Savvas Christodoulidis comes from an ancient isle which has always been isolated and yet accessible from all sides. Cyprus, like the Mediterranean, is simultaneously open and closed; it has preserved its language, Greek and ancient, overt; it keeps its dreams hidden, closed; it offers its body when it is not being taken by force, in an open-handed manner; it keeps its soul imprisoned, as much as it can, revealing just a glimpse, while most of it remains covered up.
The small boxes made by Christodoulidis are of a similar nature: they aim to achieve a closed, protective form, yet simultaneously they display their insides, their ancestry, their manner. Their confinement is balanced by their openness. Light falls on everything. Like the Italian box-shaped stage: from the front you can see it “all”, but “all” that you see has already taken place in the inacessible backstage.
Christodoulidis’ delicate box-theatres aim to contain only their intentions, the scope of their insinuations – his worlds. He displays them, but doesn’t speak of them. What can the lace border on the neck of a girl say? What does the smile of a happy chicken-farming uncle from Kentucky mean, when he pops his head out of the world’s window?.
Or, what of all things can a paper flower be narrating, when it penetrates embroidery from Paphos like a rasor’s edge? The clear-cut flower tears the cotton landscape with birds (are they hawks? Partridges? Well, they’re definitely proud). The present tears the thick cotton sleep, domestic memories, history. This embroidery is both Mediterranean and Eastern, it is paganism and innocence, it is Plotinean beauty and Byzantine decoration, of arabesques and Persian incantations. The male paper, stems from the civilization of fast commodity, and as if spellbound by its origins, it penetrates and passes through the cotton, thus blending with the aura of old.
Christodoulidis has admirably repainted this story of division, traumatic memory, and a tender appropriation of the past via his embroidered photographs. Here, above the eyes and the immortalized faces of the recent past, and its heroes with thin moustaches, there runs a stitch, pearls and frills, a sentimental-mnemonic voodoo originating as much from the post-modern tradition of appropriation/deviation as it does from the ancient practices of the evil eye, exorcism and magic.
The sculptures (or designs? Small environments? Theatres?) which he has constructed in this exhibition also have to do with voodoo. He exorcizes, wishes, traces: the meeting (sometimes innocent, often distressing) of the old and the new, the familiar and the strange, the hand-crafted with the machine-made, the minimal with the mass, the fragment with the whole. The lace-fringed peace of village life welcomes the beaming housewife from the American way of life; the round, quiet womb-shaped form welcomes the thorn of the New Age and the New World.
Elsewhere, Japanese ideograms of industrial extravagance, exporter’s Arabic, and Esperanto fast food make their way into the works.
Behind each ephemeral paper construction – the trouve play-acting of the Penteli marble – you can trace scripts, signs for porters, voltage, CIF deliveries in international ports, journeys, accounts. In front of, or next to the scripts, you see the small theatre: the little people in revelry or metamorphosis, the stitches and tresses blowing in the wind, and it’s as if you can hear an out of tune pianola in the background…
A cute elegy in the footprints of Schwitters and Tatlin, coloured with the junk of pop, enriched with the ambivalent lyricism of the Mediterranean. A device which appropriates the ferocious and the cold, via the delicate, the perishable and the fragile. Christodoulidis finds meaning in form, without ever forgetting that the origins of meaning are to be found in the deposits of primary emotions.