“The Ancient Dominion” by Denis Curti
The scene captured, elaborated and organized by the author, director and actor, exists within the atmosphere of his family life. Philip Tsiaras is giving to his family while at the same time trying to possess them. He portrays the familiar and comfortable atmosphere of domestic life while taking control of the fragile protective background of tradition and conservatism in order to build a series of distances and breaches. As the protagonist of the photographic work, the author assembles significant moments and reveals their vital pulsations, turning every presence into ideas within the emphasis and the enchantment of a reflected moment.
Ambivalence and duality are the virtues as well as the photographic invention of this series. The view focuses in and out. articulating mother-son, father-uncle, old-young relationships. Conspiratorial relatives, considerate and responsible collaborators, consciously surrender to becoming witnesses of themselves. A group of actors, ready to accept motivations and rules, parade before the camera respecting instructions and agreements, trusting the author’s intuitions and fantasies and adding to the meaning of his work. Mostly produced using the automatic camera release technique, these photographs effectively create a sense of significance by arranging new categories of knowledge and meaning within the image. By bringing everything back to the ancient dominion- the origins of his experience, the house and the family, the author regains possession of an important territory of his existence in order to re-live it and to translate the atmosphere of the place into renewed passions. The need to experiment, dissolve and understand is deeply connected to the search for aesthetic potential and for new channels of artistic communication.
Tsiaras eliminates codes and trends, expands the spaces of imaginary, counterbalances and conditions roles and orders. He modifies the usual dynamics of parental relationships to create the premises for a reedited family situation and new organizational structures, in which presence and knowledge, obligations and duties, carry a different meaning.
This new imaginative kernel attracts our attention in a captivating interpretative fusion of signs. A new elegance in the relationship between the self and the world aims to overturn the customary point of view. That world, abandoned, returns in references and memories, to be ordered and prepared, contemplated and conditioned by the author’s presence. This is exactly what Elvio Facchinelli suggests in his beautiful essay La mente estatica (The ecstatic mind). when inviting the reader to look at things from the point of view of silence.
Exercises, reflections, sum of intricacies: these are stories of appearances. Feelings appear and disappear, elusive. Without being evasive, Tsiaras dissolves and spreads his presence among the others, between existence and desistence, belonging to and showing different identities. Reality is subjugated by his strength, by the expression of different conditions and perceptions. The author is able to alienate his regard and move freely within an evolved scenario of rules and roles, in the search for that thrust-acceleration-which enables the invention of a new grammar
of behavior. The fragile equilibriums and the subtle distances of being within, of the meaning of things and of everyday belonging, are no longer the same. In this new state, body and beauty, reflecting the dissonance between form and appearance, are revealed in an alternation and a plurality of products and symbols. Mutation and evolution. In the multiplication of encounters and in the creation of mutual understanding, the modalities of knowledge and perception develop in order to translate and shape a complex experimental system into a provocative energy: a world in which the existence of a border personality does not resign or respond to conventional membership.
Invasion, intrusion and expression. A fraudulent intrusion acts as a potentially explosive artificial tension, forcing the redefinition of old solidarities and provoking a remodeling of the system. This family album, with its portions of irony and self-irony, succeeds in evoking the exaltation of the value of compression and contamination, in a tangibility which imposes a relationship with the other through discordant moods and moments of ephemeral and apparent quiet, through staring eyes and fixed bodies, through the recollection of classic shapes and the Greek tradition. This family album bears witness to the attempt to ensure the group and the individuals their. own identity, so that roles and gestures, values and statuses, are redeemed and contained in the sensitive surface. Aware of being directed and watched, conscious of belonging to the dynamics of a creative work in progress for which they are necessary elements and devices, the characters agree to be guided into an extemporaneous creative process and ordered dialogue.
The maximum aspiration of a photograph is to become part of a universe of images, a family album. In fact, in most cases rarely does one find something special in any family album. Philip Tsiaras shows us his awareness of this condition. He appropriates and transforms it into an intellectual action that produces a contemporary approach to the subject that he portrays. In this sense his work concerning the subject of representation is distinguished and different from his other contemporaries. For Cindy Sherman, Andres Serrano and Nan Goldin the photograph is a fiction within a fiction. For Philip Tsiaras it is a fiction posing in reality.
The animosity and familiarity make these photographs distinctive. They have an explorative quality. The house interiors, its inhabitants’ faces and gestures, segments of life and memory, give evidence of a whole world, of a reality made of elements and conventional features already settled. The familiarity arises when we compare our memories and fantasies with the photographs and we find ourselves in these or those fantasies. Tsiaras portrays the appearance, dramatizes basic elements, acts and manipulates in order to build a path allowing access to new frames, new scenarios, new references and new shows. “It was” and “it is”, past and present. are measured and juxtaposed in the composed image, in the expression of a known time, lived and restored, which, once assimilated, is shown reeducated and reanimated through personal experience. “Family Album” is founded on a principle of identification and aims to build an authentic surreality.
For Tsiaras art is, above all, a suspension, a by-pass of the ordinary rules of relationships, the reconciliation of desires and motives. For him it is the source, the virtual key to enter. He destroys and recomposes, subtracts and adds knowledge. Gestures and thoughts become tools for a new encoding of meanings. The sense of belonging is redetermined and re-elaborated in a new constitutive essence which redefines the open and expanded aspects of identity: a new recomposed image, our right and our heritage, elaborated creature of a non-inherited expression.