Critical Archives V: The Future Is Unwritten

The exhibition’s title Critical Archives V: The Future Is Unwritten appropriates a popular phrase by Joe Strummer, member of the punk band The Clash. The question it raises is what kind of temporalities open up each time we view the concept of democracy as a tool for critiquing social reality. The multiple interpretations and uses of democracy and their imprints on the social body – as wounds or potentialities – are traced through photographic series, videos, texts and books that oscillate between fiction and documentation, between the mythical and the rational foundation of democracy.

“Maybe there is a substitute for experience”, we read in the illuminated motto of the Wall Street Journal’s advertising poster, photographed by Martha Rosler. What could this substitute be and who does it represent? Why is it proposed as an alternative reality, what exactly does is substitute for and to whom is it addressed?

The artworks in the exhibition seem to be entangled in an asymmetric warfare game. Barbed wires, control systems and invisible networks; communication headquarters and decision-making centers behind closed doors; impersonal institutions; complex surveillance systems and shady mechanisms for the construction and dispersion of information; walls and territories, where democracy is enclosed and subjected to the executive plans of technocrats, while in its periphery displaced people are crowded on drained land. Potential actors who strive to live and define themselves. And a pervasive climate of threat and emergency that dominates the public discourse, having a numbing effect on action and reflection.

“Coming soon very sad”, says someone with a graffiti in Stéphane Charpentier’s image, warning us of a bleak future that is already present. The images of the exhibition and the narratives that accompany them embody this ominous atmosphere of an imminent fall. At the same time, they explore the possibilities of a critical representation of a dire globalized condition – through articulations of various counter-discourses over identity, gender, race, class, decoloniality. From within all those metal grids of war, broadcasting screens of fictitious prosperity and Big Data exploitation games, people’s unique and vulnerable bodies emerge, lying in between spaces, and choosing to reveal themselves in all their precarity and their nostalgia for a forgotten future. In their transition between oblivion and history; between action and melancholy. Eventually, they become alive and transcendent as bodies, longing for their Eden – mundane and beyond naked life. Their first stop in this journey is the fantasy of a place that is time present.

This is where another feature of today’s democracies lies, that of the ever-replaceable present. This recognition of time as consumption makes it necessary to reassess the relationship of modern democracies with the culture of accelerationism and uncompromised technological progress, at the same time as the far-right rhetoric is being normalized.  As a counterpoint, the exhibition, and perhaps the photographic medium as a whole in its materiality within a museum, gives space to images that seek slower rhythms – and attitudes sometimes heretical – in our perception and interaction within the social field.

The historicity that characterizes processes such as the above is a dimension that often “escapes” us, not accidentally so. Are we witnessing a radical paradigm shift on a planetary scale? Are the structural paradoxes that accompany democracy since its emergence becoming increasingly apparent? How could a new social grammar of democracy be written? How many and who would be its authors?

The first three editions of MedPhoto (a festival taking place at the southernmost tip of Europe) were developed with a focus on the borders and exclusions imposed by Europe, the multiple attempts to institute specific identities within it, as well as on the mechanisms that make up the respective imaginaries at the individual and collective level. The 4th edition comes to contribute to this long-term research process, focusing on the big word on which the foundations of the West was built: Democracy. Type of regime, governance process, ephemeral Event, great idea, form of state, way of organizing pleasures, trademark, condensed expression of the economy, social lifestyle, or field for the formation of political subjects: The floating signifier of “democracy” eventually becomes the trophy of a perpetuous confrontation about the appropriation of words and their meaning. Running through its ancient Athenian roots, the emancipatory traditions with which it was associated in the 19th and 20th centuries, its use in the establishment of colonialism around the world, as well as its modern contradictory aspects, the question that MedPhoto 4 seeks to raise is what kind of possibilities we activate or disempower each time we invoke democracy.


MedPhoto 4

Artistic Direction: Pavlos Fysakis, Maria Maragkou

Curators: Dimitris Kechris, Pasqua Vorgia

Museum of Contemporary Art, Crete, 11.12.2021-06.03.2022


In the exhibition CRITICAL ARCHIVES IV: Documents, visual documents dealing with social relationships and their transformation in time, their construction and spatialization, are placed within new contexts which explore their hermeneutical limits between the private and the public. Photography is seen here as an archiving instrument by default, as an a priori medium of recontextualization, and a practice which has always found itself in the flux of classification, preservation and circulation of fragments forming pieces of official versus alternative historiographies.

New levels of meaning are added to works deriving from research, like Forensic Architecture’s, whereas others, like Johan Grimonprez’s, immerse us into the ideological function of technical media while revealing their documentarian features and pointing to specific historical events.

Big-scale political events that have brought about turbulence or even the collapse of whole structures, enter into dialogue with personal stories seeking to create new connections. Such “collating” we feel is taking place in Georgia Ponirakou’s Makronissos, where one of Europe’s direst periods is linked with her family’s past. Similar links are drawn by Alvaro Deprit, who takes a close look at the lives of immigrants as they shatter into pieces and reassemble anew against the backdrop of an auto scrap recycling yard. Imbriaco and Bonaventura present us with a documentary body of work focusing on those marks inflicted by the Mafia on the Italian society; onto buildings, neighborhoods, and dark judiciary chambers.

Another intersection happens between Andrea & Magda’s sarcastic view of a western-looking advertising poster for a construction company in Ramallah and the glossy image by Costas Mitropoulos depicting an impeccable naked woman from a men’s magazine; those are two instances of normalizing processes that classify gender identities; processes of standardizing desires and dreams; processes which mediate between us and what constitutes the familiar. At the same time, a different scope of those parameters that regulate intimacy is offered by Laura Pannack with her nudist or nature-lover communes. As for Maria Karkanaki, she comments on what could be obstacles inhibiting true intimacy, such as wearing “masks” or assuming social roles.

A visual psychographic exploration is attempted by Yvette Kapsala (and beauty standards are also under scrutiny), next to a family album by Lorenzo Castore, which reminds us of a palimpsest, raising questions about how such a documenting practice per se can lead to a passage from the hidden to the open; from the private to the public. This is also touched upon in a different way in the works of Galatea Iatraki and Marilena Stafylidou, who save, manipulate and present wasted or lost photographic archives of unknown people; it feels like they are “talking” to those people, while at the same time studying the matter out of which memory makes itself. The technical and mediatic limits of such a materiality is to be tested by Haris Grigorakis and his fluctuating portraiture. And issues of a wider sociological and psychological interest rise in the series of Ioannis Stefanidis or in Tonia Koinaki’s book.

And yet, images such as Panos Kokkinias’ tableau vivant put into question the boundaries between the natural and the artificial, or the constructed versus the original; meanwhile, this image looks like a repository for a collection of people standing in alignment.

In this exhibition, the domicile is also dealt with as a place for the protection, preservation, and reproduction of relationships, memories and symbols. At times we witness it through a clinical and distanced view, such as that of Joachim Brohm or Dimitris Sidirokastritis, or through Alec Soth’s “curiosity” into the lives of others; other times its monumental aspect comes at the foreground as a luxurious abode or a house of gods as in Pathenon Rising II by Bill Balaskas. Elsewhere, the public office becomes “home” to all kinds of state archives, standing guard to power relations or the status quo: a topo-nomological bureaucratic structure such as the one depicted in Dimitris Harissiadis’ photograph.

In an era of an overwhelming post-truth dominance and of escalating political antagonisms visual signifiers are utterly suspended – and fiercely claimed for at the same time – by rivaling forces. In such turbulent times, this exhibition projects a necessity for re-positioning the technical image as an instrument for the fabrication and control of collective memory. To this end, the work of Max Pinckers stands out as it creates enigmatic connections between the fictional and the documentary uses of the technical image. He explores the ways in which a (visual) archive acquires validity and also questions the source of the power entitling subjects or agents to propose or impose codes that link images of things to -supposedly- their origins. Under the same light we can see Alexis Vasilikos’ gesture to appropriate images from NASA. Richard Mosse on the other hand, uses idioms that point to the notion of the panopticon and extend our thinking toward unraveling omnipotent networks of biopolitical power. Such works offer another lens for examining archives as places for the creation and conservation of various discursive orders.

The exhibition CRITICAL ARCHIVES IV: Documents constitutes a kind of contemporary, non-linear and ephemeral cabinet de curiosités, which, through interdisciplinary practices, collects scattered signifiers of a visual grammar and creates heterogenic relations. This temporary “museum” is a reflection anew on the notion of authority; on how all those different signs of meaning are attributed a monumental character. This collective narrative faces the technical image, among others, as a means of exorcizing death, as a document of an absence or the presence of a void – something quite evident in Dimitris Michalakis’ picture. Overall, what is attempted is a deeper understanding (or even contestation) of the past and present, in service of a promise for the future.

As we become witnesses and partakers in the fragmentation of modernist categories which define our perception and manipulation of reality, we try to trace the cracks lying within current dominant imaginaries. Deeply in these cracks, we work as archivists, rearranging the pieces, seeking for new myths and new inscriptions. Thus, we aspire to reposition and reinvent ourselves as creators and political subjects alike.


Curators: Pavlos Fysakis, Dimitris Kechris, Maria Maragkou

MedPhoto Festival 2019-2020

Museum of Contemporary Art, Crete, 07.11.2019-15.03.2020



You refuse to understand / you don’t say anything / watching me die

The exhibition presents three works of art that focus on the different ways we “experience” the refugee/migration crisis from a certain distance, that of the observer, while exploring the problematic of the gaze. The different ways of seeing are integral to the social processes of defining and controlling the Other and are inherent to photography as an objectifying practice.

The Bureaucracy of Angels, by Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, documents the destroying of 100 boats used by migrants going from Africa to Sicily in 2016. The narration unfolds through the lyrical song of the excavator that tears the boats into pieces. The Sicilian ballad Terra ca nun senti (that lends its lyrics to the title of this exhibition) talks about the pain and fear that refugees and migrants – from and to Europe – have been experiencing for the past 150 years.

Grid (Moria), by Richard Mosse, documents Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos using a powerful military-grade border enforcement camera that can image human body heat from a distance of 30.3km. This durational photograph, captured at three points in Moria camp’s recent history (June 2016, January 2017 and September 2018), is presented across an array of sixteen flat-screen monitors. Reading heat as both metaphor and index, Grid (Moria) is an attempt to allow the viewer to meditate on the current conditions of refugees through ideas of bodily warmth, hypothermia, physical vulnerability, temporality, mortality, biopower, necropolitics, the erosion of human rights and the failure of EU asylum policy.

Uprooted, by Daphne Tolis, presents – with minimum intervention by the artist – the way that refugees and migrants record their adventure, using their mobile phones. Thus, Tolis refrains from documenting the situation through her lens, and attempts to reverse the process of objectification.

Nowadays, that the refugee/migration crisis has degenerated for the West to an anaesthetized normality full of tragic but distant images, this exhibition aims to look into the processes of observation, surveillance, recording, interpretation, all crucial components of a crisis that results day after day to the entrapment and death of thousands of people.


Curators: Dimitris Kechris, Pasqua Vorgia, Apostolos Zerdevas

Co-organisation: Athens Photo Festival, MedPhoto Festival, Thessaloniki PhotoBiennale 2018

ROMANTSO, Athens, 30.09.2018-18.10.2018



Nomadic Library (2018-present)

MedPhoto Festival fosters a collection/library of photobooks from all over the world featuring photobook as a separate work of art and as a primary frame of reference in photography.

A wide range of artists and works are present in this collection covering different periods and styles, movements or trends, from pioneers with a special role in the history of photography to more contemporary photographers that introduce diverse aesthetic and technical views on how to deal with the medium today. The notions that are brought out in MedPhoto Festival’s exhibitions, such as those of “identity”, “intimacy” and “territory”, are also present in the books’ content, as a part of a coherent narrative concept.

Photobook is seen as a cohesive body of facts, beliefs, periods, while at the same time the procedure of its creation involves people from different disciplines, making this work a collective process that aims at audiences further than photographers. Besides, photobooks function in a totally different way comparing to pictures on the wall, because of their structure, their material and their nature of addressing each time to an individual viewer.

Having in mind the photographic/visual education of photographers, students and others who might be interested, we created a nomadic and interactive library. That is, a library that travels, lends books and presents books through internet platforms. This library is being constantly enriched and gives reasons for workshops and seminars. This collection is being circulated tο public and university libraries all over Greece, to cultural associations, institutions and book festivals, so that the public will have an immediate contact with publications and works of important photographers.

Of course, such a library also contributes to the establishing of a historical/photographic archive, which is of great interest to our perspective.


Curators: Pavlos Fysakis, Dimitris Kechris


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Critical Archives III: Identities

Critical Archives III: Identities looks into the multiple identities/diversities that are being born within this rapidly transforming European territory and questions the notion of a common European identity. It also looks into the typical process of identity construction, where self-definition means defining and controlling the Other, even if the Other is the “dark” inner self. A process in which photography is also engaged through the medium’s inherent characteristic of objectification.
The exhibition presents a kaleidoscopic portrait of Europe in the light of the co-existence of the most incongruous and promiscuous aspects that constitute this territory. Aspects that are attempted to either be expelled or merge into a solid European face. The institutional expression of this attempt ever since the Declaration of Copenhagen in 1973 seems to deny the very essence of identities as contextual categories whose construction is determined upon social relations and not by official decisions. And this attempt seems to get cancelled by the wide-ranging history of Europe; a history founded upon multiple civilizations, cultural diffusion, upon diverse religions, languages, races and peoples’ movement; upon borders and demarcation lines, military conflicts and financial competition, upon class division; upon Reason and Myth.
The works of the exhibition function as fragments connected through an elliptical narrative to trace a Topos, a land functioning as a Ring-road or a Garden under a flyover, an exile, a refuge, a tourist resort, a construction site, a torture staircase, a Dystopic Lebenraum; as an ever-present Market. Α ground of heterotopic spaces where place and time are suspended and sometimes ruptured. A palimpsest of a New Europe on an Old Continent. A Model Continent transforming into a Club, a Castle or a Rock. A Pendulum between familiar and foreign; a place where memory constitutes a source of constructing collective identities; a space where monuments are used as a tool of territorializing identities. Images of a sovereign world “in which the limit of death is done away with. Death is present in it, its presence defines that world of violence.” [G. Bataille]. The exhibition showcases visual notes on a mechanism that imposes, excludes, displaces, classifies and controls people and peoples, through material and immaterial relations; images of an Open See, facing this constant state of emergency as the explicit manifestation of power in modernity. Images that comment on contemporary social experience and its representation, as well.
The exhibition, thus, presents a multi-textual project as a collective artistic experiment. Frameless pictures are met within their textuality and their existence through time; the artists are met along with their own words and the words of their subjects; the image is correlated with the book as a primary frame of reference in photography. All the above are the components of a new, cohesive work, in an attempt to question the exclusion processes and the territorialized anchoring of constructing an identity. A work in search of the ground where multiple, pluralistic identities are formed inside the cumulative personal and collective experience and existent social relations.


Curators: Pavlos Fysakis, Dimitris Kechris, Maria Maragkou, Yorgos Karailias

Text: Dimitris Kechris, Eleni Pagkalia

MedPhoto Festival 2017-2018

Museum of Contemporary Art, Crete, 20.12.2017-20.03.2018



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