Haris Epaminonda

Rodeo | Istanbul

The work of Haris Epaminonda consists primarily of found material. Her early videos are excerpts from Egyptian soap operas and fragments from Greek films. Her objects are relics from antique dealers and curiosities from flea-market stalls. Her images are pages from antiquarian books that have been carefully cropped, photographed, or used as the base layer of lacelike collages. The work hums with the nostalgia surrounding such archaic stuff. Here, framed images, found sculptures, custom-made plinths, a low-slung wooden table, a glass-topped box with a book inside, an earthenware bowl, a lump of rock perched on an antique scale, and a swath of fabric laid on the floor beneath a spread of diminutive, bone-colored objects served as the focal point for the Berlin-based Cypriot’s first show in Istanbul. The installation, Untitled #07 l/g (all works 2009), created an intriguing tableau. On one hand, the arrangement was meticulous and austere, with everything carefully stacked against the back wall of an otherwise empty gallery. On the other, it was strangely emotive—one of the figurines, for instance, appeared to be coyly hiding behind rather than sitting atop its plinth. This tendency to endow inanimate objects with feeling echoed elsewhere in the show. Shielded by a large gray slab, another figurine, Untitled #03 l/g, placed before a slightly elevated picture like a viewer entranced by a masterpiece in a museum, seemed to be ruminating on a scene from antiquity. Nearby, Untitled #04 l/g, a thin wooden frame with four tiny legs, wrapped around the base of one of the gallery’s imposing square columns, as if it were embracing the building’s architectural support.

The show was called “Vol. IV,” after an exhibition Epaminonda staged at the Malmö Konsthall in Sweden in the spring of 2009, “Vol. I, II & III.” The first of those “volumes” was a mysterious set of Polaroids depicting plants, animals, landscapes, ruins, tribes, riverboats, rock formations, and more. All of the photographs are of pages from books and magazines that clearly concern anthropology, ethnography, travel, or art history. But Epaminonda strips away the context to create chains of association and patterns of meaning that operate outside any specific temporal or cultural references. “Vol. IV” included no Polaroids; instead, the series’ organizational principle was transposed to book pages—framed, paired, or arranged in triptychs—showing lush waterfalls, a leopard, or an archaeological site. One page carried no image at all but rather a short text, provenance undisclosed, about a carpet. These images and isolated forms conversed in a barely decipherable yet evocative language of gestures, connections, and clues. Holding everything together, both literally and figuratively, were the supports: Epaminonda placed as much emphasis on frames, pedestals, and plinths as on objects and images. This is where the work was most affecting, in the crafting of special encasings and enclosures, the idea of giving shelter to a collection of lost, discarded, and dissociated things.

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie