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Lila Cambanis: "Surprise and trauma"
["Traumatisme", Ileana Tounta contemporary art center, Athens 2006.]

Over several years, Lila Cambanis’s work faces the surprise of the viewer/artist that causes the displacements in someone’s understanding before the mobility and flexibility of possible ways of recognition of one's oneself or of a human body. However, it faces mainly the simultaneous displacement of ―artist and viewer, self and body ―, not as a static image but as visual artwork. The continuous variations of the photographic subject matter are here raised to completion through a series of systematic visual interventions by which the work itself is constituted. Cambanis works out this starting material, mostly constituted by herself and parts of her body, by means of the possibilities offered by contemporary technique and technology. However, this elaboration is chiefly achieved via the artist's consciousness and the awareness of a historical range of possibilities given by the visual arts. In her work, such variations represent a cohesive and iterative transposition of meaning, which leads the human figure and the human form from a subject mater of representation to a possible reading of the image, and from the institution of identity to the poetics of alterity.

In Cambanis' s work the presence of a human body is transformed from a hieratic uniqueness into a fluid disposition of a linguistic process. From a formalist purity, the mixture of idioms is confronted here, with an oral function of the visual discourse, thus revealing a language the poetics of which approaches common language, everyday speech or even “slang”, beyond any taste for the picturesque or for sophistication. The genuine languages of the image, of vision and of the art, meet all in one in Cambanis' s work, shaping a common idiom of immediacy with an electrical directness. This visual language transforms through the plasticity of variation, the image into a visual work as well as the closed-in-itself human body into a material visual surface. Such a surface, as a locus of the immediate realization of the visual event, liberates series of meaning and emancipates through colour and light, expression and motion. The presence of the event and the process of realization are not limited to a conventional series of effects but clearly constitute a conceptual artistic elaboration. Such a process, despite its spontaneous and intuitive form, activates simultaneously critical and rational elements in relation to an analysis of the image, the writing and the meaning. Through such features, the representation of the body reaches the kind of a performance, leaving away once and for all any sense for pose or for a static image. At the same time, the material fact of the body and of the living motion and action open throughout the visual discourse that gives its existence as an artwork, into a complex visual space that transcends the limits of photography.

The multiple aspects, which constitute, conceive and elaborate the genuine logos of the work, transform the inertia and immobility of both form and body into incessant series of displacements and details. Displacements become metonymies and details change into pleads, that stand for themselves each time, initiating a series of proximities, passages, flexions and inclinations. Such incessant transformation may at first sight evoke scenes from carnival or disguises, party or theatres, masquerade or magical images, they however move free beyond any thematic form and they refuse to woe with metaphysics. The passage from a certain game into a general practice of games does not result from a philosophical conception and does not illustrate the artist’s theoretical opinion. The displacement of meaning and the transition of a reality into another proceeds empirically. This empirical artistic practice constitutes a systematic process of knowledge and of self-awareness, which is being developed and fulfilled only within duration and time. The conception of the work becomes thus an incessantly altering practice, which actively participates in the achievement of the visual work of art, by transforming the viewer’s surprise into the artist’s awareness and the positive disposition of each game into the consolidation of a language, which carries discourse beyond the limits of narration.

The relation of photography to the human body develops together with its history since the first experiments and photomontage in the early days. Nevertheless, the digital age and new technologies have opened new semantic fronts by transposing the limits of possible conceptualizations and the perspectives to conceive the processes that constitute a visual artwork. One can claim that, as it is the case with Lila Cambanis, the work in our time constantly measures itself against photography through problems which concern the relation of body and fragment, part and the whole, interiority and exteriority, topos and atopia, motion and inertia, object and subject. Such confrontation however does not constitute an illustration of either the technique or of photographic art itself, but an empirical field for research and an experimental way to consider image, form and motion. No predetermined view or model come to halt the meaning or lead the motion of practice which, together with viewer and work, are revealed to the artist each time anew, through the particular case of each series. Thus, the dynamic of movement transcends the model and the power of the image crushes all kinds of a position.

The fragmentation of the subject matter in the work of Cambanis intermingles with the condensation of time and captures the visual instant as the work itself. To a great extent, the recognition or non -recognition of a form intervenes drastically and actualizes the very instant as a question proper both to the photographic origin of the image and to the visual stochastic of the art. The practical elaboration, which activates the flexions of the photographic frame, cancels any theatrical challenge of the image in order to set the body’s limits beyond the verisimilitude of representation, with an almost painterly movement. The problematic of representation abandons the exploration of identity and is transformed into a series of active displacements of the limits between image and presentation, of the legibility or the illegibility of codes, of naturalness or the artificiality, of painterly form or iconic representation. This kind of displacements and transpositions that constitute a permanent practice and a constant occupation for several major photographers and artists of our time, find in the work of Cambanis a fortunate moment to surprise. With a rare immediacy and naturalness these serious, intellectual questions reach here, the level of a quotidian, plain, fluid and flexible process and materialize before the eyes of the viewer almost, a visual work of art.

Already since the time of modernism, the human body abandons the ideal space of both beauty and myth in order to come into open contact with the differentiations of movement, expression, conception and imagination of an almost “naked” reality and everyday life. One can almost claim that until today, the differentiation of artistic and documentary photography expresses with particular emphasis the dialectic confrontation, in which the body does not denote but means, does not halt meaning but activates its interminable possibilities. Photography here functions as a distorting mirror and presents to us unexpected folds and pleads of the world, of ourselves or of reality, as seen and revealed before our eyes for a sole time, as versions of the accidental, instant or elusive aspect of life as well as of the art. All sorts of interventions and events, incidents and accidents, traumatisms and operations, activities and actions, motions and shakes, incessantly juxtapose the event of the work with the artistic process by which it is completed, the systematic with the arbitrary which founds it, the series with the surprises that refutes any station, the quotidian with the unexpected which causes it, the trivial with the marvelous which presents it wide before our eyes.

A constant confrontation of critical or free views is systematized here, and now becomes the primordial function of the work through the terminal line, which distinguishes photographic practice and pictorial discourse. This fragmentary and serial expression, which underlines the previous distinction, is organized into a systematic practice that presents to us our own gaze falling together with the artist’s hand on objects, in an unaccustomed way, new to us, to recognize and to observe. Thus, part of the other body or of the very self-are transformed in an unexpected fragment of the world, which metonymically constitutes a flexible hybrid material, while simultaneously it critically registers an insuperable semantic limit of the real. Through a facade of lightness and carelessness which her work invests and appears to cultivate at first sight, Lila Cambanis quietly deepens and questions in particularly low tones and deep humanistic discourse, the phenomenality of the image and the grace and futility of things.