CULTURE

‘Varanasi,’ 12 months of living on the edge

«Ganga, don’t give me any skin diseases,» are the words Alexandros Georgiou used in his prayers as he entered the River Ganges. Bearing in mind that he immersed himself in the river more than once, his wish was, thankfully, granted. The artist spent an entire year in India’s Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh, as part of his research regarding the dissolution of man’s identification with matter. A selection of the material Georgiou gathered in India is currently on display at the Eleni Koroneou Gallery. «Varanasi,» running at the Athenian gallery until June 6, showcases handmade postcards and photographs made by the artist, items that Georgiou sent to four collectors and friends on a daily basis – people who had supported the artist during his travels. The private correspondence scattered across the gallery’s walls offers an opportunity for a deeper reading and a new channel for experiencing the artist’s work. This is because observing how these works are experienced by their recipients is part of Georgiou’s overall project, as is the way they come together at the end of the journey with the creation of an archive. The final part of the project will be its publication, a book expected to be appear in bookstores by the end of the year. The publication will follow in the footsteps of two previous books about two of the artist’s past journeys, within the framework of a larger project titled «Without My Own Vehicle,» with Varanasi acting as a reference point throughout. According to the artist, if you die in Varanasi, city of the Hindu god Shiva, destroyer of matter and liberator of consciousness and spirit, you free yourself from the animal cycle. As a result, many Indians make the journey to Varanasi hoping it will be their final resting place and travel guides warn potential tourists about bathing in the Ganges, on whose riverbanks Varanasi is built and where thousands of the dead end up. Georgiou, however, chose to go against this «Western» logic and experience things for himself, without believing in the cliched perceptions and the paranoia nurtured by the West. The artist has a valid reason for insisting on making his own impressions: A few years ago, he found himself traveling in Iran believing the stereotypical viewpoint regarding the country’s society. His initial aim had been to speed through the journey as quickly as possible. In the end, however, he formulated his own opinion and ended up staying in Iran for two-and-a-half months. The artist’s work is interesting because it unfolds on three different levels. While personal experience is recorded through the image in combination with the text, both become an integral part of a familiar correspondence destined for a select few. In turn, the happy few provide the work with new meaning, which is then displayed to the wider public. In the end, the latter will make the entire experience its own through the pages of the upcoming edition. Eleni Koroneou Gallery, 30 Dimofontos & 7 Thorikion, tel 210.341.1748