“… recovering through art from the effort of creating it”
C.P. Kavafis, Pictured (translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)
Christodoulides’ works are solid depictions of a universe in which meanings and relationships are completely fluid. The phrase contains a paradox, which in the case of this body of works is continuous, dominant, vibrant. It is also a paradox which sometimes occurs at the level of language, at other times at that of materials or in terms of perception or the capabilities of memory and the boundaries of imagination.
Christodoulides seems to reassemble objects in the same manner as that practised by therapists. In other words, he puts them back in place after they have suffered a dislocation in meaning, giving them back not just any sole, personal or collective meaning/narration, but beyond primary limits – hovering in the universe of possibilities.
As his work evolves over the span of the past five years, this vertigo increases while the actions that bind the objects together become more simple and minimal.
The journey towards finding the objects becomes of secondary importance, the nostalgia for their given narratives is not even detected, the magic in their reoccurrence fades, the compositions become more of a wonderful accident, a suddenly immobilised hesitation. A certain violence, which is extremely charming and unspecified, gradually replaces curiosity for the story, its different stands and the way it is viewed. In an environment of escalating elegance, Christodoulides does not attempt “the decayed”, but rather goes back from the “processed” to the “raw” (reminiscent of the Levi Strauss references). It then becomes obvious that the artist is not looking for a code anymore, but for its tacit promise.
“The ties between subjects and objects become tangled,” as Costas Axelos wrote (The Game of the World) defending an illusion that leads to wandering and opens us up to what is to follow. The last ballasts of Christodoulides’ works remain their titles – nonetheless, these follow the “mine theory”, as intended by N.G. Pentzikis when cruelly entrapping his unworthy students. They become parasites on his works exacerbating confusion, multiplying the bluffs, dragging us into a quasi-between. Within these parameters, things are not unfamiliar. They are either otherwise-familiar or familiar due to previous encounter, following the everyday poetical mood which Christodoulides himself calls “mirth”. They are as unnecessary as names, elegant as razor blades and welcoming as hatches, but are born in an oxymoron joy and live in its foam, hanging literally from its transmission.
Things, one could say, come to us just like the foam-given Cyprus Aphrodite, in a celestial shell, clear, new, divine and unknown. They don’t seem as memory rags, hoarded away, compassionate and with a cherished talent. They don’t bear the severity of omens, the weight of injuries, the fragility of debris or the aura of conflict, that is those elements which constitute the most recognizable expressions of anti-monumental contemporary sculpture. They are not accompanied by a pedigree of activism or even the political intention for one (not even in the recent work Stain which clearly depicts a map of Cyprus). They don’t even bear the fatal malfunction or the anxiety of all that which is described as contemporary. They don’t meet the prerequisites to be categorised as primary surrealistic objects, but rather seem to echo the famous verse, “… always for the first time” (Andre Breton, Poems, 1948). They resemble the utter reversal of a child’s game with Lego sets, during which the infantile mind learns to palpate the three-dimensional world and itself.
Just like in the Jabberwocky that Alice reads in Lewis Carroll’ s story, the objects presented in this exhibition give the promise of a non sense language which, as Alice admits, is absurd and “fills her head with ideas”, only she does not know exactly which. The viewer of Christodoulides works is put in Alice’s shoes; and in order to give an explanation, just as is expected of him/her as the translator of this language, one must invent a language corresponding to one’s cognitive universe.
What places Christodoulides in the same class as Marcel Duchamp, is the indescribable and unending flirting with language, which is characterised by a distinct sense of irony and the continuous renegotiation of the role of the artist (who is sometimes a craftsman, a maker and a thief of meanings). By saying that he “wants to grasp things with the mind as a penis is seized by a vagina”, Duchamp spoke of a knowledge accompanied by pleasure and euphoria, all at a point in time of deliberate delays and continuous slippages. Christodoulides, in my opinion, refers to the “recovery through art from the effort of creating it”, in the same manner as the Alexandrian poet meant it.
Despite the special curating that makes Christodoulides’ game seem as an “exercise in nonchalance”, and despite the combinations that thicken the space as in this exhibition and help the work seem more like carefully monumentised magnetisms instead of with traces of divining, I venture the opinion that, just as in T.S. Eliot’s case, everything is “the song of one bird, the leap of one fish… the scent of one flower” (The Use of Poetry). Or, to put it in Joseph Conrad’s words from Author’s Note, when he tried to explain the true scope and origin of the novel The Secret Agent’ (which was misunderstood as it dealt with the attempt of anarchists to blow up the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, 1894) and to describe the moment and reason that his story was utilised through the sudden activation of a phrase of a passive memory: “All of a sudden, I felt myself stimulated. And then ensued in my mind what a student of chemistry would best understand from the analogy of the addition of the tiniest […] drop of the right kind, precipitating the process of crystallization in a test tube containing some colourless solution. It was […] a mental change, disturbed a quieted-down imagination, in which strange forms, sharp in outline but imperfectly apprehended, appeared and claimed attention as crystals will do by their bizarre and unexpected shapes […] Then the vision of an enormous town presented itself, a monstrous town more populous than some continents […] Slowly the dawning conviction of Mrs. Verloc’ s maternal passion grew up to a flame between me and that background […] At last the story of Winnie Verloc stood out complete from […] childhood to the end.” (Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p.6)