For over forty years, Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki have been developing an interdisciplinary artistic practice, encompassing film, video, prints, drawing, photography, performance, installation, audio pieces and digital art. Although overused nowadays, the term «interdisciplinary» is here fully justified, as the two artists have always thoroughly explored techniques from each discipline in order to unfold their thematic concerns in an accomplished and innovative manner.
Recognition of Klonaris and Thomadaki first arose within the post-68 Parisian art scene, as they pioneered a melange of film and visual arts (later adding video and digital images) at a time when the arts were clearly segregated. After a highly experimental theatrical practice in Athens in the early 1970s, they launched in Paris the «Cinema of the Body» and developed a vibrant critical framework drawing upon psychoanalysis, philosophy, sociology and feminism. They claimed a «radical femininity» and questioned the frontier between sexes a decade before the Queer movement, through a polymorphous practice focused on gender and intersexuality. The key figures of their cycles of work are the hermaphrodite, the angel, the feminine as «uncanny», the «freak» - all subverting fixed positions of identity and gender, and all intertwining the artists’ chosen influences within the subtle web of their Greek origins into a remarkable transcultural imaginary.
In their own terms, Klonaris/Thomadaki address «the interactions between motion and stillness, film and photography in a non-narrative, body-centered cinema, where the physical and emotional presence of the artists on both sides of the camera is felt. A cinema that otherwise exceeds the cinematic frame and expands towards immersive multimedia installations and environments». In other words, Klonaris’/Thomadaki’s art goes beyond the established cultural practices both of the cinema and the museum space.
Their works have been praised as «disturbing and masterful» (Raphaël Bassan),
«ravishingly and uncannily beautiful» (Cécile Chich). They are recognised as «seminal» (Marie-José Mondzain), «highly original», and «disclaiming all norms, whether technological, linguistic or sexual» (Christian Gattinoni). They have been said to engage the viewers into «a spellbinding world, between hypnosis and trance» (Nicole Brenez), and to bring them face to face with a «strange, unqualifiable, mysterious power» (Véronique Mauron).
In the 1990s, Klonaris and Thomadaki were the creators and artistic directors of the quadriennial Rencontres Internationales art cinéma/vidéo/ordinateur, a ground-breaking event staged at the then Vidéothèque de Paris (now Forum des Images), which anticipated the forthcoming primacy of digital over analogue, and which made a strong case for a «media ecology» in the arts.
As theoriticians who advocate unsubmissive bodies and images, Klonaris and Thomadaki have published numerous articles, interviews and manifestoes, which are from now on part of the Klonaris/Thomadaki Archives at the BnF. The artists also produced several editions of the experimental radio broadcast «Atelier de création radiophonique» (France Culture, Radio France), now digitized and preserved by the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel.
An œuvre preserved as heritage
Since 2000, the Archives françaises du film (CNC) acknowledged Klonaris’ and Thomadaki’s experimental film œuvre by restoring into 35mm three of their Super 8 films. The latest of these exceptional prints will be screened during the event «Klonaris/Thomadaki : Infinite Revolution».
The BnF Klonaris/Thomadaki Archives will gradually encompass four decades of an artistic achievement showcased in many prestigious art and film venues across the world (Centre Pompidou, Musée d’art moderne and Cinémathèque Française, Paris; MoMA, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington; British Film Institute and Tate Modern, London; Joan Miro Foundation, Barcelona; MoCA, Taipei; Kunsthalle, Vienna; Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana; Rudolfinum Gallery, Prague; Pinacotheque and Benaki Museum, Athens...).
The artists have been donating video and audio archives to the BnF Audiovisual Department since 2008. The audiovisual section of the Klonaris/Thomadaki Archives will be especially dedicated to their ephemeral pieces, such as performances, projection works, multi-media installations, site specific monumental environments and will preserve various video documents, soundtracks and stills. The archives will also house almost the entire collection of publications on and by Klonaris/ Thomadaki (essays, catalogues, books and articles – over 300 items), along with a wealth of printed documentation on their projections and exhibitions. The Klonaris/Thomadaki Archives is an on-going project established in close collaboration with the artists, and will be described in the BnF catalogue «Archives et manuscrits».