Fair-face Elysée (1)
As with her collective project space Neoterismoi Toumazou (2) – which was initially run by her grandfather as a clothing and novelty shop, catering mostly to locals and UN soldiers, in old Nicosia from the 70s up until 2013 – both sites are associated to Maria Toumazou's family. The personal is fragmented and extended outward to embody social, political and economic temporalities across particular material and architectural developments.
The viewpoint of the exhibition's critique could be that of a free-ranging stray dog roaming the suburbs of Nicosia, crossing the buffer zone, treading through landmines, taking shelter in abandoned military bunkers and witnessing the relocation of industries, companies and families from the city.
The heliculture greenhouse structures, an abandoned business enterprise, are upcycled into large makeshift shelters for recovery to assist and prolong the journeys of stray dogs, and thus critique itself, using the alternative crafting method of ironing plastic supermarket bags together. Enigmatic Chinese characters (3) from Ezra Pound's The Cantos, unforseeing mistranslated appropriations of 'oriental' characters in tattoo culture in the 90s, are graffitied onto monolithic walls and enormous found crumbling concrete slabs from a nearby military base, stacked and balancing awkwardly off large sandstone boulders. The lightness and softness of the recycled plastic bags offering shelter in contrast to the weight and solidity of the stacks making big wonky existential statements bring to mind the children's game rock-paper-scissors, while the zig-zagging pathways cut through inviting strolls but concluding with alienating dead ends and cliff edges.
The immersive ordered-disorder of Paris: A Poem by Hope Mirrlees, a female precursor to much more famous modernist poets, wherein nouns, commands and adjectives overlap and penetrate one another referencing multiple and unexpected materials, sites and temporalities, served as instructional for Maria. This is most evident in a cut-up and sowed-back-together-again poster at the Latsia site for a show that never was, bringing together syntax free fragments in which Marietta, an art student currently studying Fine Art Photography in London, is the lead character. Marietta can be seen at the under-construction University of Cyprus Medical Faculty Campus and walking towards Jean Nouvel's unfinished Learning Resource Centre. Broken ceramics and a dramatic scene from a meeting of the Theatre Artists Labour Union at the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (ΠΕΟ) complete the composition, which is based on Lawrence Weiner's poster for the rock band New Order.
Maria sought assistance from the do-ocratic group #hack66 (4), members of which kindly volunteered their time and expertise in the design and construction of three robotic solar powered arms installed at the photocopy room site in Latsia. The arms mechanically raise and lower three handbags of personal significance. A commentary on modern rituals and production methods of clothing alluding to Maria's art collective Neoterismoi Toumazou, which has since its inception practised an alternative approach to fashion design inspired by the ongoing tireless struggles of open communities, like #hack66, to offer spaces and platforms for communication and activism.
A lighting piece deprived of its functionality, covered in cob and sealed with resin, hangs from the ceiling. A small solar powered fan attached to it abstracts, trivialises and tick-tocks time away. Light as design versus light as energy. The story informing the piece follows the commissioning of a contemporary lighting installation with similar angular cylindrical poles for an art museum in Nicosia. The photocopy machines become models for elite economies that inform the narration and homogeneous production of art as well as trends in contemporary Cypriot design and architecture, of which the resurfaced modernist fairfaced aesthetic, celebrating raw unplastered concrete, is currently predominant. Begging the question: how are labourers working, artists making, students learning or families living in these environments affected by these materials, designs and trends?
(1) The title lends itself from the Cyprus-based irrigation company Elysée, which was initially dedicated to the cultivation of flowers.
(2) The Neoterismou Toumazou exhibition space closed in 2017 but the collective, consisting of Maria Toumazou, Orestis Lazouras and Marina Xenofontos, continue working together.
(3) Ming, meaning light and clarity, and chung, meaning middle or balanced.
(4) #hack66 (hack66.info) is “a do-ocratic community of people interested in technology and freedom, hackerspace culture, infoactivism, and various forms of openness.”