A fragmented, yet still complete memory of a troubled past

No matter what kind of methods are used, recording the past is fundamentally important, especially in Germany where people feel that they don’t have the luxury to forget. Memory, therefore, is the title of an exhibition of works by Greek artist Artemis Alkalai which is currently on display in Germany as part of a series of events leading to the 53rd annual Frankfurt Book Fair where Greece is the honored guest. The show was inaugurated last week together with an exhibition on the history of Greek Hebraism, a history spanning 2,300 years. Both exhibitions are on show at Frankfurt’s Jewish Museum. The artist’s works are far away from any kind of notion of tortuous remembrance, with the majority presenting both tender and sweet qualities. This is possibly achieved through the use of specific soft fabrics such as cloth, thread, fibers, ribbons, all of which are trademark materials present in her work. In my family there are several generations of textile merchants, and this helped me to familiarize myself with fabrics and the kind of feelings they arouse, says the artist. I began by working with these specific materials in a superficial, purely artistic way. Later on, this relationship developed into something deeper and far more intimate. The works currently on display in Frankfurt were showcased at the Fournos art center two years ago. Alkalai uses the head as well as other parts of the body as a recurring theme in her work, yet a kind of absence is equally evident. You will not find a complete human being, she says. Similar to the idea of living and understanding our history which comes to us fragmented. We all stand alone when we try to construct our personal past, through the few signs we have received. Alkalai keeps both her Christian and Jewish roots alive, just as she keeps the notion of Greece. A number of family members perished during the Holocaust. By way of her own personal history, Alkalai’s works combine elements from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions. These are treated equally and they stand side by side, rather than being thrown in together in a haphazard manner. Overall, the artist’s narrative flows through a sense of deconstruction, though given a unique spin by its simplistic power. Before the exhibition in Germany, my father asked me how I felt about visiting the country and showing my work, says Alkalai. I replied that we are all both victims and victimizers and that by confronting the situation we acquire the courage to look into the past. Gender is not important in this play, says Marinos. We don’t want this to turn into a transvestite issue.

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