By Heidi Trautmann
In many old travel books about Cyprus and in one or the other of the three diaries of Fuat Sami translated into English by Dr. Servet Sami Dedecay, I was reading about the still ongoing flights from Nicosia Airport in the years before 1974 on so many pages. And later, when we already lived here, I had the opportunity – on the way to an art exhibition within the buffer zone - to drive by the old buildings of the Nicosia airport the airstrip of which was being used as bicycle racing area for the UN employees. A once most lively centre point left there since 1974 in a sort of coma, I thought.
This place full of memories was now the theme for a group of artists and art associations, supported by the UN Good Offices and UNDP. UNCOVERED – a play of words: UN-Covered. A three-year project to do research at site and evaluate it. It was for them like going back in time, stepping onto another level of Cypriot history, closed in itself. A film presented at the exhibition on September 23 described their journey of discovering tales in the objects found, in the locks broken up, in the chairs in the waiting lounge covered in dust and bird droppings, and in their minds they filled the place with the voices of people once occupying the seats, people saying good-bye and people leaving. Crossroads. I talked with many of my friends who still remember, among them Nilgün Güney who also tells of her memories in the film presented. We talked while sitting outside the exhibition venue in the buffer zone of the Lokmaci crossing, a building belonging to the Kykko Monastery locked up since 1974 too, a sort of mirror representing the atmosphere of the airport in its condition of abandonment and desolation.
We were sitting on the replica of the black airport lounge chairs along the narrow path between the two check points, created by Andreas Savva, one of the contributing artists, which might be recognized by older passersby of having sat on them one day in the past. They will stay there for the duration of the exhibition until 23 October and people can sit down and talk to each other, Greek and Turkish Cypriots and foreign tourists who might have questions.
Tomorrow will come is the title of one of the art projects, a small book by Zehra Şonya and Gürgenç Korkmazel, which represents the idea behind the UNCOVERED project best in my opinion and makes it feasible for outsiders and onlookers. ….Following a thorough research, artist Zehra Şonya chose objects from those found at the airport and Gürgenç Korkmazel, poet and writer, wrote stories that reflect the traces of memories of these objects… In one he speaks for himself, I believe.
I enter through the broken door. I walk in the lower lounge over a thick layer of dust, bird droppings, rotten pieces of wood and broken glass. From the large chimney-like holes above beams light enters the lounge; it’s bright as if the lights were on. I pass through the spider web that covers the whole door. Bullet holes in the windows…A fig tree that has burst through the concrete rises up to the ceiling.
The seats in the upper lounge are broken but in place. I wander in the dark rooms as if I will find something hidden, something that has been waiting just for me. I open every door, enter and exit every hole, searching. I have the feeling that I am under water, walking inside a sunken ship. I shiver, run out of breath. Is this a dream, or am I a ghost? What was it that has brought me here, why am I here, what am I searching for; I do not know, I have no memories of this place, None.
The objects are to be found on the first floor in one of the rooms where I also encountered a pope representing the monastery reading the stories of the book to understand the background meaning. Many people had come to pay their respects to the artists who have given their time to do the research -
Özge Ertanın, Oya Silbery, Görkem Müniroğlu, Andreas Savva, Erhan Oze, Socratis Socratous, Demetris Taliotis, Constantinos Taliotis, Orestis Lambrou - and the data collecting team is Özge Ertanin, Eleni Flouri, Giorgos Chrysostomou, Argyris Fellas, Andreas Aristodemou, Görkem Müniroğlu, Oya Silbery, Zehra Şonya, Costas Americanos, Argyris Adamou, Maria Charalambous, Christoforos Zacharopoulos, and Maria Tsangaride.
The Curators of the art event are: Pavlina Paraskevaidou and Basak Senova
Project Co-Ordinators: Ozgul Ezgin and Argyro Toumazou
Based on an idea by artist Vicky Pericleous.
There was Oya and Mehmet Ali Talat, 2nd TRNC president, many artists from both communities, guests who were intrigued by the idea and also remembered.
An accompanying book will be published in October 2011 with contributions by Stavros Stavrides, Bulent Diken, Alex Galloway, Abdoumaliq Simone, Jalal Touffic, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Dervis Zaim, Mushon Zer-Aviv, Pelin Tan, and Socrates Stratis, together with essays from the curators and sections devoted to the archive and the artists work.
On September 24, there was a panel organized at the House of Cooperation to bring together various speakers from the fields of art, law and politics for a series of talks on the issues that the project investigates with comparative cases.
The participants: Marina Grzinic is professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Jack Persekian was the founder and is the director of Anadiel gallery, the Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem and XEIN Productions. Lamia Joreige is a co-founder and the co-director of Beirut Art Center, a unique non-profit space dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon. Niyazi Kızılyürek, writer, living and working in Nicosia South. Socrates Stratisis an architect, urbanist with a doctorate degree in urbanism from University of Paris Saint Denis, Paris, France. Basak Senova (curator of the event) is a curator and designer. Senova is the editor of art-ist 6, Kontrol Online Magazine and one of the founding members of NOMAD. She lives in Ankara and works in Istanbul.
Pavlina Paraskevaidou (curator of the event) is a writer, curator and cultural organizer based in London. She is currently a Phd candidate in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London.
She lives and works in London and Nicosia.
An ambitious art project still to go on. Tomorrow will come, it says. When and how, that is the question, in my opinion. Can the arts be the key?
The exhibition runs until October 23, a house on the left hand side between the two checkpoints at the Lokmaci crossing.
The exhibition is presented under the auspices of the United Nations Good Offices in Cyprus and the support of UNDP, Cyprus.
European Mediterranean Art Association (EMAA)
Pharos Arts Foundation