Critics’ Picks

Nicosia

“The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory”

Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (NiMAC)
19, Palias Ilektrikis
February 17 - April 14

The first iteration of “The Presence of Absence, or the Catastrophe Theory,” curated by Cathryn Drake, was shown in 2016 at Izolyatsia in Kiev, where the art space moved from Donetsk after the Russian occupation of the city in 2014. Nicosia, the world’s last divided capital, seems a fitting site for an expanded version of that exhibition, in which the notion of place proved to be never secure. That Cyprus is currently experiencing an unusual artistic renaissance, with a proliferation of largely artist-run initiatives blooming across the small island in spite of its highly complicated 1974 division into the Turkish-supported northern and the now EU-endorsed southern regions—not to mention the effects of the 2012–13 financial crisis that the country still has not fully recovered from—further enriches the exhibition’s context.

Eleni Phyla’s installation Move So That I Can Hear, 2015, responds directly to local issues: radios tuned to stations from both the Greek and Turkish sides of the island have been installed along a hallway together with hidden sensors that respond to visitors’ movements; a sense of dislocation is the result, as one can never be sure which position in the gallery will trigger which audio stream. In a series of photographs and videos that are part of “The Empire Is Perishing; the Bands Are Playing,” 2016–18, Efi Savvides turns her attention to a third group of Cyprus residents, those stateless refugees who have arrived on the island and been denied citizenship, effectively stranding them there. Vicky Pericleous’s A Minimum of Visible World, 2018, revisits a 1940 short story by Jorge Luis Borges about found shelter, “The Circular Ruins,” in the context of the ruin of a Turkish Cypriot village—which its residents were forced to abandon in the 1970s—reconstructed here in ceramics and represented via a video projection of CCTV footage from the site’s surroundings. Throughout, the bricolage sculptures of Savvas Christodoulides, built mainly with materials salvaged from regional junk and antique shops, provide a punctuation to the exhibition’s syntax, which, like a long poem, is rife with connective resonances among the works by Cypriot, Greek, Albanian, and Turkish artists.