notes on the exhibition of Vangelis Vlahos in alphabetical order, 2008

What is revealed about human thought by manners of excavation and uncovering?  Are we trying to remember something?  Or are we looking for something which we have never known?  Are places and phenomena revealed on the socio-political level which may be applied to the current situation?  Are we creating a conceptual construction of the past tied to current political discourse?  Is the use of the document an instrument of objectification or rather an instrument of its ideological appropriation?

An invisible structure, a network of spatial relationships materialized into representations of power.

An archive is the territory of images.  The expanse of such territory is demarcated by its ownership.  The potential of every archive changes over the course of time.  Appropriation and selection is an act of power.
Power and its influence spilling forth may be a weapon of aggression or simply waste.

Like every desperate act it embodies comic elements.  In all tragedy is the allure of the unwanted.  A small detail which overshadows its political efficacy.

Define two systems for constructing atlases
1. Placing individual atlas items on individual pages in series.  Reading and browsing takes place over time.
2. Placing individual atlas items next to each other.  Reading and browsing encompasses a single view.  This changes the narrative architecture.  A story or a map.

Who is an author?

Authority of an archive
The authority of an archive stems from its nature as a given.  This notion is founded in the belief that it cannot be changed.  And what we purportedly cannot manipulate appears to be more objective.

Construction I
Looking through the construction gives the impression of a grid, of some kind of structure.  We cannot see the true structure which holds the construction together, but merely the presumed one, which is our projection.

Construction II.
The goal of construction is not to find an ideal structure, but to create a representation for empty receptacles.

Construction III.
The intersection of the horizontal and vertical.  Perfect integration.  Commerce and ideology.  The concept of Manhattan fused with the European concept of the ideal functional machine.

Construction IV.
An embassy built in the international modernist style, menacingly amplified.

When we think about the past and its relationship to the present, we seek out points and lines for orientation in a given field.  We cannot throw away what we ourselves represent.  Our ideological framework is projected onto things which stand out from the past.  Even if we try to get around it, we run into the same problem, the continued presence of our own construction.  Where should we begin?

The cult of subjective experience

If we speak of the concept of contemporary discourse and attempt to describe it, then this is either as fragments or as a whole.  In the first case this concerns the democratic rule of discourse, we seek out the proper discourse and none are predominant.  In the second case we are dealing with the dominant paradigm, which we must attempt to break down.

In an ideological conflict there is nowhere to flee.  The only option is to create a mixture of ideologies.

An event is that which can be depicted.  In today’s world, event’s which do not have their own visual representation do not exist.

Found objects
When we find something, were we searching for it before or did we suddenly find it?
Do we have to look for something to find it?  Or is it enough to wait and let it find itself?

A mirror does not reflect us; it reflects an object and amplifies it, creating a monster, threatening in its power.

A model is and is not a simplification of a preliminary image or real object.  It introduces complications.  Paring down all elements into basic modules of depiction produces uncertainty.  It forces us to provide our own content up to the limits of meaning and to decide what is most important.  A model is an open structure intended to limit oversimplification.

The myth of objective truth

The past is a construct of the present.  Its appearance maybe expanded, suppressed or changed.  The past may be depicted in history.  History is a positivist instrument for telling a story.

A fundamental characteristic of archives is the hidden potential for combining power and knowledge.

The concept of the radical diffuses with any gathering degree of danger.  Provided there is no struggle over the conception of truth, the plurality of its truths should be protected against dangers from without.  We no longer have the truth.

The only justifiable act is revolt.  To change the existing state.  Provided it cannot be sold.

Let us suppose that all texts, images and sounds which share in the explication of the world are ruins.  This metaphor shows that the blending, use and parasitic relationships of individual items create new temporal wholes, which in turn also become ruins, the ruins of which will be used as well.

If we select from an archive which regularly appears to be a neutral catalog of things, we often fall under the impression that our selection is objective because we are not adding any additional interpretive layer.  The truth however is that the archive itself is from the beginning built and influenced by both change and purpose.  Those who select from the archive create an additional sieve of interpretation.

Swiss Air
Above a simple bed in a very sparsely furnished room hangs a photograph of Red Square with a small Swiss Air logo.

A respectable man holds a knife above his head.  No one is able to debone the system, it is enough to tighten down the screws on everyone and punish them all in the name of their protection.

Text is an image. Text is not read, but viewed.

The use of archives and documents without listing the source is considered impermissible manipulation.  At the moment their source is acknowledged their interpretation become credible and objectifying.

Viewer I
Exposing the viewer to a heterogeneous set of texts and images makes him disoriented.  The viewer eventually identifies with the technical apparatus, with the authoritative institution of the document.

Viewer II.
Distance is required of the viewer.  In no case may he identify with archive documents.  Documents and their representation are always presented so as to foster abstraction in the perception of the viewer.  This allows the esthetic contract between the viewer and author to be maintained.  Conversely, viewer identification with the author’s interpretation can be expected to yield emotional or political participation.

The body and its parts

text fragments, 2009

Names of lines:

In the beginning there was the Word, and that Word was from God. The Word was God. And the Word became flesh and resided among us.

The Corridor
The corridor was not long, it looked shorter, he hadn’t expected it. He had a strange sense as if it narrowed unnaturally, as if a person intending to pass through it would have to narrow too. As if he’d have to crawl through the doors at the hall’s end. He imagined taking great efforts to crawl through the ever narrowing doors, and when he was on the other side and slowly pulling through his legs, he’d realise that he couldn’t pull them through. He’d get one through and then the other with difficulty, but without the shoe, it would fall with a bang on the spot where he first stood. He rubbed his eyes. The wall was flaking, the fresco was almost no longer legible, only the corridor was clearly visible and continued to seem to strangely narrow. He was here just last year – it’s got to be here. He stood on the same place and thought about the same corridor. The only difference was that the door used to have a handle, now there’s peeling plaster.

The Pipe Gallery
The body lay in the wider part of the pipe gallery. Somewhere in back, water from a cracked pipe dripped irregularly into a puddle below it.

The spoon wasn’t at all visible in the soup. She blankly stared at the worn little bear on the end of the spoon. The little bear was covered with a pattern of a greasy print made when she’d first cut off a piece of butter and slowly brought it over on a knife to the soup. With her forefinger and thumb she tried to wipe away the remnants, but then wiped it on the tip of a table cloth under the table. She smelt the stench of smoke from her clothes, it made her uneasy. Her gaze fell on her hand resting on her table by the plate, it was shaking slightly. She saw her bitten nails. Her gaze rested on her pinkie which was strangely stretched and turned from the palm. She slowly followed the direction it was pointing. The line ran across the table cloth, through a half-empty glass, through the back of a chair, along the edge of a cabinet, through both glass panes and flew right to the house across the way. Her gaze stopped at a car rear-view mirror screwed to the house’s window lining. It was turned so that the people residing in the apartment could see the entrance.

The Slide
The lecture was relatively boring. The theme that the lecturer had chosen wasn’t in itself uninteresting, but the way in which he spoke was soporific. Most people in the audience were thinking of something else; thoughts ran away from them and no one paid attention to the monotone voice. The lecturer was certainly aware of this and he detachedly moved the talk along. He was the sole listener. “A good example of this construction is this portal in Florence. Wait a second, let me advance the slide…” He leaned across the cathedral to the slide projector and advanced the slide with his hand. There appeared an old daguerreotype of a kind of wall with a small wooden gate. A man leaned on the wall next to the gate. He looked like a tramp or a beggar. He had on an old soldier cap pushed back from his forehead and held a pipe in his left hand by his mouth. It looked like he didn’t have a right arm. The arm’s invisibility was probably caused by the long exposure time, during which the man kept lifting it to his head. “Wait a second, that’s not the right picture, sorry. I guess one of my colleague’s pictures got mixed up with mine. He slowly moved the slide and took it out of the projector. He took another from the box, pushed his glasses up on his forehead and held it to the lamp’s light. “This should be the right one”. He inserted it into the projector. “This portal is unique and you’ll certainly recall many of its derivatives. By the way, this building also has a similar one, of course…” There appeared on the screen an old daguerreotype of some wall with a small wooden gate. A man leaned on the wall next to the gate. He looked like a tramp or a beggar. He had on an old soldier cap pushed back from his forehead and held a pipe at his mouth. It looked like he didn’t have a right arm. The arm’s invisibility was probably caused by the long exposure time, during which the man kept lifting it to his head.

The Puddle
The puddle under the corpse has darkened over the past few days. Fluids have run out of the inflamed orifices in the body. Dark blue has mixed with turquoise and it has spiralled in the puddle with brown.

The nurse unwound the bandage from the youth’s palm. The doctor sat on a turning wooden stool and wrote something. “So let’s take a look at it” he said to the table. “Ready?” he asked the nurse. He turned on the stool to the youth. “What’s your name?” “V.F.” blurted the youth after a long pause of his dry throat. At that moment he had his palm turned to face his face and with feigned surprise observed the purple stain on his otherwise fully white hand. The doctor took his fingers and turned the palm so he could see it. “It’s not healing” he said to the fingers.” In the meantime the nurse went to the next room and looked for something in the file cabinet. “I know why,” the doctor went on whispering to the fingers. Whenever it begins to heal, you pull the thumb away from the palm and reopen the wound”. The youth didn’t say a word. “Another two weeks, I can’t cover for you any longer. They’d come for me from the patient commission. You’re sabotaging yourself!”  He was now only speaking to the thumb. “How did you do it, anyways? With a chisel?” “One guy from our unit…, with a hammer” whispered the youth to the doctor’s ear. The nurse returned from the file cabinet. “So 14 more days of rest,” the doctor said to the thumb.

It seemed funny to me at the time when our janitor wasn’t able to stuff the kitten in the bag. When he’d throw one in, two would escape. It was amusing to watch him. I don’t think I was aware of what he wanted to do with the bag. Everything in me froze the moment he smashed the bag full of kittens against the wall. “That’s better,” he said and looked at me maliciously. I turned away. I wanted to run away but I couldn’t move… Why do these old memories keep coming back? Old age is a disgusting thing. The guy lying across from me is repulsive; he wheezes and doesn’t speak. Why do I have to be the one to share a room with him. If he’d only turn over on his other side and not stare at me that way. I’ll tell the nurse… But she’ll just ignore me anyways.

Why doesn’t anyone visit him; no one could give a fuck about him.  I feel like an idiot. As if I’d do it for some appreciation. My conscience purrs like a cat. Where’s that room? Number eight, over there. “Hey”. Jesus, he looks like…like death. “Hello”, the fat guy across the way doesn’t look good either. He doesn’t react. “So how’s it going?” When they letting you leave?

It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d be alone like this. Somehow it doesn’t work anymore. This is death? Strange. Why does it hurt so much? And where is M.? Why didn’t she come? For God’s sake it’s fast. She doesn’t know where I put those pickles. I have to write it to her: pickles. She doesn’t even know where I put the  savings account book.  Pencil, paper, I’ll manage it in time. I can’t go on – I won’t manage it in time anymore. Why do I have to die with this old wanker lying across from me. I don’t want to look at him. I’ll turn around. I can’t even do that for fuck sake. It hurts. And to make matters worse he’s got a visitor. Why does someone visit him and not me. I don’t want any. Mommy? Where is everyone? Why aren’t you here? Why now? Why do I have to see the back of some boy talking with a nasty old bugger?  Please open the window.

Hey, who’s that? Right, it’s K. “Hi, did you come to look at the old guy?” Wait a minute. I’ll sit up. Ow, that hurts. “Take a seat… Don’t mind that one – he’s been gaping and wheezing for two days now”. Wait, I’ll sit up. “I can’t stand it here – I want out… So, what’s up with you?”

What should I say to him? He looks a lot worse. I’ll end up like that too. “How’s the food here?…I said ‘How’s the food here.’
“that guy’s really wheezing bad, shouldn’t I call a doctor? I’ll have a look at him

Up on our hill…How did that go…Oh yeah! Why am I singing? I want a priest! I’m seventy years old and I’m talking to myself here like a little boy. I wasn’t even able to finish the kitchen here. I should have bought the hinges instead of doing them myself. I could have had it done by now and wouldn’t have to think about it now not being finished. Where the hell is M.? She won’t make it in time to see me…And I no longer have it in me to tell her off…my golden girl.  The things we went through together…What am I blabbering about. I cheated on her. I shouldn’t have done it with O. that time…What’s that? The back of the boy who just came in. I’m in the hospital after all. And what now? A corridor? A tunnel? Purgatory? The boy’s back again.

”And the stuff they feed you here. Not even edible.”

“I’m gonna go look at room eight to see if by chance that old guy hasn’t kicked the bucket yet.” If he has, that’s one less worry. Hopefully the same thing isn’t in store for dad. I wouldn’t be able to stand that. I wish that guy would go ahead and die. I shouldn’t think that, but the guy is just suffering here. “Hello”. Ahh, a visitor…, so somebody came to see him after all. Probably a grandson. Well I’ll be. The other one really died. I’ll take him away from here. They didn’t even notice that he died… they just babble away. What would I tell them. I’ll release the brakes and put him out in the hall. Now just to fill out some papers and home sweet home.

The test
A tired man sat behind a desk and spoke to students unenthusiastically about something. One student of the students then spoke up: “Mr. Professor, what you’re saying is complete nonsense. It goes against any common sense.” The professor took off his glasses with alarm and set them on a pile of notebooks.  “I no longer expected this,” he said slowly. “But I’ve waited for this moment for fourteen years. Yes, once I said the same thing as you just did and my punishment was to substitute for my former professor. He was seventy years old at the time. So be my guest to begin. Take these glasses and you can begin tomorrow. Lots of luck.” The student silently watched the professor.

The director closed the door to his house and set out through the town to his office. He had to cross six or so streets. He first turned right, then to the right, then back to the right and then kept going to his office. Before the final turn a friend stopped him and wanted to have a word with him. The director threw up his hands, backed away and kept repeating: “I’ve got a hell of a lot of work. Yesterday I left the office after midnight…that’s right, I’m completely inundated with work. So many things to do. I’ve got an enormous responsibility and don’t have time for anything else. So many people have put their trust in me. I can’t disappoint them.” And with that he made it to the steps, turned on his heels and ran up to the glass doors. His friend watched him until the lock clicked behind the director. The director’s snickering face could be seen behind the doors’ glass panes.

Scientists tested out-of-body perception
We were interested in the classical question that philosophers and psychologists have been debated for centuries.
Why do we think that our “me” is in our bodies? In order to study it, we scientifically used tricks and illusions. Eighty-seven volunteers took part in the experiment, whose results were published in the professional magazine PloS. With the help of virtual reality glasses they could shake hands with themselves or experience a kitchen knife being stabbed into their stomachs. Along with the special glasses, mannequins also played an important role. These were captured by video and the picture was transferred to the glasses. The result was that one felt like he had left his own body. People saw themselves from the point of view of another person or gazed into their own the faces. When we then jabbed, for instance, a knife into a mannequin, the illusion of a person’s transfer was perfect.

Punctured stomach
I remember it very clearly. Even after all these years, I know exactly where that stick was. Somewhere between the intestine and stomach. The story itself is nothing special. Once when I was young boy I was climbing a nut tree. I tried to climb as high as I could, but it wasn’t easy. The branches were thin and started low to the ground. Their ends pointed straight up, about six meters high. I wanted to climb as high as I could and then use my weight to bend the branch all the way to the ground. I don’t remember what I had in store for the bent branch. A catapult, perhaps? I was about four meters high. My method of climbing – as if I was climbing up a chimney, began to slowly fail me. The higher I went, the greater the angle opened up between the branches on both of which I rested one foot. My hands held on to other branches, and they too began to open. Suddenly the branches pulled forcefully together so that they could fling out away from each other with the same strength. My feet slipped away and my arms couldn’t bear the weight of my body. I fell down belly first straight into a broken stick, branch which had served as an excellent starting point for my climb up.

The ornament turned around the inner oblong surface. It was literally glued to it. The ornament’s various fibres split apart and increased in mass. It created the impression that at any time they would abandon the safe edge of the rectangle and spill outwards. On closer inspection, however, there appear small signs that the ornament is merely expanding. Not to the side of the rectangle, but to its depth. As if the rectangle was only the front side of a long block overgrown with branches swaying with threads spreading out to infinity. To prove this only takes putting a mirror in front of an oblong.  Even if it’s turned the other way, the inside of the block appears through a strange effect of gravity to be turning around the corner to infinity.

Rubber boot and leg
The bombing was the heaviest for the last few hours. Their heads were droning and they had the feeling that they weren’t even alive anymore. They gradually began to come out from under cover even when a constant thunder was heard and it was raining mortar and brick with the same intensity as the hour before. Dawn was breaking outside, and the cityscape was strangely transformed. They felt as if they were out in the country. The road was clear, except for a stone or board here and there. In the middle of the road stood a rubber boot with a leg sticking out of it.

Shoulder flesh and part of a joint
The book began with these words: Shoulder flesh and part of a joint. That’s not a good start to a book, I said to myself. Nevertheless, I wanted to continue. Actually, I had a different reason to continue it. My friend had written it, and I’d promised him that as the first reader, I’d give him my honest opinion of it. After reading the first sentence I honestly felt that it was going to be completely pathetic. Instead of continuing, I took the whole stack of printed A4 standard pages and squeezed them between my thumb and forefinger. Six centimetres. I quickly leafed through a few pages: At least they were only one-sided. I put the entire stack down on a table. I stared at the title page for a while It wasn’t even a good title. But something kept telling me that it was well written, even exceptionally so. I just didn’t have any desire to launch into it. I recalled an old book I’d once seen on my grandmother’s bookshelf. I’d had the feeling that it was a book that I should read even though nobody had probably read it for a hundred years. I’d felt sorry for it. It wasn’t enough to make me read it, but whenever I passed by my grandmother’s bookshelves, it would pull at my heart. I even feel sorry for this freshly written books. I imagine the author writing chapter after chapter late, night after night… I should have started right in on reading it, but it’s too late. I have a prevailing disgust for it – I’m filled with loathing for it.  This isn’t a case of rage redirected at the book or author; it’s rage redirected at the reader – me. I don’t ever want to read anything again.

The social body
The engineer sat in the small room covered with roughly shaped boards. The crevices between them were covered with glued newspaper. The window had broken glass panes and had been hastily covered with a plastic bag. A small lamp was needed for to read what he’d written in the thick book. With a plastic ruler he drew a few columns with a blue ballpoint pen to the lined paper. His expression was glum, his eyes fiery.  He’d evidently not slept for a few days.
He wrote the last word on the row, lifted his head and announced: “Next!”. After a while the door opened and a dishevelled man in a dirty green windbreaker with the faded words “hyundai logistic” came in. He came up to the table and silently waited. The engineer leafed through the thick book for a while and then went back to the place he’d left off at. He glanced up indifferently at the man and asked: “How long have you been working with us?” The man looked to be giving the question thought and then drudgingly answered: “Seventeen months, minus two days.” And have you been home during that time? No?” asked the engineer quickly and answered his own question in watching the man’s motionless face “You’re probably really looking forward to getting home, aren’t you?” My wife will be happy, the children are growing up pretty quickly. Now’s the time to enjoy them before they head out into the world.” The man gazed at nothing and didn’t react. The engineer went on: “So I’m glad we’ve reached an understanding. Put the pick back in storage, the mess tin back in the kitchen and say hello to your family from me. The man kept staring into space about 15 centimetres in front of him.  “Well, what are you waiting for? Get out of here. You should be thankful that I’m not going to ask you to pay the debt for accommodation and food. Take advantage of my good mood today and scram.” The man remained still, but now his gaze was only 5 centimetres in front of him. “Get out of here before I change my mind! yelled the engineer and pounded his fist on the table. The man refocused his gaze to about a metre in front, silently turned and went outside. The engineer watched him for a moment and then mumbled to himself: “People today. I’m amiable to them and they’re not even grateful. Scum of the earth.

Cotton wool
They say that he’s mentally retarded. From the time he was born his mother would have to swallow the lump in her throat when looking at him. But he knew nothing about that. His mind was then still asleep and rolled around in a cottony fog fanned by the cold or heat. Quite often someone started to cry, he didn’t realise that it was he who was crying.  And that still happens today. Until the cold and heat alternated the spine-chilling night mares. And then there was the pain. Mainly pain that became part of his life and not even he knew where it originated. A lump of feelings whose sole point of orientation was the cotton wool and warm light. That lasted twenty-two years before he died. They stowed away his urn at the institution and again wrote to ask his mother if she wouldn’t like to pick it up.

Before Josef Kocourek died, he wrote a novel which features a short passage about a weaver who wove his body into a loom. I barely remember it. Here’s a reconstruction of the passage: The place was desolate. It was no secret that the villagers were very poor. In a small room with a low ceiling there stood a small wooden table, a bench, a corner stove and a weaver’s loom in the middle. The thin man using it worked several hours without a break. It was already dark, a small lamp shone from the ceiling, but it was the moon that illuminated the machine and working man. His head and the loom had an ash-gray colour in the moonlight. The man’s limbs looked like part of the machine. The entire loom shook under the impacts of the frames shifting rhythmically from back to front. The material that was created in rows was slowly stored at the foot of the machine.  The spool with the thread was almost empty. Desperation was mirrored in the man’s eyes. He thought of his children who were at the moment sleeping in the attic, and was filled with remorse for them. He knew that he had to keep working for he had no other choice. The machine changed its sound and ran on empty for a while.
Or maybe it was like this: A machine powered by the emaciated limbs of a man was seen in the moonlight. The spool was already nearly empty, but the man didn’t notice. Deftly with his left hand, without the right hand moving from the loom and stopping it, he tied a thin strand of his own skin to the end of the thread. It weakly hissed when the shuttle pulled the thread and then it flew back and forth and unravelled the man’s body. The machine then slowed since the unwinding of the thread from the tissue was not as fast as when it first unwound from the spool. The machine worked till morning. In the morning the children found the loom covered in blood.
Or maybe it was like this: In the morning the children didn’t find their father at the loom. They looked in bewilderment at the loom and empty place in front of it.

28.1.2009 09:16, 28.1.2009 09:19 Updated
The torso of a human body without limbs and a head was found on Tuesday just after 5 pm by a hunter in the forest in Všeruby na Domažlicku. The place was covered with blood. Remnants of the body were wrapped up in a plastic bag. The bag was found in the middle of the path. The hunter though that there was a dead animal in it. He found the body when he went to the forest  with his children to add feed to the feeder. But the thirty-five year old man didn’t want to talk too much about what he’d found. He said that he’d heard a car drive away when he’d found the bag. “But I didn’t see it,” he told the daily Právo. He’d told his friends that when he’d found the bloody bag he’d thought that someone had thrown a killed dog there. Which is why he’d cut open the bag…to see for himself what was inside. Information on the horrible discovery was confirmed by police officer Jaromír Kníže. The exact cause of death must be determined by an autopsy. According to Práva’s information, the body was that of a robust man. The body was allegedly two or three days old when it was found. The police still don’t know the whereabouts of the head and limbs. One theory is that they may have been thrown out in Bavaria.