HOTEL HELLAS (ongoing since 2017)
Since my family's migration to Athens from the Lebanese civil war in 1989, my relationship to Greece evolved through the years into a impermanent place of Return.
Those images and texts convey fugitive presence glimpses of that attempt to visit a homeland, an ephemeral past existence, instant future projections of a worn nostalgia, and the death of a precarious chronology of History.
They are mostly strands of an unfinished poem, dedicated to singing the ruins of belonging, in a time of war.
Depuis la migration de ma famille à Athènes de la guerre civile libanaise en 1989, ma relation avec la Grèce a évolué au fil des années en un lieu impermanent du Retour.
Ces images et textes véhiculent des aperçus de présence fugitive, de cette tentative de visiter une patrie, une existence éphémère passée, les projections instantanées d'une nostalgie usée et la mort d'une chronologie précaire de l'Histoire.
Ils sont principalement les traces d'un poème inachevé, consacré à chanter les ruines de l'appartenance, d'un temps de guerre.
Από τη μετανάστευση της οικογένειάς μου στην Αθήνα από τον εμφύλιο πόλεμο του Λιβάνου το 1989, η σχέση μου με την Ελλάδα εξελίχθηκε με την πάροδο των χρόνων σε ένα μόνιμο τόπο Επιστροφής.
Αυτές οι εικόνες και κείμενα μεταδίδουν μια φαινομενική παρουσία, μιας άλλης αποτυχημένης προσπάθειας να επισκεφτω την πατρίδα, μια προηγούμενη εφήμερη ύπαρξη, στιγμιαίες προβολές στο μέλλον μιας φθαρμένης νοσταλγίας και τον θάνατο μιας επισφαλούς χρονολογίας της Ιστορίας.
Είναι ως επί το πλείστον, σκέλη ενός ημιτελή ποίημα, αφιερωμένο τραγούδι, στα ερείπια του ανήκειν, μιας εποχής πολέμου.
I walked, walked and still walk on Greek soil.
Walking is the mother of all migrations.
Man before even beginning to combine action to word, starts on his feet.
Walking reminds us of what gave us our civilisations.
Simple and complex simultaneously, walking certifies that life begins somehow as a human adventure, around the age of one.
The quest for an unattainable return home and an impossible harmony motivates the walker - pilgrim.
Walking is a process and a pretext for introspection. Between first steps and travels around the world, there is a major one step that allows you to cross the boundaries of life. It's also a form of placing History in the space of an experiential education.
Lonely form of resilience, not without nostalgia, walking is always a step towards the Other, and the foreigner in us. It’s an encounter that requires an effort. It’s a therapy, both physical and psychological.
In the effort of walking one escapes the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history.
This new form of freedom lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life. Forgetting oneself would begin with deliberately cultivating solitude and forgetting. It would acknowledge that all labour spent on the self is potentially displacement activity, wasted energy. And with that effort conserved, some sort of great work could be done.
The reveries of Rousseau, the writings of Rimbaud and then of Stevenson, Thoreau, Benjamin, Walser, Sebald and so many others encourage us, when reading them, to put on our shoes and walk.
To our joy and our health, walking is a form of defiance of speed and noise, increases curiosity, encourages humility, causing meditation. It invites us to contemplate, be silent and listen better.
I would call this life practice Peripatetics. It revolves around experiential, direct, non-conceptual photography. It’s somehow the quiet side of urban or landscape photography during which attention is given primarily to the state of mind and not to the hunting of exceptional phenomena. This internalisation of attention brings a more sober & poetic reading of reality. It’s a detached way of making more intimate images open to interpretations. You create or inhabit a non-familiar space that, through the act of walking, metamorphoses it to a 'home', but open it also towards a political gesture, towards the sublime.
I started off at the beginning of my approach two decades ago, to embrace Athens, my city, neither for what I wanted it to be but for what it is and eluded me. This endeavour in time turned into a prelude to learning about justice, and established itself as one first step in an act of resistance.
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- Many pigeons landed on Noah's ark today!
- But no sign of life on board ...
- Happy New Year!
- What year was that?
- Are you always carrying around a backpack?
- I often come across a figure, mirroring my image, and it's always with a backpack.
- You often come here, but never with a fishing rod?
- For one terrible night, my friend, this white boat was my only hope for a better future in Europe. Today I walk here all the way from the camp, to watch my "hope" sinking slowly slowly in this beautiful Leros' bay.
- It seems we have a monument, to the memory of hundreds of excursions!
- And It manifested through this fog, in the vicinity of a farm, on the mountains of Epeirus.
- Don't be shy, let us kiss!
- But you're older than me...
- Do you think "Annetta + Dimitris" are still in love?
- The real question is why is that cockpit resting in a fishermen's shipyard on the island of Ikaria!
- Have you dreamt of new beginnings and individual freedom?
- I dream of ruins, ashes, burnt land, and Justice.
- Luck has abandoned us!
- Faith in luck will never abandon us, my friend.
- What's that monument about?
- Forty-eight mattresses for forsaken dreams!
- I sometimes find refuge in the silence of Athens' churches.
- But saints are easier to find on the streets, wrapped up in their tiredness.
- Where do that choked scream come from?
- From the last cry of a slaughtered goat - τράγος, origin of the word tragedy - τραγωδία, birthplace of songs - τραγούδια.
- My home city seems void of hospitality!
- There are also times that we will feel as foreigners in an abandoned hotel.
- I came back from travel to find an empty refrigerator!
- It stayed empty since you emigrated, waiting for you.
- When was your last Christmas holiday?
- Before the fall of the Empire.
- Are we at the gates of the promised land?
- There we are. And a strange receptionist, with his red mantle is guarding the entrance.
- What is so Ancient and precious about those Eleusis stones?
- Since the time or people who took shelter in their shade are gone, I suppose!
- They burned my home, my garden & my landscape!
- You burned yourself, your present and future and remained surrounded by the remains of your past.
- Are you tired enough to look at me?
- From all the landscapes of the world, only here at this lakeside, we could have felt together, for an instant, the exhaustion and the warmth of an upcoming spring.
- Where are you walking to, foreigner?
- To the holy land ...
- Imagine we were walking on a slow pace and heavy steps!
- I wonder if we had the power to drag to our rhythm some of those fast forward tourists in Athens.
- Summer is at the gates!
- But our failures this winter are still tearing us apart.