George Hadjimichalis

Epikentro Contemporary Art Center

George Hadjimichalis’ forte is his perfect orchestration of installation, painting, and a conceptual approach. His most recent installation, Interpretation of Points on the Opposite Side, 1994, was comprised of three parts: two very large paintings hung on opposite walls and a long, narrow, glass-topped display cabinet stretched across the width of the gallery, bridging the paintings. One almost completely black painting, with a slightly raised surface, depicted a map of an imaginary seaport. The painting opposite was a smooth gray/black square and represented an enormous celestial chart on which were recorded the phases and position of the moon in the sky in 1889. Finally, the display cabinet introduced a human element: arranged within it were about 850 black and white photographic portraits and a sheet of paper listing the names and occupations of about 400 people who lived in Asia Minor during the last century.

It appears then, that the points on the opposite side are, in spatial terms, a geographic reference pointing to the other side of the Aegean Sea, namely, ancient Ionia, latterday Anatolia and present-day Turkey. In historico-temporal terms, from Homer’s time until 1922—when the Greeks were forced into exile—it was a region that culturally and linguistically formed part of the greater Greek world. So, the fictive port is read as Smyrna/Anatolia, and the celestial chart as a poignantly nostalgic, autobiographical, if not ethnic, reference to the time when the Greek spirit was alive on the opposite shore.

In the installation, the spatial and temporal elements are fictional. The only direct connection to reality is provided by the photographs, which are pictures of real, though unidentified, people. The historical grounding of place lends his work a certain conceptual status. It could be debated that to activate the conceptual aspects better, instead of the photographs Hadjimichalis could have presented only a list of written names. A counterargument holds that the photographs are the only element rooted in reality; that only with this key can one read the spatial and temporal signs, since the photographs impart vital information about place and time. In addition, these emotionally charged pictures imbue the installation with a concreteness that, no doubt, would be lacking in a long and rather more funereal list of names.

Catherine Cafopoulos