CAN Gallery, Athens

Among the chaos we are living in these anxious times, artists are the ones who will make our lives more tolerable. Efi Haliori presented her latest photographic project‘ Transformations’ at CAN Gallery, in Athens.

Haliori’s gaze was preoccupied with consecutive transformations taking place in marble quarries all over Greece. As the curator and gallery director, Christina Androulidaki, pointed out, these transformations were like a vicious circle. From the extractions of massive marble blocks to the transformation of  that block becoming a work of art or an element of everyday life. From a ‘gigantic sculpture’, as the artist described it, to the geological transformations due to subtraction. The artist presented her work on a large scale which is connected with the monumentality of these carved mountains but also the monumental qualities of the material itself regardless of the scale. As a sculptor, I have spent half of my life carving it.  It’s a material which makes you more aware of your own truth. This vicious circle of transformations, led me to a web of associations when I left the gallery.

I will unfold a few here. The first thought when I saw the photographs was that of an installation art mainly due to the walking through the queries. But this left me an unsatisfactory feeling, as installation art is the placement of dispersed objects into space to recreate an environment and these quarries were autonomous massive mountains with the interference of human labour.

At the exhibition ‘Close Encounters’ at Henry Moore Institute in 2002, we saw how the sculptors’ studios were the starting point to give birth of installation art, documented through photography. Among other influences of installation art, apart from the theatrical stage, were the ruins of archaeological sites and dilapidated buildings, as the sculpture historian Penelope Curtis mentions in her book ‘Sculpture 1900 – 1945. Photography made available the distance to capture the space. Installation art is mainly a photographic practice.  The display of the sculptures/objects into the space were looking good on pictures. The debates between sculpture and photography were long ones but Haliori’s photographs are more about the detail, a very small part of the quarry and not the whole. 

Actually, if she was about to capture the whole mountain, it might have ended up as landscape photography losing its power as a work of art. 

Thinking about installation art, I came up with the term ‘subtractive installation’ which was the closest description of what Haliori was showing to us. In sculpture we have additive and subtractive methods, installation belongs to the additive, however these quarries are the only thing which can be subtractive.  

Haliori’s work adds another piece of the puzzle, regarding the birth of installation art, that of the marble quarries. How many times we have seen these shapes recreated on a self contained sculpture. Haliori’s work is  challenging us to think beyond what is captured  with her lense.   

*Above picture: © Efi Haliori, Untitled, 2019, Archival print on fine art  paper, 100X70cm, 150X100cm,  Ed,5 2a.p. Courtesy of the artist and Can Christina Androulidaki Gallery, Athens