What goes around comes around but nothing comes back

Γλώσσα πρωτότυπου κειμένου: Αγγλικά

Occasioned by Myrto Xanthopoulou’s solo show “STORM (I Don’t Have a Pen)”, a series of poetic responses and reflections on the ways her works engage with the ephemeral and the mundane, the frivolous and the textually lacerated, the inescapably excessive and the raptured, both linguistically and materially, written by Ioanna Gerakidi.

Myrto Xanthopoulou, After the market, detail, 2022. City of Athens Museum of Folk Art and Tradition “Aggeliki Chatzimichali”. Photo by Alexandra Masmanidi.

The text uses quotes of one of Xanthopoulou’s films, as axes to navigate through and trace limitations, obsessions, seductions, but also kinships, distributions of affection, hope and other values.

1. what goes around comes around but nothing comes back

I watched a movie on Netflix yesterday, it was a movie about loss; a mother lost her daughter only a few minutes after she gave birth to her. After, when someone asked her how her daughter looked like, she said she smelled like apples and I guess that’s why she started collecting apple seeds. She preserved the seeds in the fridge, and one day the seeds grew. She, then planted them. A few years after she had a really big apple tree in her garden. She had a daughter too.

Anyway, I remember reading somewhere, that it might be that women do a lot of shopping sometimes due to the engraved instinct of collecting food and stuff for their homes. I am not sure if that’s true, it might be an amoebic legitimation of the systemic, in order to convince us, women, that shopping is about preservation, which is definitely a very privileged statement. The thing is that you collect things, like torn papers and tapes and wooden sticks and plastic bags and pieces of foam. And they might be not related to consumption, but they do preserve something for you; like your sanity or faith or hope; or your resistance to the consequences of having to throw things away.

And there’s something else; collecting has a meditative quality, don’t you think? Due to its circularity perhaps. Also, you must not forget that you have to own things. Things help when dreaming of safe spaces.

Myrto Xanthopoulou, STORM (I don’t have a pen), installation view, 2022. City of Athens Museum of Folk Art and Tradition “Aggeliki Chatzimichali”. Photo by Alexandra Masmanidi.

2. no way that birds ask us for permission to fly

I’ve been reading this book by Debora Levy and I wrote down some quotes you might enjoy, like “I will never stop grieving for my long-held wish for enduring love that does not reduce its major players to something less than they are”, or like “When love starts to crack then nights comes in”, or “to unmake a family home is like breaking a clock”. The first quote matches a work of your last show, the one with the glossy golden pieces of paper decorating the chairs of the family table; the second one is devoted to a work you showed in the exhibition I’ve curated a couple of years ago; it was a red one and everyone thought it was a portal, but I can’t remember its title anymore, I’m sorry; and the third one is about your archives that must be framed or at least documented.

Your works are words decomposed and recomposed again after, chastised meanings, unmasked red stains and pains ready to be absorbed. No-one is willing to show their vernaculars as monuments, but you are. I think you are brave.

Myrto Xanthopoulou, ΜΠΟΥΦΑΝ, installation view, 2020. The Eight Institute for Arts and Politics. Photo from artist’s archive.

3. I went to the market looking for you, but I found potatoes instead

Potatoes are roots and roots are shelters, yet they are also the most uncanny places when the soil is infertile, when the water is poisonous, when the air is polluted. Roots can hold you together and tear you apart, they can nourish or intoxicate you; they, as metaphors, speak about your attachments, relationships, reasonings and abductions; they, in science, never transform over a chemical reaction, but they can always eliminate you, but please don’t ask me why, I’m still trying to figure that out.

Well, then, it’s quite possible that you found what you’ve been looking for.

Myrto Xanthopoulou, STORM (I don’t have a pen), installation view, 2022. City of Athens Museum of Folk Art and Tradition “Aggeliki Chatzimichali”. Photo by Alexandra Masmanidi.

4. they asked me if I have a history, you know how it goes with history, it erases itself day by day

That’s my favourite. How many hours and how many pens and how many breaths and how many lines and lives and pauses and struggles did it take to make the work “I don’t have a pen”? Which is very liquid; I’m sure many others will agree with me. This work of yours, like others, is ecliptic the way I see it. I can’t situate your celestial sphere though. Is it all of your unuttered words? If there is something celestial anyway.

In “Economies of Abandonment” Elizabeth Povinelli quotes Walt Whitman saying “Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex, always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life”. I’ve started reading the book the other day and these words reminded me of you, of your sketches, I still have some of them, I move them around; they help me endure miracles, rejections, distortions. I never took them out of the envelope, I didn’t want to jinx your mirrored visions, contradictions.

Anyway, back then, I wrote some words, reflecting on your black fillings:

“I said I’d quit words myriad times,

yet it’s only through them I cry purple tears, piercing lights and stubborn marbles,
eternal adaptations, requests for attention,
sea stars or untamed love,

for a composition of letters, paltry materials, awkward gestures,
an effort to bring desire back to life,

to sleep with fervent losses,
to wake up delirious,
in my dream they warned me,
they said swallowing history can be fatal,

cartographies of the vulgar and the noble,
vernacular or transcendental,
lived or imagined,

until the internet suggested exotic as a synonym for the unknown,
swallowing history can be fatal”.

Myrto Xanthopoulou, My perforated heart, detail, 2022. City of Athens Museum of Folk Art and Tradition “Aggeliki Chatzimichali”. Photo by Alexandra Masmanidi.

5. how is it possible to strike against the wind?

I’ll wrap this up but first, I have to tell you a story. Every time I need to write something that matters, I hide. I hide under bedsheets, desks, womens’ legs, I hide in rooms unknown to me, I hide in fatedness, collapse, elusiveness and silence; I hide in applications, M&M’s, leather jackets and discounts. All of these places are very triggering, but they are worth of my attention and they have somehow protected me in a way in the past.

And I owe them. I owe them keeping me busy when resting could kill me.

I owe them time’s extension and I’ll pay them back; in fat, autoimmune diseases, insomnia, much love, yours truly.

I, too, strike against the wind, without even knowing how to fly. Do you wanna know how I do it? I could teach you. But I won’t, because you’ve already chosen to follow the other way, and there, there are no badges of honour, there you can convert nylon into freedom and black ink into seconds; there is where magic happens and please don’t quit, please let the wind move you.

Ioanna Gerakidi

Visual artist Myrto Xanthopoulou is an awardee of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS (SNF ARTWORKS Fellow 2020).

Ioanna Gerakidi is a writer, curator and educator based in Athens. Her research interests think through the subjects of language and disorder, drawing on feminist, educational, poetic and archival studies and schemes. She has collaborated with and curated exhibitions and events for various institutions and galleries and residencies and her texts and poems have appeared in international platforms, magazines and publications. She has lectured or led workshops, seminars and talks for academies and research programs across Europe. Her practice and exhibitions have been awarded by institutions, such as Rupert Residency, Mondriaan Fonds, Outset and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS, amongst others.