Freedom of Movement, 2018, Moria camp
Here I am, making another, bound to fail, attempt to position myself in a world characterized by mobility, liquidity, and speed, not the celebratory ones in which people, products, and ideas flow nicely as elaborated in the globalization studies mantra. The other one, in which you find yourself bumping awkwardly against walls, borders, fences, defenses, and hegemonic attitudes all the time. This is why I find it difficult to position myself, but for sure I know which side I am on. So, perhaps it is much more relevant to clarify this: I’m side by side with the ones who resist and revolt against dominant narratives, who fail and then join the collective depression, before they realize that they have to make room for queer failures and utopias, and, perhaps, then find the ways to resist again. At this very moment I’m struggling to make space again for hope and new utopias. Perhaps this is the most honest justification of the photographic workshop, accompanied by my training and my belief that, sometimes, theory has the capacity to dismantle and provoke certain reactions. Photographs have the capacity to capture the untold, the unspeakable, the untranslatable, all those delicate performances that are not registered in speech. Photography adds an invaluable layer to our logocentric qualitative data collection mechanisms. Perhaps this is another reason to use the medium of photography in order to invoke the soft, daily, omnipresent affects of crisis and the things yet to come. To quote Ursula Le Guin,
You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy Utopia. You cannot make Utopia. You can only be the Utopia. Utopia is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all or it is nothing. If it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin. We can’t stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks.
So, utopia is a transforming force that plays with the limits of the human. Yet, as Susan Sontag says “humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato’s cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth.” In this sense, most utopias are like photographs, offering glimpses at a moment or time that portrays the desirable outcomes of the utopian imagination. Utopia is a representation, evincing that which is not in itself present (this is the first meaning of the word “representation”, its theatrical or politico-moral meaning); specifically, it puts on display and makes present the impossible itself. Yet, to return to Plato’s cave, what limits and constitutes our understanding of utopian representations is the position of the guards.
Movement, 2018, Moria camp
Extract from research diary published in: Tsilimpounidi, Myrto & Carastathis, Anna (forthcoming) ‘Facing Crisis: Queer Representations against the backdrop of Athens’, in Eithne, L. & Karma, C. (eds.) Queer Migrations 2: Illegalization, Detention, and Deportation. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
Susan Sontag (1973) On Photography. New York: Penguin.
Ursula Le Guin (1974) The Dispossessed. London: Millenium.
photos by: Myrto Tsilimpounidi