Alexandros Tzannis | Earth Will Remain, We Are the Shipwreck

12.09.20 – 12.10.20

The exhibition Earth Will Remain We Are the Shipwreck, prompts an exploration of the geopolitics of extraction, reflecting on issues of environmental decline, material devastation and the various processes through which living phenomena modify ground, soil, earth and sea. Inspired by ecologically framed speculative fiction, Alexandros Tzannis’ work investigates the complex relationships between human infrastructure, earth systems and technology. The artist is interested in how land is affected by anthropogenic processes and how the landscape is thoroughly imbricated in human histories of dispossession, displacement and exploitation across time and space. The exhibition echoes the role played by the maritime in the emergence of Western modernity of exploration and colonisation, hinting on how ideas of progress were reached through the forced labour of many and through resource expropriation and transport. The artist weaves narratives concerning how facts, myths, memories and values create the multi-dimensional image of what we believe nature represents, without however relying on an essentialized and purist Romantic fiction that posits nature as an object, a static and fixed entity outside of culture, but rather, as a synthesis of dynamic clusters and hybrid ecologies equipped with agency. The exhibition gravitates to those spaces that index the reverberations of power, presenting scenes of fracture, compression and disjuncture of contrasting elements, brought together in improbable intimacy.

Holding on to the formal elements of classical landscape painting and 19th century notions of the landscape sublime, 36.8248 25.9067, 37.989 23.7328 and 36.5777 27.169, are hyperrealistic ink drawings of geological forms, meticulously executed to manifest the structural features of the rocks, their folds and deformation. The drawings reveal desolate vistas of rocky outcrops, “sourced” mainly from the artist’s extensive photographic archive of terrain images taken in Athens or in various islands in Greece such as Amorgos, Serifos and the volcanic island of Nisyros amongst others. The drawings are a form of geographic data collection of spectral landscapes or active topologies, fields of transformation and upheaval, that seem uncannily familiar. The now abandoned ore mining site in Serifos where industrial ruins still bear traces in the landscape, is one of the multiple examples of how human and nonhuman communities become resources for the amassment of capital. For the artist, such sites unpack the correlation between forms and the unseen processes and power relations that shape them over time.

Influenced by such terraforming processes and patterns, Tzannis’ methodology is a kind of tracing, a transferring of specific geometries from one space into another, layered through the process of abstracting and emphasis. The cityscape and these sites, even though spatially removed, are bound to one another in the history of Greek space and rhetorically in the form of Tzannis work, as they are connected through networks and wider ecosystems of extraction, conveyance, and consumption. These entangled landscapes manifest material reconsiderations of place, relation, temporality and memory, revealing the complex ecologies of which they are a part.

Untitled are two dimensional panels reminiscent of digital flat screens, high-tech noir assemblages of vacuum packed fabric scraps, salvage, rubble mixed with human leavings. The works engage with the physical relationships between objects and bodies, ruin and waste, dwelling and movement, boundary and journey. Epoxy resin layers imbue the works with a screenic materiality, a screen however that is frozen and static, capturing a moment stalled in time and space, crystallizing movement into form. Blurring boundaries between physical matter and the digital and symbolic, these sculptural hybrid objects engage with the notion and potentiality of the surface as the location of experience itself, both in terms of subjectivity and towards the outer world as yet another locus for reflection and refraction. Tied up as if anchored, they speak to the tension between a liquidity linked to the digital and the groundedness of physical embodiment. These dark reflective surfaces engulfed in deep rust and oil hues, offer a view of oneself, integrating one’s position as onlooker into the spectacle of a shipwreck that we are already living in. This mirroring appeals to a position taking, instead of solely playing witnesses, standing in safety and fixed comfortably or uncomfortably in our ambiguous role as spectators.

Text: Glykeria Stathopoulou