The house models I “construct” are to me both a starting point and a self-limitation. They are my way of expressing myself about issues that I am currently interested in, such as an existence transcending time (or out-of-time) but also time, decay and endurance. I choοse the house as a means of expression for several reasons, but mainly for its unique presence in human history. It is an object that functions both as a bridge and juxtaposition, as a factor of unity but also of tension. My objective is not to present a familiar house model, a house appropriate for conventional use, but to transform, to dismantle all (or most of) its known functions – those that make it a useful object, a dwelling, a residence; to disconnect it from its functional role. The words I would use to name it would be mostly negative (apophatic), they would describe what the house is not and not what it is: the non-house, the other house, the house without foundations. It could be a house constructed in order to be demolished, a house without windows, without security, a house that circumstantially draws limits between the inside and the outside but not in terms functional efficiency.
The way I “construct” these houses is irrelevant to the principles of traditional building techniques, nor does it conform to the technique of model-making. To construct them I use a combination of unmatching materials assembled in an uncoventional manner. The houses might collapse after they are photographed or might prove to be stable and sustainable. I let technical mistakes lead me to new solutions, I trust whatever seems to be an error.
In many places in Greece, where I have been brought up, I have the feeling that houses have been built with the sole aim to cater to the wishes of their inhabitants, but fail to take into account factors such as how they blend into the micro or macro environment. This failure is one of the factors that creates a sense of “non- landscape” but also leads to a structural anarchy and incoherency that annuls all purposes and gives birth to a new aesthetic. This is one of the issues that are of interest to me lately, and on which I would like to express my views.
Cities and the Dead 2.
«Never in all my travels had I ventured as far as Adelma. It was dusk when I landed there. On the dock the sailor who caught the rope and tied it to the bollard resembled a man who had soldiered with me and was dead. It was the hour of the wholesale fish market. An old man was loading a basket of sea urchins onto a cart; I thought I recognised him; when I turned, he had disappeared down an alley, but I realised he looked like a fisherman who, already old when I was a child, could no longer be among the living. I was upset by the sight of a fever victim huddled on the ground, a blanket over his head: my father a few days before his death had yellow eyes and a growth of beard like this man. I turned my gaze aside; I no longer dared look anyone in the face.
I thought: «If Adelma is a city I am seeing in a dream, where you encounter only the dead, the dream frightens me. If Adelma is a real city, inhabited by living people, I need only continue looking at them and the resemblances will dissolve, alien faces will appear, bearing anguish. In either case it is best for me not to insist on staring at them.»
A vegetable vendor was weighing a cabbage on a scales and put it in a basket dangling on a string a girl lowered from a balcony. The girl was identical with one in my village who had gone mad for love and killed herself. The vegetable vendor raised her face: she was my grandmother.
I thought: «You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.»
The stevedores climbed the steps in a line, bent beneath demijohns and barrels; their faces were hidden by sackcloth hoods; «Now they will straighten up and I will recognise them,» I thought, with impatience and fear. But I could not take my eyes off them; if I turned my gaze just a little toward the crowd that crammed those narrow streets, I was assailed by unexpected faces, reappearing from far away, staring at me as if demanding recognition, as if to recognise me, as if they had already recognised me. Perhaps, for each of them, I also resembled someone who was dead. I had barely arrived at Adelma and I was already one of them, I had gone over to their side, absorbed in that kaleidoscope of eyes, wrinkles, grimaces.
I thought: «Perhaps Adelma is the city where you arrive dying and where each finds again the people he has known. This means I, too, am dead.» And I also thought: «This means the beyond is not happy.»