Cyprus in Your Heart*

by Maria Stathi

Savvas Christodoulides, Stain

Savvas Christodoulides, Stain, 2010
Cyprus map, ink, 85 x 116 cm
Courtesy of Nicos Chr. Pattichis Collection | Cyprus Contemporary Art Museum, Nicosia

Did Cypriots wake up on March 16, 2013, from a self-indulgent dream, or did they fall asleep to the most cold-blooded nightmare? For two weeks Cyprus made headlines throughout the world—Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes.[1] This fame alone, for such a small and rather unknown island, makes it—unluckily for Cyprus—a worthy case to be looked at.
Cyprus has struggled to come out of a turbulent history that left it entrapped by terms and cultural references, many of which are politically ambiguous—south side, north side, this side, that side—in an attempt to find a language to deal with the trauma of its prolonged division along the UN monitored green line.
Despite the island’s recent turbulent history, Cypriots were able to capitalise on its idyllic climate, rich cultural heritage, and low tax system to attract not only tourists but foreign depositors and businesses. For the past two decades Cyprus was able to show remarkable levels of development and prosperity. A recent discovery of significant quantities of natural gas in the Aphrodite offshore field added more brightness to this side of the Mediterranean.
But not everything was plain sailing. The close relationship with Greece and the eagerness of Cypriot banks to invest heavily in the Greek economy left Cyprus with heavy losses in its banking sector. Concerned voices were heard but no concrete action was taken in time to avert the perfect storm, let alone “the economic tsunami,” as Yangos Hadjiyannis describes it, that took everything in its path. Hadjiyannis asks whether Cypriots should be treated as victims of a financial tsunami or of overambitious and corrupt ‘myopes’.
It seems that Cyprus’s unravelling economic order, along with Europe’s uncertain political path, has given birth to new ways of perceiving the island. Cyprus was considered as being on the eastern side of Europe; now it has become southernised. A question that may therefore emerge with respect to the political and cultural territory formulated over the past few years in the geographical landscape of the Euro-crisis is:
Has Cyprus gone too south for Europe, or is Europe too north for Cyprus?
Marios Eliades critically questions Europe’s attitude towards Cyprus and the impact of the measures taken with regard to Europe’s future.
Maria Panteli wonders “Who are we now?” and questions how the crisis is shaping our perception of being both Cypriot and European.
Vicky Pericleous’ “Kypris Anadyomene” reflects on her work’s persistent interest in the idea of in-betweenness; where the image itself forms “a passage where reality meets with fantasy of the exotic and hi-story becomes a space claimed by multiple and diverse authorities within a postcolonial geography. The image itself takes on an idle stance. It is simulated and at the same time monumentalised by its stillness. It suggests the possibility of a narrative or narratives that could be re-produced and re-arranged again and again or merely collapse.”[2] Savvas Christodoulides’ works “are solid manifestations of a universe full of hovering meanings and fluid open relationships (between subjects and objects, objects and representations, content and narrative, human and nonhuman agents) […] His works are not ‘sociological’ and they do not claim a pedigree of activism (not even in a work like Stain, which clearly includes a map of Cyprus). [… They] act like short films or short stories, docufictions that do not compress but rather distil data and turn the relationship between life and memory inside out. These works are monumentally contingent, Spartan, somehow joyously melancholic, unsentimental, and they provoke a terrible itch: they almost dare the viewer to step in to arrange them (straighten their awkward, even monstrous limbs), reactivate them in real time, destroy and remake their form, alter their strange sequences.”[3]

The text and images that follow propose a critical dialogue and negotiate the current condition of Cyprus in relation to the wider European condition, through a polyphony of local voices.

* The title is from the official campaign logo of the Cyprus Tourist Organisation.

1. Cyprus’s crisis have been extensively analysed in the international press. Examples are: “Why Cyprus matters to your investment portfolio”, Forbes, 02/04/2013, “Cyprus was hardly the innocent victim”, Financial Times, 31/03/2013, “Cyprus fears for ‘lost generation’”, Financial Times, 29/03/2013, “Cyprus finds not all nations are equal”, Financial Times 27/03/2013, “Greek Bets Sank Cyprus’s Top Lenders”, Wall Street Journal, 27/03/2013.
2. Vicky Pericleous, text from artist’s statement (artist’s website, online).
3. Nadja Argyropoulou, “Thinking. Things. Through.”, text from the catalogue Savvas Christodoulides – Works and Days of Hands, Cube Art Editions, Athens, 2012.

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