To use an image, is to enter fiction.
Trinh T. Minh Ha
There are two reasons why Mihn Ha’s quote resonates with There was a Proof of Indecipherable Absence, the solo photographic presentation of Tasos Gkaintatzis that focuses on a series of cemeteries in Thessaloniki. The first one, applies to what it means to use an image, to take a photograph, to capture a material or immaterial moment, when this gesture comes with an a-priori absence. In Gkaintatzis’ case, this absence is affiliated with both the physical absence of the once alive bodies, but most importantly it traces the absence, or even the exclusion, of geopolitical and historical tangible archives, coming with a cultural identity that did exist, yet it has been partially dislodged because of its otherness. Gkaintatzis’ work asks the question: what does it mean to use such an image in order to look with a history that has been vocal, yet denied its full vocality? How can such a gesture be seen as an act of resistance when thought through discourses of disruption, through theses aligned with the periphery as a spatial and socio-political notion?
The second one, applies to what it takes to enter fiction by using an image. Thinking of fiction through its etymological axis, coming from fingere, meaning to form, Gkaintatzis’ photographs shape a chronicle of unconforming visions, and along with them a world of ethereal poetics and aesthetics. Through this archive we enter an otherworldly reality, where ruins coexist with emblematic symbols, where nature intertwines, or grows with, relics turning them into uncanny monumental structures. There is something alienating in these images; there is something intimidating and concurrently cathartic in re-reading graves, cemeteries, landscapes that were once built to make sure that the linearity of time will never be dismantled, that the body and the psyche will always be proven separated from each other. And it is through this equivocation, that this archival material turns into a vernacular language where phonic lisps, vocal repetitions and breaks and chasms are the ones that in the end allow us, human beings, to be, at least partially, understood.
By including the Catholic, the Protestant, the Armenian, the Bogomilist and the Zeitenlik cemeteries, the photographic archive of Gkaintatzis becomes a travelogue of parts of a city seen otherwise; it operates as a topographic amalgamation of civic identities that coexisted in time and space. And through this juxtaposition, There was a Proof of Undecipherable Absence longs to become a polyphonic singing, where asymmetrical voices, their interjections and discontinuities formulate a subversive lyricality.
there was a cross in the middle
some were invisible
but some of them were loud
(well that’s what you get when you stay late at night)
so they were singing a song a linear one
pompously loss is pompous
they were lamenting
and whilst some were speaking clear words
were breaking breathing the psyches
of what’s gone
beams of light were coming from the sky and the grass was the only living hymn
fear and pain and rage
lovers and refuges
who said words can be stolen
spare the words like waters
– Ioanna Gerakidi
Tasos Gkaintatzis (b. 1980, Thessaloniki, GR) is a photographer based in Athens. He is the co-founder of OMMU Bookstore and Publisher est.2010. Part of his photographic documentation (FUJIFILM instax) from the making of Jannis Varelas’ Anima I has been exhibited at the Benaki Museum, Athens, GR, 2019.
With special thanks to
No Mas / No More