Ethnological Museum of Alexandroupoli, Greece
With Deirdre O‘Leary, Samuel Tschudin, Yota Tsotra and Vassia A. Vanezi
The region of Thrace, which stretches from what is now northeastern Greece through Bulgaria and into Turkey, has always been home to diverse ethnic groups and has been shaped by migration. Through these diverse influences and an open, intercultural dialogue, a unique cosmos of crafts, customs and beliefs emerged in Thrace over the centuries. This was shaken to its foundations when, as a result of the wars of the first half of the twentieth century, the region was partitioned and parts of the population were forcibly resettled within the hard borders of the new national-states. Due to the borders drawn at that time, Thrace today marks the southeastern border of the European Union and thus becomes an area of tension between migration, the Frontex, and the American military.
In the midst of these contrasting worlds, a large part of the former cosmos continues to exist to this day. One of the traditional crafts of the region is the making of textiles. Weaving is deeply rooted in the history of Thrace. Based on the idea that weaving connects cultures, knowledge, tradition and technology in an interdisciplinary way, the exhibition project "Interweaving Narratives" was created.
Yota Tsotra, Vassia Venezia, Deirdre O’Leary and Samuel Tschudin met in the beginning of October in Alexandroupoli to explore Thrace‘s vivid culture, history and abundant landscape.
Accompanied by the Ethnological Museum of Thrace, the artists were introduced to the regions multifaceted cultural heritage. The visited locations had a special relevance to the local history and cultural development of the region: Almost untouched Byzantine churches, caves, natural reserves, riverbeds, sanctuaries (for both, humans and birds), thermal baths and handcraft workshops were visited. On the 13th of October, the exhibition „Interweaving Narratives“ opened. The exhibition gave insight into the perception of landscape, the shared/collaborative process, dealt with oral history. Textile based works, sound pieces, paintings and objects not only activated the museum's collection but put its exhibits in a new light. The exhibits dealt with the vitality of the matter, and the materialization of storytelling.
The artists together with Valentina Sokratous designed workshops for children and adults based on the exhibition. Moreover, a special leaflet was created for children to experience the exhibition throught searching and observing. The Museum offered one special designed workshop for young adults (Department of Education of the Democritus University of Thrace, Alexandroupolis)and more than twenty workshops for school classes creating a safe space for their own storytelling and efficacy.
I have seen these all before, 2016
Carbon-, glass-, kevlar-, flax-, and cotton-fibers
110 x 250 cm
Photos: Nici Jost
Our relation to technology historically and currently is the profound driver for this project. The majority of the mankind‘s technological achievements manifest after a long period of scientific research, targeting on a concrete, innovating application. Carbon fibers and composite materials have been developed in order to serve the demanding requirements of the aeronautics and space industry. In the meantime, these technologies are utilized in a variety of other beneficial applications but also in unnecessary, luxurious design objects. Technology seems to be often undermined and misused simply to satisfy our lust for materialistic pleasure. Moreover, I am enquiring the ways in which technology and tradition meet, collide and apparently melt together.
For the present project, I worked together with the weaver Lena, based in a small village, on Pindos Mountains in Greece. I supplied her with carbon-, glass-, kevlar- and flax- fibers (typical fibers used in the composite materials) and asked her to weave a textile using a traditional wooden loom. The design was selected from traditional patterns. The weaver had to be thoroughly protected, as most the fibers are hazardous for the human body. Eventually, a toxic textile was weaved.
Footage from the project‘s realization at Elafotopos, Zagori, Greece
Weaver: Lena Gerothanasi
Video: Lila Tsatsi