Photo by Myrto Tzima
Photo by Myrto Tzima

Dimitra Kondylatou is a visual artist living in Athens. She works across video-making, editing, writing and hosting. She is interested in the limits of art and its entanglements with tourism and everyday life. She visually explores gestures, practices and correspondences within contexts and spaces of hospitality and exchange. Her methodology is informed by and crosses boundaries with other disciplines, such as anthropology, through her participation in collective projects, the realization of workshops and the presentation of her work in exhibitions, conferences and publications. From 2012 to 2018 her artistic research on art and tourism was enriched through her seasonal occupation as manager and worker of neion guesthouse in Lefkada, and through the residential project The island-resignified that she initiated and hosted there from 2015 to 2017. She is a co-founder and editor in kyklàda.press publications (2020–). She was a member of TWIXTlab (2017-2018). She graduated from the Dutch Art Institute (2017) and the Athens School of Fine Arts (2012). In 2019 she received the ARTWORKS fellowship from Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Her artistic activity since 2008 includes workshops and group exhibitions.

 

The artist will share her insight into her work and methods in an open discussion with the public on July 25 (Hotel Ploes, 18:00).

 

Photo by Myrto Tzima
Photo by Myrto Tzima

In early February 2020, after having been invited to design and lead the inaugural session of the Alternate Paths workshop series for the Syros International Film Festival, I was struck by the history of a building that may go unnoticed if you don’t retain a peripheral vision when entering the Ermoupolis port. Originally constructed in 1839 to function as a Lazaretto, i.e. a quarantine station for travelers, the building was subsequently used as a displacement center for Cretan refugees, a military camp, a mental asylum, a prison and last, a facility for Greek refugees from Romania. A few days after my introduction to the building’s history, the covid-19 pandemic reached Athens and we all soon experienced unprecedented periods of confinement and quarantine. 

When later that summer I received the confirmation for the workshop’s realization, I decided that the walk should focus on the area around that building. Lazaretto finds itself in the limit between Ermoupolis and the countryside, Syros and the rest of the world, social life and isolation, health and disease, life and death. It was primarily constructed for and was always inhabited by passers-by. The area around it was given its name (Lazareta), and although the neighborhood was consistently inhabited, it too retained a liminal quality, connected and disconnected from Ermoupolis. Throughout its modern history, the area has hosted the island’s oil tanks, the telegraph and electricity cables, the airport, the landfill, the wastewater treatment building, and the center for stray animals. It was this liminality, associated with sanitary factors, that I thought of revisiting, together with the workshop’s participants, affected by our own experience of quarantine, disease, isolation, fear, mourning, restriction of personal freedoms, public health management and control. In an attempt to unfold and understand different aspects of this location, my research took various forms – interactive, written and visual. 

Reflecting the Festival’s “Off-Season” framework that was further reinforced by the decreased tourist traffic last summer, the film Backyard with a View was the outcome of this invitation. After many edits in which I was negotiating and rethinking my own positionality as a passer-by, the film finally focused on the tourist’s somatic experience of this site, combining historical information about the building, fragmented recordings of the remains, and social sciences literature on tourism and travel.

––– Dimitra Kondylatou