Eva Stamatiou

Architecture and photography are like communicating vessels in Eva Stamatiou’s work, having discovered a hard-to-find point of limbo balance between the two.

Eva Stamatiou

The leftovers of history are coming forth

Text: Yorgos Papadimitriou || Photographs: Eva Stamatiou's Archive
Eva Stamatiou
Eva Stamatiou

For the first time, within the framework of the 24th Thessaloniki PhotoBiennale, taking place from October 1st to February 20th 2022, Cultural Society is joining forces with MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography. The two institutions are hosting two exhibitions, in an attempt to give prominence to noteworthy works of debut photographers. The participants selected were Eva Stamatiou and Vassilis Pantelidis. Their submissions will be showcased in individual exhibitions as part of the Thessaloniki Photobiennale 2021, at the exhibition venues of Stereosis and ESP. In tandem with the Shop-Window Art Gallery of OTE, at the center of Thessaloniki, the audience will have the chance to get a first glimpse at Photobiennale within the following days, through the two artists’ distinctive works.

Architect Eva Stamatiou has delved into issues of representation, architecture theory and critical cartography. She is graduate of the Architecture School at AUTh’s Faculty of Engineering and in her work, she contemplates on the notion of ruins and fragments, as dialectic mechanisms of urban reshaping, as well as on the socio-special phenomena of freedom, otherness and transition. Blending cartography, in-situ research and theory approaches, she aims to reconstruct the existing space through the prism of architectural representation and photography, while bringing forth alternative ways of making use of the unexploited space.

Architecture and photography are like communicating vessels in Eva Stamatiou’s work. Having discovered a hard-to-find point of limbo balance between the two, it is as if she’s unveiling a new interpretation on their coexistence. Here’s what she has to say: “The bond between photography and architecture is inextricable, as well as endowed with a unique dynamics, as both enjoy a wide spectrum of implementation: ranging from a straightforwardly recording and instrumental aspect, all the way to the profoundly experimental, testing the spectator’s sense of perception. Therefore, their binding together may generate a wide gamut of results. As to the architecture background and the transition to photography, it could prove limiting if one gets entangled in the obvious connection. The key is to take advantage of both the tools offered by architecture (know-how, theory background, way of thinking etc.) and the liberties granted by photography (in terms of conception, aesthetics, point of view etc.) so that they can redefine and complement one another though a reciprocal approach.”

In her work, Ruins Reversed, Stamatiou is redefining the charter of urban landscape. Through inconsistencies, transfigurations, breaches and erections, she transforms urban space into an open archive, incessantly available for supplements, changes and losses. A constant seesaw between rebirth and self-destruction that ends up revising the very terms of human coexistence in this –far and foremost– mythological (in the Roland Barthes sense of the word) construction of the city. “In my work, unseen and inactive spaces of the modern city take center stage, through an aesthetic approach that mystifies and obfuscates the spectator, at least at first sight. The viewers are freed from any predisposed stance, so they come up with an unbiased interpretation, reconfiguring the (already “altered” by me) ruin through their own filters. I would go as far as to say that the whole process of redefining is the outcome of the meeting taking place between the work and each individual viewer.”

Human absence is silently howling in her work, almost as if stating its presence under an invisible cloak. She goes to explain: “From my part, I strived to depict the poetic and transformative dimension of marginalized spaces, highlight their dynamics. I attempt to give shape to abstract notions, such as the correlation between the imaginary and urban decay. The extract of the image and the fragment are my bedrock, as I approach decay in digital terms. My work is elaborating on the emptiness depicted, but does not try to fill the void with human presence. On the contrary, it aims at pushing it to the far extremes of imagination and doubt – at least that was my goal. For this reason, many have detected affinities with another form of archeology, the futuristic vision of the void city, in a post-Apocalyptic manner.”

In most of her pictures, the city’s edifices are under camouflage, like discreet ghosts surviving in an otherworldly environment. Is photography a method to rewrite human history from scratch? “It is certainly a way to take a different look at our history, with a more critical attitude. Photography can bring muffled stories to light. In my work, I consciously decided not to focus on historical ruins and archeological findings, which tend to be unconditionally idealized, express a certain cluster of ideals and shape our individual and collective identity to a large extent. On the contrary, I opted to make a case for the urban “leftover”, capturing the momentum in Greek history, but also reflecting a crisis both financial and in terms of moral values. During my work, I often turned for inspiration to Walter Benjamin’s theories, as he detects the rock solid truth of history in all the threatened, discarded and ridiculed products of the creative mind. As he points out, all “history’s trash”, all petty fragments of historical experience, away from the center of attention, have the power to install pauses in the historical continuum and trigger a shock in our prefabricated conception of the present. When I come to think of it, that was my approach on the architectural “trash” of the city, as dynamic fields (and pauses) of self-reflection,” she concludes.