Elena Chronopoulou, while having a background in architecture, has made works which deal with archaeology, both genuine and fictitious. She describes the dichotomy between superficiality and depth as a principle central to these works. The re-tracing of a canal which was re-routed to make way for a building project, or the uncovering of layers of earth to reveal, as well as mark out, the site of a long-demolished industrial building. Implicit in any work dealing with history or archeology is the unknown and unknowable; the blurring of fiction and established fact, the role that hypothesis and speculation play in filling the gaps in our knowledge, as well as what the character of such speculation says about ourselves.
This idea is addressed in a proposal for a collaborative work in which classical and contemporary popular culture are conflated, through the use of stories from celebrity magazines re-presented as historical artefacts on the island of Mykonos and its uninhabited sister Delos. As a national park, the symbiosis which exists between Delos and its larger tourist-centred sibling is highlighted in this absurd juxtaposition. Subtle gestures can reveal the subjectivity implicit in our reading of history; the trivia and detritus of the ancients is celebrated and lovingly preserved in museums.
The ellipsis of every word but the verbs spoken by Richard Buckminster Fuller in an interview for the video piece I seem to be a Verb once again gives us a kind of displacement – the isolation of the sign, the separating out of the signifier from the signified. On first hearing it appears to have some rationale; the effect is somewhat like a misheard, eavesdropped conversation. Habit demands meaning. The isolated sign takes on its own identity, its own meaning. Proof positive that it is no longer enough to say that there is a given or automatic relationship between the sign and what it signifies.
Of course the other reading might well be one of cultural satire; anyone can be edited to appear absurd or nonsensical, as may be witnessed with ever increasing refinement in current political campaigning around the world. There are well-trodden paths around Barthes’ writings on the social system of signs and the separation of the signifier from the signified. But for these artists the conversation has moved on to focus on the qualities of the disconnected sign itself.
Text by Matthew Crookes