The past is wating to emerge in the present. Aris Georgiou’s photographs foster this event, both through their semi-abstract representation of the very texture of the ancient buildings and through their depiction of the arbitrary interaction of visitors and monuments.