Island Hoping

City of Athens Arts Centre, Athens, 2018 (book)

Works included in the exhibition: Island Hoping

Spanning a continuous period of more than twenty years, artist Christina Dimitriadis’s work trains its lens on human beings and their limits. Human identity and alienation in time and space are a recurrent theme in both the artist’s earlier work, treating the asymptotes between family and the artist, individuality, and social conventions, and the discontinuous continuities of her recent work. This two-way relationship is a constant interplay of image and representation.

Island Hoping casts a penetrating gaze on limits as moving, variable focal points, as borders or walls, which simultaneously threaten and shelter. In this photographic series featuring islets of the Aegean, devoid of human presence, the human element is suggested by the limit — whether visible or not to the viewer — which appears in the form of either a desert or an inhabited place. Each rocky island in the series is a “placeless place” and, as such, it may be a stop on the journey; it may also be the final destination.

The Mediterranean reality and the geological threshold manifested by the islets bring to mind “Land ho!,” the seaman’s interjection echoing from the ship’s mast in the vast sea to announce dry land—eagerly anticipated by mariners or castaways alike. These rocks may either be parts of islands or solitary formations; distant utopias or childhood dreams. They may also be dry, inaccessible, barren, and hostile. In the Mediterranean, dotted with islands and rock formations familiar to humans since the times of the Odyssey, a cliff may await to swallow or crush you. In art, the topic of life and death always involves Island Hoping an optimistic treatment of the mental defense mechanisms against threats to our life or identity; the shifts of the limits through which the human mind deals with anything that endangers its existence. Thus, in the wordplay of the title, in which Dimitriadis removes a consonant from hopping to arrive at hoping, she transforms hopping from island to island, from rock to rock, to being suspended between the hope of endurance and the unforeseen fall, the end of the journey.

The first eight and last two images in the series were photographed in locations in northern Greece that are closely linked to the artist’s childhood. The others were taken in the archipelago of Fournoi Korseon, between the islands of Ikaria, Patmos, and Samos—an area of great geological, geopolitical, and historical importance, prominent in world news coverage on account of having the largest number of shipwrecks since ancient times and, tragically, being on the deadly path of migration today.

Denys Zacharopoulos