Anthology of cracks: A matter of body/a body of matter


Review by Anastasio Koukoutas

There’s an undeniable affinity between movement and shaping forms; we know that many accredited sculptors —Rodin and Giacometti just to name a few—turned to dance and the presence of the body to find new ways of capturing the veracity of movement in plastic arts. Although it may no longer be a matter of sublimating nature into artefacts, the body as a dark, concave space that excites the visible still remains a source of inspiration. Anthology of cracks, a site-specific collaborative project between visual artist Christos Delidimos and dancer/performer Nancy Stamatopoulou (curated by Vassiliki Maria-Pavlou), underlines this common ground between moulding materials and materiality of the body.

A large amphora made of clay placed on a pedestal establishes the first frame; our gaze rests on this inanimate object as it would in any other museal environment. Time is relented, our senses eased from the noisy surroundings of the city—as the performance takes place outdoors, but in a secluded space, under the Ksilapothiki Building in Piraeus. The curvy amphora is still humid, its sleek surface shinning as if it was just made. We stare at it, unaware that it somehow stares back, ready to convey the life it carries inside. However, the thickness of its surface, the voluptuousness of this object heightens the tension between transparency and opacity, between inside and outside. It remains impenetrable and, therefore, whole.

And suddenly, a crack. What one has to identify in a crevice opening up? A source of life? A wound? An alien or alienated being that has been kept captive? This undecidability which incites our imagination, our willingness to see deeper, further, is now related to the animate force that wants to break free of this thick shell. A finger pops out making a hole in the surface of the amphora, an ear or an eye occasionally sticks out to listen or observe us, a spearing tongue that is both erotic and scandalous appears—uttering nothing less but the resemblance of fleshy clay and the blood-red flesh of a tongue.

Anthology of cracks. Photo by Alekos & Christos Bourelias.

As the holes on the body of the amphora become wider and plenty, more materials and substances are expelled from the inside: fur, liquids, little pieces of clay—one, ultimately, wonders if this sort of ‘defilement’ is what life withstands, a kind of disturbance from the skin-deep observation to the threats of the unknown inside. There’s a sensory richness in this messiness, one that almost suggests to halt our experience with the excuse of finding (a) meaning in all this. As the amphora cracks open to reveal a naked female body (wearing only knickers in skin color), another material yet fleshy surface is suggested this time.

This unusual ‘birth’ reminds us that aesthesis is primarily an exposure, an openness; the susceptibility of the body exposed to our gaze implies an ‘infancy’, a moment when the newcomer is already a referent but is not aware of it yet. A woman, a ‘savage’, a prehistoric creature, a witch, a priestess. As the performer stands naked staring at the audience, both vulnerable and queer, we keep wondering about her ‘invisible inside’, looking at the rhythmical pulsating of her thorax concavity, her stomach, her almost translucent body that ‘reveals’ its bone structure. She is now physically present, next to the cleaved pieces of the amphora that were once feeding our imagination.

As we glide through the visual ‘wordplay’—from metonymy (the flesh of the clay) to metaphor (the living) to realism (the body as living)—we cannot escape the multiple layers of representation, how the body becomes a quarry from which different narratives can be extracted. As Elisabeth Grosz once stated, the body is a ‘receptive surface’ through which we articulate relations, linkages, conjunctions with other materials, images, even words. But sometimes the body becomes the ‘outlaw’, a raw sensibility that cannot be confined to the already known, delivering a moment of awkwardness, a moment of stillness before it materializes (again) into something intelligible.

Anthology of cracks. Photo by Alekos & Christos Bourelias.