Utopia is effectively a non-place, from the ancient Greek term ‘ou’ designating –not and the word ‘topos’, meaning place. Utopias are places of abundance and wish fulfilment. Since Plato’s 'Republic' the term has been significantly deployed in philosophy and literature to propose a political system of an imagined perfect place or state of things. Food seems to grow from the trees and fish flow in the waters, the inhabitants can languidly sleep and wake as they desire, doing nothing much other than self-indulgence.
The more modern versions of Utopia include Thomas More’s (1516) visions of Utopia in which he stages Utopia in the setting of an island.
In ‘Vermilion Sands’ J. G. Ballard writes about a paradoxical future paradise version of utopia: “it is an overlit desert resort, with large skies, that geographical lies in the 3,000 mile long linear city stretching from Gibraltar to Glyfada beach, along the northern shores of the Mediterranean” (J. G. Ballard, 1971).
With lose references to Thomas More and J. G. Ballard’s fictional utopias, this hedonistic paradise has been constructed of still-life photographs of shells and starfish. Like the reality depicted in the photograph, it shows a perfectly true to nature object, which can have a fictional life of its own. Reflective materials are further used to artificially re-create a sun-lounger, an item that can be found on any tourist beach, especially in the Greek island and the Mediterranean. The sun-lounger serves as reflector, recreating dreamy light patterns. Inhabitants spend hours on these doing almost next to nothing.
This ‘Island’ is otherwise called the ‘island of the winds’ as strong winds blow constantly. This has an impact on how the inhabitants think or behave; they can be self-indulgent and have visions as their thoughts keep getting scattered around in the sand and the heat. Whilst they are dreamers, they also know they can never escape the claustrophobic encircled land.
And then on top of the wind you have heat; the kind that burns the soles of your feet as you go to take a dip in the ice-cold sea.
On this ‘Island’ the tourists and locals have left and only the constant wind blows on a deserted beach. The hedonistic paradise that once was, has disappeared. Traces are left in the wind and the sand but all too subtle for the naked eye to see. Placed behind the glass miniature framed vitrines, the shells and starfish are ancient memorabilia collected by the fruit –gatherers.
You have to listen to wind, let your mind wander and look for the clues on the summer beach. You might see them, creeping in and out of the shadows, they glide amongst us now. In the high-midsummer sun they appear.
Stella Baraklianou (b. Greece)
International group exhibitions include, most recently, “Photography is Magic” curated by Charlotte Cotton, Aperture Foundation, New York, (July- August 2016), “New Materiality” at the Project Space as part of the artists in residency at the Banff Arts Centre, in Alberta, Canada (February 2016). Forthcoming exhibitions and residencies: include State of Concept, Athens, Greece (April – May 2017) “The conditions of production” Eleftheria Tselioy Gallery, Athens, Greece and a workshop as part of The Institute of Things to Come, in Turin, Italy (June/September 2017).