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Within the landscapes of “Others”

Commenting on the work of French photographer Eugène Atget, Walter Benjamin in his “Short History of Photography” states: “It is no accident that Atget’s photographs have been likened to those of a crime scene. But isn’t every square inch of our cities a crime scene? Every passer-by a culprit? Isn’t it the task of the photographer-descendant of the augurs and haruspices-to reveal guilt and to point out the guilty in his pictures?”

The initial feeling of this series of Angeliki Douveri’s photographic collages by the title «Il n’y a plus de vrais oiseaux» entails premonition, doubt, agony and fear about events that have taken place or are about to. The works resemble film stills of a fairytale or a police thriller or even a romantic story with no happy ending. The atmosphere, the narrative and the theatricality that characterizes the relations amongst the figures, as well as those with their surroundings, is due to the “director’s” perspective of Angeliki Douveri, which triggers different levels of consciousness and memory.

The detachment and re-positioning of these peculiar figures, taken from collages that Max Ernst created between 1922-1933 (which he had also taken from 19th century woodcuts from magazines, encyclopedias and cheap novels) upon photographs of contemporary Belgian landscape, explores the relation between man and his space as cultural and historical metaphor. There is a visible reminder of a predominantly Northern European tradition of attributing romantic and spiritual qualities to the natural environment, which is enhanced by the mysterious presence of the selected figures, that give a deep emotional dimension, energy and movement to the stage where the unfolding of their human experience unravels. The figures breathe life to the static background scenery, by their involvement with their present, their action of the current moment, thus bringing about a temporal development, merging past and present without specific linear narrative. Authentic "products" of the 19th century, these figures seek to discover and express their individuality as well as renegotiate, through their actions, the distinction between private and public space. The impression created is almost never "reassuring", as private moments are being displayed openly on and in the public domain and accordingly the latter is being revealed even through an act as simple as pulling a curtain inside a room.

These enigmatic figures, outside their 'place' and 'time', are being inserted and claim their existence and their action in another place and time, contemporary and recognizable and "adapt" to their new environment, disrupting the components of interpretation available to the viewer in regard to the historical and topographic framework of the images. Intervening with the history of the landscapes hosting them, the protagonists of the works of Douveri reveal the passage of time, sometimes as the past that is being revived and sometimes as the present that is being lost as soon as it becomes an accomplished act.

Vassiliki Athena Vayenou

art historian

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