Zoe Giabouldaki at Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia / Bamberg, Germany

Zoe Giabouldaki – Serviervorschlag

December 12, 2017 – January 21, 2018

Internationales Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia 
Concordiastraße 28
96049 Bamberg


Liebe Zoe,

I was so glad to hear from you in your villa in Bavaria, to receive the images from your studio and the video of the white-flecked surface of the river. Potami, Fluss, river: so many words—their glue—for the moving image. Your title is on point: Der Flussss as a sound of flux, it’s true. From my desk in Athens I keep looking at the image of the page from the book—page 16, from Berthold Wulf’s Idee und Denken—that you sent. And the only readable lines you left: “alle Körper sind ausgedehnt, so ist dies,” and then a few lines further: “alle Körper sind schwer.” All bodies are extended, it’s true (like this letter, a kind of hand, reaching out to you), and all bodies are heavy (like my thinking here, never fleet enough, not the milky, swirling river it should be, to take the metaphor from your gluey video). That’s not totally true, though: you also left this fragment: “des Subjekts Prädikat.”

Another subject (its glue): collagen. I’ve been reading about its material properties, so as to better understand your new collagen-based works, those translucent masks or husks, skin shaken off. In particular the smooth, honey-colored fragment, falling down the wall of your studio like golden folds of some future, perfect skin. Or light (waves). Didn’t Thomas Bernhard recall that “a man from Augsburg” was once committed to an asylum because he insisted that Goethe’s last words were mehr nicht rather than mehr Licht? How far from Augsburg are you? How far from Athens? Anyway, bodies: collagen is the main structural protein in the connective tissues in animal bodies. (Alle Körper sind ausgedehnt.) The most abundant protein in mammals, the main component of connective tissue.

Which connects well to your artworks, I think, with their abundant formal connections and chemical affinities: material, mineral, linguistic, art-historical, emotional, or otherwise. That collagen exists in “fibrous tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and skin” also makes sense, as this is what your works conjure for me—they are the tissue “that connects.” Collagen comes from the Greek κόλλα (kólla), or “glue,” and γέν (gen) or “producing.” Derived from (and described by) this early image of production: Boiling the skin and tendons of animals— horses, mostly—to produce, what, glue. I suddenly wonder what etymology is like for you, Greek being your first (well) language. Is it is like reaching back (“reading back”) and into your own pocket at once? What is in there. Leben, Zoe, life.

I am thinking about your materials, their reactions, the weather. (Let’s get to the bottom of this—what—not pocket, not river, not this letter, not some glowing page, something else.) In the installation that “sprawls” like an enigmatic infrastructure across the villa floor, emerges from its cabinets, called by you, perfectly, ever so smoothly, Endless scrolling (let’s get to the bottom of this) (2017), you include the following list of materials: “iron, cement paving slabs, kaolin, plaster, ethyl-methacrylate copolymer, polystyrene, ethylacetat, aluminium , vaseline, cloth found on cliffs in Crete, acrylic, silicon, books, reed (genus Phragmites), enamel powder, petri dishes, and copies of GEO magazine from 1977 to 1979.” Wulf’s book emerges like some pale meat between the cement paving slabs (alle Körper sind schwer) and the material experiment they hold up, a kind of bridge, a kind of river, a kind of tissue (of glue or refuse).

I keep scrolling through the images of production you sent me (in language, written or pixels): from Bavaria, from Crete, from the villa and the chemical solutions, organic powders, and resins you ordered in between. I am moved (not from my chair in Athens, though) by the languages involved in the work The scar of our existence will be visible in the rocks of tomorrow (2017), and its matter: “iron, polypropylene, ethyl-methacrylate copolymer, ethylacetat, polyester, ink, hand towels, ytong block, schist stones.” Your trio of sculptures in the villa’s decorous rooms appear frozen, cool, archaeological, hospitable, hyper Gnostic. Like past and future instruments for past and future processes—or the present. Spirit (language) and matter (language). Fountains of rupture, bodies, relics, institutions, properties, ownership, slippage, bridges, borders, service, the glue that binds us, the infrastructure of chance, of collapse, of transformation, all our “arbitrary mixes,” you know.

Though early collagen was mostly made from the organs and bones of horses, you mentioned that yours comes from pigs. This rhymes well with my experience of Bavaria, its bestiaries. “Through the process of hydrolysis followed by denaturation, the collagen is converted into a natural resin.” I am trying to see this. It is a wet image because, as you wrote me: “Here I have difficulty in drying and stabilizing them because of the high level of humidity and the low temperature. Resins often do not even react with the catalyst and it is necessary to add large quantities of accelerator, everything is too slow. When I use the same material in Greece the reaction is done almost automatically.”

What is a reaction, what is done, what is transformed and into what, what chemical or catalyst, what organ, what is automatic? It is a wet image. The video of the river is dry but the image is wet and the reeds that hug its shores and blow across its surface are an invasive European species that was brought to the Americas in the 1600s, holding the wetlands there in its long, thin, tenuous arms ever since. Reeds grow so tall— automatically—that you cannot see the water. But it is there, flowing with the bones and organs and tissues of the institutions and the animals, organizing itself into self-organizing systems, into surfaces of matter and effluents, pale swirls and murmurs and reactions of material languages that flow almost quickly, nearly slowly, almost automatically.

alle Körper sind ausgedehnt, 
alle Körper sind schwer, 
alles Liebe, von Athen, 

Text: Quinn Latimer 

* Photos: Jürgen Schabel