Stranger than Angel

Nina Pirnat-Spahic

Pulsar, installation multi-media
Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki are among the best known avant-garde artists working in France; although of Greek origin, for twenty seven years already they have been creating together in Paris a new visuality of the body and poetics of the erotic and media; they also rank among the most provocative and radical French artists who, on the basis of psychoanalysis and feminist theory, research the links between the body, the political and the media.

The Ljubljana exhibition is designed especially for the gallery space of Cankarjev dom, where, with photographs, videos and projections they present a selection from three cycles: Self Portraits, The Angel Cycle and Sublime Disasters. TheTwins, which are based on researches into representations of the body, and open possible territories of hybrid sexuality. As a rule, the artists plan their photographic or intermedia projects as site specific installations, i.e., with regard to the architectural space or its historical memory. The unusual space of the gallery of Cankarjev Dom, with its particular architectural characteristics which are a consequence of radical changes of the original building and planned context in the course of construction, completely repels some artists, but to many it represents a major challenge both as context and design. Klonaris and Thomadaki, after direct experience of the space, decided on an entirely different design of the exhibition than their initial idea. By means of the various expressive media that they use in their work, they create an aesthetics of the space, erect artistic creation as a three-dimensional reality, and orchestrate an awareness of the all-embracing nature of the human senses.

Although creatively they derive from the film medium, since the mid-eighties they have been increasingly devoted to photography as still image. With delicate artistic variations, they rhythmize photographic prints into moving (almost filmic) sequences of images and in this way erase the boundary between fixed and moving pictorial communication. It could be said that the artists build on the mystery of metamorphosis, since photography itself represents a unique alchemical and mystical transformation from form to form, from one (real) existence through a light-chemical interphase into another (imaginary, virtual) existence which, as the only post-reality becomes an esoteric transformer of one meaning into another, signifier and signified simultaneously. The artists present millennial condensed mental structures of humankind – profound interpretations of the imaginary, rationally invisible and imperceptible by normal faculties –in a specifically created visual context; they process, redesign and deliberately remodel photographs, using a series of new conceptual and technical methods.

In an inquisitive and substantial search for the cosmic truths and mysteries of the bipolarity of the creation of all the «existing that is» and the «non-existing that is not», Klonaris and Thomadaki (it is probably no coincidence that they come from the birthplace of European civilisation) – follow the classical obsession with the human body. The Yin-Yang duality-in-one could also be a reference for The Angel Cycle which emerges as the revelation of the visible bisexuality in one body, although this is invisibly present in every living organism, therefore also in the human. Fascinated with the sexual indeterminacy of the intersexual body, to which they attribute a political dimension, the artists enter into a layered depth structure of the photograph and its subject. They imprint in their work philosophical, scientific, sociological and anthropological breadths, while with additional techniques and media they vary it in unimaginable systems of open possibilities and design of semiological-symbolic meanings, thus conveying it from the micro-view to the macro-cosmic vision of an angel.

It is similar, too, with Siamese twins: as the subject/object of a photograph, enriched and deepened by the precept of the artistic «couple», the «double author», with additional conceptual-technical means (as denotations) and visual connotations, twins appear in provocative evocative forms with highly and precisely coded segments of the memory, they are reminiscent of our own duality, the duality of light and dark, of the alchemic formula of «two in one«, and not least, of human forgetfulness that light and shadow co-exist and condition each other, just as death is an integral part of life.

The hermaphroditic or "monstrous" beings, that have since time immemorial been present in iconography and in the consciousness and subconscious of people, have most often been the subject of the fear of God as well as various prejudices. Maria Klonaris and Katerina Thomadaki wrap them in an angelic aura, the divine agents of the «ecology of the spirit» of ordinary people and present them as signifiers of both social rupture and unrealised energy, possibly alluding that in the creation of humankind «all is still not completed» or «everything has already been many times» .The message of the multi-media artistic presentation of the profound and far-thinking artists Klonaris and Thomadaki signify sui generis original and inspired visions of angelic beings which are in accordance with almost all great world philosophies, critically reread through contemporary concerns.

Ancient eastern and Greek wisdom permeates every pore of still, moving or combined images and scenes of Klonaris and Thomadaki's impressive changing and metamorphic transformation of matrix images. In the visible pictorial and invisible supra--linguistic structures of these two creators is reflected the non-artificiality and sincerity of their conception of artistic activity. It is clear that they are integral and dedicated artists who base their message on the study of selected sources of knowledge, on their own life experiences and, what is most important, on first-rate creative inspiration as self-conscious part of unrealised cosmic energy which with its angelic harbingers succeeds in expressing itself through their own creative univers.

If it could just at least partially get through to «those who know how to sense, apprehend and seek» or responsibly consider our original past, unrecognised present and especially uncertain future.
Nina Pirnat-Spahic
Translated by Martin Cregeen

in Klonaris/Thomadaki. Stranger than Angel. Dissident Bodies. Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana 2002

Le Cycle de l'Ange (1985-2013) homepage
Stranger than Angel
The Angel Cycle

Photos: copyright Maria Klonaris/Katerina Thomadaki. 
Texts copyright: the writers