2015 | Dec
In an earlier publication on Anafiotika, a settlement on the foothills of the Acropolis, I had argued that some non-textual means of representing space, such as certain maps and tour guides, express a power relationship aligned to that of texts, stigmatizing and marginalising that settlement (Kaftantzoglou 2001, 139-146). Those representations “misinterpret” an area that is full of life, by removing the key component of the long presence of its inhabitants and the meanings these people assign to the place they live in. Therefore, these non-textual means can be viewed as products and instruments of the hegemonic “monument-centered” perception of this location, in the same way as texts. Indeed, a parallel approach reveals interesting analogies.
This text focuses on a different body of visual representations of the Anafiotika settlement. It approaches the appropriation and consumption of that settlement by its inhabitants through practices that support an insurgent understanding and perception of the landscape, which could be characterised -for lack of a better word- as “popular” or “vernacular” .
These are illustrations of the settlement and the landscape, whose “agency” reinforces the status of the settlement as a lived-in area. They serve as a repository of local experience and memory. I believe that the use of these images can be seen as a practice, parallel to narration, that was developed by the inhabitants of Anafiotika in order to defend the protection of the settlement and, of course, their right to live there.
What does this body of visual material include? Virtual representations of various styles and materials: paintings, lithographs, photographs, etc. These are images and other “objects” that were purchased, inherited, donated, and placed inside the private, domestic space of residents. Therefore, they are part of what Miller (2001, 1) describes as “a cluster of objects in the space of the house, reflecting the actions (agency) of individuals and at times their weakness”… “of the material culture in the interior of the house, which appears as an appropriation of the surrounding world and a representation in our private space, creating and mediating social processes”. In this case, I argue that this visual material mediates the prolonged confrontational relationship between the authorities and the residents of the settlement. I propose a fundamentally different comprehension of the landscape and the place itself.
Visual material like paintings hanging on the walls, photographs placed on tables or on the television, have often become a conversation item and were shown to me as evidence . The process of recounting how they were obtained and used (their consumption), reflects what Miller (1987, 189-193) describes as processing and re-framing the acquired object. Each item is thus transformed from an alienable object, with a monetary value, to an inalienable one, through its inextricable connection with the specific subject. The act of consumption radically alters the social nature of the object, although its material form remains unchanged.
The narratives of how these objects were acquired by three inhabitants of Anafiotika, and their “trajectories” through space, are of particular importance. It is also noteworthy that some of that visual material is also present in homes of other residents. N’s house is decorated by two photographs of the settlement shot by the photographer Nelly, two acrylic paintings, an ink sketch and a small watercolour of the settlement. The story of the paintings by the painter Alex is enlightening: ‘N’ met him near his home while he was working on a painting of a view of the settlement. He ordered two paintings depicting the exterior of his house and the view from his window. When ‘G’, a neighbour of ‘N’, saw Alex’s paintings, he also ordered two more paintings depicting views of the settlement, which he placed in the living room of his house.
In E’s home, glassware, porcelain, statues and paintings of many kinds and styles, reproductions of 19th century works depicting houses of the settlement, photographs and other (more or less realistic) images thereof lie next to an original sketch, copies of which are held by ‘N’ and ‘G’.
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