Artist’s Project ‘Remembering Revisited’, ps[υ]art therapy gallery, Athens, Greece. 27.04.2018 – 16.06.2018
Ps [υ]art therapy gallery launches its new operations’ circle with Rania Bellou’s presentation and O. L. Zangwill’s article “Remembering revisited” on Friday, April 27 at 19.30-23.00.
In the context of the dialogue with the Other but also with the reconnection with the lost object of desire, ps [υ]art therapy gallery wishes to develop the process of replication of the archival material used by the artist as a footnote, in order to show off the way in which fiction emerges as the same feature of new narratives.
Rania Bellou, through ‘memory visits’ of the archival material that she collects, updates and replicates a process, that evolves alienated from the original but also familiar with the archival process of the document.
The historical distance from the memory of the others/the Other eventually becomes a dialogue with the self, a dialogue through more narratives, in which the artist’s writing also becomes the archival material of the next reprint, either visual or fictional.
We will be very pleased to see you in order to conciliate with the new processes that will arise from public participation so that each «reprint» and memory fragment can contribute to new rewritten narratives of each one of us.
In this context on the day of inauguration at 20:30, Aphrodite Charalambaki – story-telling – will recount us her own story, based on the archival material of Rania Bellou.
Opening: Friday, April 27, at 19:30
Duration: April 27 – June 16, 2018
Curator: Dr. Dorothea Konteletzidou, Doctor of Art Theory, Art Historian
Supervisor: Elena Tonikidi, Visual artist / Art-therapist
“The Ego of human subjectivity does not exist”. For the Other, we will be “just beyond death”, as Lacan points out. An insidious, terrible view of the Real.
In this view, there are the words, their strong promise. Relationships exist, they live and eventually, they are experienced within the powerful language rule. The words have absolute dominance.
And as far as we address the Other with words, so far away this movement is re-phrasing the collective identification with the words, a need which makes the memory “reads” again. If one “reads Silently”, he minimizes the steps of the passing through -from the Wernicke area, reaching faster the Broca area for expression.
Eventually, we understand why the elderly are silent, there are no words to describe… it seems like you have to forget to survive, to find the formation once more. I write words as I don’t write words like…
Dimokritou & Stratiotikou Sindesmou 23, Kolonaki, Athens
Tel .: 6970898814/6942676207
e-mail: email@example.com | http://ps.art.therapy.gallery/
Opening hours: Monday: 18: 00-23: 00
Tuesday & Thursday: 21: 00-1: 00
Saturday & Sunday: 12: 00-17: 00
Solo Exhibition ‘Immortal Love or Ode to the Past’, Kalfayan Galleries, Athens, Greece. 22.02.2018 – 14.04.2018
Kalfayan Galleries are pleased to announce Rania Bellou’s fourth solo show ‘Immortal Love or Ode to the Past’ at Kalfayan Galleries, Athens. The exhibition opens on Thursday, 22 February 2018, 19.00-22.00.
‘Immortal Love or Ode to the Past,’ consists of a group of drawings created over the past two years. Their genesis is a diary found by Bellou at an open air market in Athens. Covering the period from 28th May 1945 to 16th February 1952, the diary’s author, P. Stais, recorded not only his thoughts, feelings, desires and dreams, but also several love poems. The diary was mostly written in Greek, with some passages in English, and was dedicated to his childhood sweetheart Martha, from whom he had been apart for thirty-five years after the Asia Minor disaster. There was even a poem which was written in Smyrna in 1919. The old handmade diary was leather-bound in a hardback copy, with a hand-drawn painting of the Acropolis on the cover.
The title of the exhibition, ‘Immortal Love or Ode to the Past’, refers to one of the diary’s poems that bears the same name. The writer composed the poem in anticipation of the day of being reunited with his dearly loved. The vivid presence of the author’s beloved in his mind was empowered by his feelings of loss, and by his persistence in seeking her. Examining the writing, Bellou felt as if the author was holding onto images of his youth, eulogising the present. “Writings often act as proof of narratives through which we are told of a past that is not repeatable, but is reportable, narratives that spiral backwards and inwards into a life’s interior.”  An old photograph or a handwritten passage by a long-dead stranger can create a profound personal connection, as we explore who we are now through the past lives of others.
Setting herself the task of recreating the world of P. Stais, visualising the events, characters and moments of his life story, Bellou reimagined these instants, bringing them to life in a series of technically refined drawings that capture moments in time around 1910-1920 in Smyrna (Ismir), as well as around 1940-1950 in Athens.
During all stages of Bellou’s career, her practice has been based on a rigorous exploration of drawing. Culled from archival sources, the artist’s new drawing compositions, spectral and fragmentary, range from landscapes to sui generis portraits. With exquisite delicacy and detail through the use of graphite pencil on a new palette of colourful tissue paper, the artist sculpts the light and plays with the translucency of the material, creating an uncanny blend of realism and abstraction. Bellou becomes the new author, allowing personal feelings and memories to intrude and inform the fictional narrative, commenting on the inherent desire we all have to rewrite our and other people’s stories.
‘Be your Freedom and Build your own Kingdom, 2017’ is a large-scale drawing on a collage of colourful stripes of paper pointing to a scene taken from an open air market in Smyrna. Similarly, ‘Climbing up the Acropolis “I” & “III”, contain architectural traces of Athens’ historic centre – their title referring to one of Stais’ poems. The second drawing of the series, ‘Climbing up the Acropolis, 2017,’ with its vibrant shades of blue and sharp parallel lines, reminding us of a flag, juxtaposes with the in-love couple walking inside the Parthenon.
Bellou’s artworks on paper often take the form of a book. The exhibited drawings are accompanied by ‘Immortal Love or Ode to the Past’ 2016, an unique artist’s book composed of thirty individual drawings on a collage of colourful tissue paper. Across the room, a related video projection depicts a viewer leafing through the artwork and allows the visitor to discover its intriguing content. The viewer witnesses a moment where present and past life collide; interweaving memories whilst preserving a loving impulse. The voice of the narrator gradually becomes memory before it happens; it is thus an echo before it becomes a voice, a narrative before it becomes reality.
SNF Artist Fellowship Program
Rania Bellou is among the selected artists of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Artist Fellowship Program 2018 ARTWORKS.
The SNF Artist Fellowship Program is designed to provide financial support for young artists and offer opportunities for career development. ARTWORKS will launch the Program with a pilot project that will support artists between the ages of 25-35 working in the following disciplines:
Visual Arts: painting, sculpture, engraving, photography, installations, performance, video art, mixed and new media, digital art
Moving Image: feature films, documentaries, animation
Group Show ‘Taking Roots’, curated by Orestis Andreadakis, Director of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Greece.
58th TIFF at the Former Army Warehouse (Peer Α΄, Thessaloniki Port)
02.11 – 12.11.2017
The International Competition section is complimented this year by a special exhibition titled “Taking Roots” that will be presented for the first time during the 58th TIFF at the Former Army Warehouse (Peer Α΄, Thessaloniki Port). TIFF invited 14 young Greek artists to watch the films of the IC section, become inspired and create 14 original works –paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations- for each one of the films. The participating artists are: Rania Bellou, Natasa Eftstathiadi, Dimitris Fragakis, Leonidas Giannakopoulos, Chrysanthi Koumianaki, Maria Kriara, Maria Mavropoulou, Kosmas Nikolaou, Yorgos Papafigos, Vassilis Selimas, Anastasis Stratakis, Stefania Strouza, Maria Tsagari and Paky Vlassopoulou. The exhibition is organised by TIFF with the support of the 6th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art.
The concept behind the IC of the 58th TIFF
The International Competition section of the 58th Thessaloniki International Film Festival is comprised of 14 films, three of which are Greek. This year the festival proposes a subversive way to approach the art of cinema, by selecting the IC films in the light of a universal idea and a timeless wish: The Need for Roots, inspired by the seminal book of the same title by the French social philosopher and activist Simone Weil, one of the most iconic intellectuals of the 20th century.
The Need for Roots highlights, inter alia, the essential needs of the human soul, the concept of uprootedness, as well as the re-establishment of roots, envisioning a “new culture” based not on power, but on justice and love. Weil’s legacy, praised by Albert Camus and T.S. Eliot among others, is an outstanding social manifesto. An uncompromised idealist, Weil was entirely devoted to experiencing her ideas and she actually identified with the anonymous heroes of everyday life.
These heroes are the protagonists in the films of this year’s International Competition section. All films, despite their thematic and stylistic variety, share the aforementioned concept; the need for roots, Weil’s timeless ideas and invincible spirit.
Group Show ‘“2 decades +”, Spyropoulos Awards’, curated by Olga Daniylopoulou, Director of the Spyropoulos Foundation, Greece.
23.10 – 23.12.2017
More than 40 artists, award recipients from 1992 to today, participate in an exhibition that aims to present an important group of Greek artists and to emphasize the Jannis & Zoe Spyropoulos Foundation’s cultural activity. A panorama of contemporary Greek art covering a period of at least three decades is presented, with diversity rather than the genre marking the event and with visual art covering almost the entire scope of artistic pursuits of this period.
The award recipient artists who will participate in the exhibition are the following: Artemis Nikos, Arvanitis Nikos, Avranas Alexander, Bellou Rania, Bitsikas Xenofon, Bofiliou Margarita, Bozou Aggeliki, Chandris Pantelis, Charalambidis Nikos, Chioti Thalia, Christidis Kostis, Efthimiou Yannis, Karagiorgos Yorgos, Karantzi Maria, Karatza Angie, Koukofiki Olympia, Langouvardos Michael, Moris Petros, Nymfiadi Maria, Pallas Haris, Panagiotidi Malvina, Papacostas Achielleas, Papadopoulos Yannis, Papailiakis Ilias, Papamichalopoulos Constantinos, Petrou Lea, Pfaff Alexander, Ponis Christos, Sagri Georgia, Sakellariou Martha, Savva Andreas, Sofologi Fani, Stamatogiannis Theodoros, Stellaki Karolina, Streshna Alexandra, Taxiarchopoulos Yorgos, Theodorou Lina, Tzamouranis Dimitris, Vantzou Dimitra, Varvarity Ino, Veneri Erifyli, Vittis Panayiotis.
Curator: Olga Daniylopoulou
Group Show ‘In Retrospect’, curated by Kleomenis Kostopoulos and Rena Pitsaki, Action Field Kodra, 22.09 – 01.10.2017
Athanasopoulou Katerina, Alexandou Vasilis, Vakouli Vicky, Gourtzis Kostas, Zafeiropoulos Theodoros, Zouroudis Dimitris, Theofilaktou Eleni, Ioannou Dimitris, Kaklamanos Alexandros, Kapanidou Konstantina, Kyriakopoulos Makis, Kodonidou Jenny, Kotsi Tina, Lazos Orestis, Lemi Esthir, Marathaki Eva, Michalaros Dimitris, Bellou Rania, Bisila Niki, Nomidou Vally, Ximeri Ioanna, Pallas Athanasios, Patsis Konstantinos, Piperidou Hara, Stratou Danae, Famelis Panos, Fragkakis Dimitris, Christakos Giannis, Christopoulos Kostas.
This year’s Action Field Kodra completes 17 years of life. This year’s event includes a presentation of artworks by selected artists, who supported the institution with their works and ideas, from its birth to the present day. A total of twenty-nine artists will be presenting paintings, sculptures, photography, installations and video art, aiming to showcase their visual development.
Group Show ‘The Garden Sees’, curated by Anna Kafetsi, Megaron, Athens Concert Hall,
07.07 – 17.09.2017
Zbyněk Baladrán, Matthew Barney, Natalie Yiaxi, Jorge Galindo & Santiago Sierra, Douglas Gordon, Katerina Zacharopoulou, Amar Kanwar, William Kentridge, Phanos Kyriacou, Andreas Lolis, Jenny Marketou, Kostas Bassanos, Shirin Neshat, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Eleni Panouklia, Nikos Papadopoulos, Rena Papaspyrou, Rania Bellou, Pipilotti Rist, Danae Stratou, Maria Tsagkari, Maria Tzanakou, Nari Ward, Maaria Wirkkala
Exhibition entitled The Garden sees (the title of one of the Three Poems under a Flag of Convenience by Odysseas Elytis) is presented in the Garden of the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) and the so-called Service Yard.
The history of the Garden is more or less known. It originated from the segmentation of a public space, the Eleftherias Park, from which it is separated by fencing, thus creating an enclosed area of 22 acres, a protected and guarded “shelter” of particular natural beauty, on the boundary between private and public space. The new underground buildings of the Megaron lie hidden in a considerable depth under the Garden’s surface.
The Service Yard is a sheltered area of particular industrial character at the garage entrance with direct access from Kokkali street and originally intended for waste recycling and bulk cargo loading.
The initial stimulus for the exhibition is the enclosed world of the Garden and its hidden secret. It is also the relations that are born in its own body, cut off from its natural continuity in the public space, with areas of reverie and sociability, with hiding places, trails and open green areas. And it is also its visual or even invisible contact with introverted, silent public buildings-landmarks surrounding it, such as the American Embassy, public hospitals and, of course, the Megaron itself, for which it is an exit into the light.
The exhibition The Garden sees, without the theological or metaphysical connotations that could be read in the borrowed title, seeks the connection -the conversation- of the Garden with the social space and the City, the transcendence of the boundaries of its physical reality and its opening to imagination. The Garden, as a seeing subject, emerges from its closed physical self-sufficiency, it recalls collective memories and experiences from the public space, listens to human stories, creates new poetic relationships and fictional openings. It becomes a place of images. Each of them, through its innumerable perspectives, invites us to surpass the boundary, to experience the promenade or the contemplative moments in the Garden as continuous passages from reality to fiction.
The works in the exhibition, installations, sculptures, texts-sculptures, video projections, luminous and sound works, will be shown during the day, especially after sunset, until late at night. On the lawn and on trees, between foliage, on free screens on the ground or directly on the pavements, as well as in the utilitarian spaces of the Service Yard, the works converse in a light, playful and poetic manner with the natural environment. Emotions, associations, memories, desires meet and intersect revealing an interior garden of self-awareness and encounter.
The search of light, a broad metaphor and connective tissue of the works, lies always at the center of the exhibition, visible or guessed. A solar and moonlit search.
Group Show ‘A Certain Blue of the Sea’, curated by Sozita Goudouna, Ioanian Parliament, Corfu
04.07 – 31.08.2017
The history of art is inseparable from the history of colour and in this history, blue has always been associated with vastness, ‘blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions,’ as Yves Klein described.
Ultramarine blue derives from lapis lazuli, a gemstone that for centuries could only be found in a single mountain range in Afghanistan. For hundreds of years, the cost of lapis lazuli rivaled even the price of gold.
Humans with reduced blue sensitivity have difficulty identifying differences between blue and yellow, violet and red and blue and green. To these humans our ecosphere appears as generally red, pink, black, white, grey and turquoise. Blue appears green and yellow appears violet or light grey for humans with tritanopia, namely, for those who lack blue cone cells.
Visual perception is one of the most important mediums for our acquisition of knowledge and for our experience of our environment, of the physical world including our own bodies and others, while, colour is one of the most dominant components of our perception. Nevertheless, the physical world and the world of objects do not contain colour and aren’t coloured as we experience them. Colour isn’t a physical property of objects, thus, our blood is not red, the sea isn’t blue, the trees aren’t green…
The colour appearance of an object can be changed by changing the colour of light that shines on it and the colour of visible light depends on its wavelength. White light is composed of all of the colours of the rainbow, because it contains all wavelengths, and it is described as polychromatic light. Colour glows with the light of the radiant sun and creates a relentless spectacle of sheer visibility, of an intense luminosity that can even be blinding.
Drawing from our different perceptions of colour, colour vision deficiency and even “achromatopsia” (total colour blindness), the 40 participating artists of the Group Exhibition will trace the different interpretations of the notion of colour as sensation, visual and sensorial experience, psychological property of visual experiences, mental property, representation and construction of the brain.
40 Participating Artists
Dimitris Zouroudis, Katerina Zacharopoulou, Antonis Tsakiris, Adonis Volanakis, Kostis Velonis, Filippos Tsitsopoulos, Danae Stratou, Aggelos Skourtis, Christina Sgouromiti, George Sampsonidis, Nana Sachini, Nikos Navridis, Marina Provatidou, Artemis Potamianou, Brigitte Polemis, Hara Piperidou, Aemilia Papaphilippou, Antonia Papatzanaki, Nikos Papadopoulos, Margarita Myrogianni, Maro Michalakakos, Leon Michail, Iliodora Margellos, Christos Kostoulas (Captain), Esmeralda Kosmatopoulos , Peggy Kliafa, Maria Karantzi, Irini Karayannopoulou, Nikos Kanarelis, Sofia Housou, Aspassio Haronitaki, Cleopatra Haritou, Yioula Hadjigeorgiou, Kleio Gizeli, Maria Georgoula, Sandra Christou, Venia Bechraki, Rania Bellou, Evgenia Apostolou, Lydia Andrioti
Curator: Sozita Goudouna
Group Show ‘Good Printing’, curated by Yasmina Reggad, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai
22.05 – 14.09.2017
:mentalKLINIK, Pauline Bastard, Rania Bellou, Eglé Budvytyté, William Engelen, Aisha Khalid, Ilan Manouach, Sreshta Rit Premnath, Haleh Redjaian, Hassan Sharif
Drawing on the group show Nice Drawing (2015), Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde presents Good Printing, a second iteration of a series of exhibitions that don’t need to emerge from a clever title or overarching concept, but rather presents works by 10 artists that have a quirky and humorous approach to a single medium.
Beware viewer! Don’t expect to find the walls of the gallery covered with works on paper, framed photographs, lithography, publications, and against the promises of the title of the exhibition, there won’t be perfect impressions! Artists haven’t necessarily spent long hours in the printing studio. Instead, they explore the process of printmaking and the potentials of the technology of the mechanical image creations and reproduction that ‘enables the original to meet the beholder halfway. […] And in permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates the object reproduced.’ (Walter Benjamin)
Good Printing address issues of printmaking in regards to authenticity, reproducibility, and the mechanisation of art making. Nonetheless, the participating artists don’t engage in a nostalgic quest for the return to the original in order to restore the aura of the work of art. Rather, they celebrate the potentiality of the defects and inaccuracies that (can) occur in the process of copying originals or reproductions, which eventually redefines the essence of the originality of their work.
By confronting seemingly identical copies, Aisha Khalid and :mentalKLINIK highlight mistakes and discrepancies found in the mass production and reproduction of books or goods through the offset printing technique. On the other hand, Hassan Sharif and Haleh Redjaian provoke and turn to their advantage an impairment of print processing in the darkroom and screen-printing in the studio. Eglé Budvytyté and Sreshta Rit Premnath question the ontology of non-reproducibility of performance art by recording and imprinting the traces of their act on photographs and vinyl record. While Pauline Bastard and William Engelen propose devices that defy the very possibility of performing a reproduction, Rania Bellou attempts to bypass technology by drawing the precise enlarged copies of archival photographs.
Where printmaking removes the artist’s hand from the execution of the artwork, the artists in this exhibition develop strategies to enforce the mechanical process of reproduction, culminating with Ilan Manouach, who entrusts the hands of the audience to create and disseminate unique and immaterial copies of the same ancient Greek myths.
The exhibition will unfold weekly as an ever-evolving show in the adjacent Expanded Printing room in the gallery. The works of some of the exhibited artists will develop into other media that will inform and complement the main exhibition by refreshing and disrupting the experience of the returning viewers.
THE HUMAN CONDITION SESSION II. HUMAN AND THE OTHERS: Love, Friendship, Suspicion, Aversion
Exhibition ‘Don’t You Think It’s Time for Love?’ MMOMA, Ermolaevsky Lane 17, Moscow, 02.11.2016 – 08.01.2017
Artistic Director: Viktor Misiano, Co-curator of the session: Elena Yaichnikova
The Moscow Museum of Modern Art presents the second session of an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional project The Human Condition. The session HUMAN AND THE OTHERS: Love, Friendship, Suspicion, Aversion will focus on a human being in the framework of emotional relationships and his interaction with the social environment.
The session encompasses an exhibition, research projects and discussions. Its starting point is the exhibition Don’t You Think It’s Time for Love?, the title of which following the referential logic of the project, refers to the work Everything Else Has Failed! Don’t You Think It’s Time for Love? by the American artist Sharon Hayes. On display are video works, installations, photographs and books by 23 artists from all over the world including Yoko Ono, Boris Mikhailov, Jonas Mekas, Sophie Calle, and Andy Warhol. Some of the works have been created especially for the show. The exhibition in the MMOMA building at Ermolaevsky Lane is divided into four semantic sections and explores the internal dialectics of, maybe, the most important human emotion – love.
The first section of the exhibition entitled Love Is Colder than Death deals with the complex and ambiguous nature of the feeling belying the concept of love as an ecstatic and self-sufficient experience. The feeling does not make two become one, but, on the contrary, love stands for their internal duality: each of them contains the other. At the same time, in losing yourself in affection for another, rather than gaining another, you rediscover yourself. “Those in love”, as Rilke wrote, “stand guard over the solitude of each other”. We can never fully seize what we gain in the state of love; it constantly slips away from us, inflicting pain. The surplus turns into a shortage. Only this allows for the “eternal”, “undying love”.
As François de La Rochefoucauld has noted, “People would never fall in love if they hadn’t heard about the concept of love.” The second section of the exhibition Utterances of the Enamoured will concentrate on the social aspect of the feeling. Love is always a drama, a game and a spectacle, love involves inheritance of the tradition of romance and at least in part, love for the feeling love.
The third part of the exhibition The Ceremony of Love will trace how love gravitates to ritual, which is considered an anthropological basis for social connections. Jean Genet has noted that love is spurred by an encounter. Once met, lovers want to meet each other again and again, more and more often.
The title of the fourth section of the exhibition, Personal Is Political, alludes to the renowned slogan of American political activists of the 1970s. While confessing one’s feelings, one more than ever tries to avoid banality. As the philosophy of language states, by changing the language we are changing reality; by changing our daily behaviour we are changing the social order. Love becomes a metaphor and the driving force behind social renewal. “Being something that doesn’t enter into the immediate order of things”, Alain Badiou states, “love is always a truth procedure; it defines a new way of being”.
Film screenings, lectures and discussions will accompany the exhibition. The main programme is planned for December 2016.
Artists: Bisan Abu Eisheh, Rania Bellou, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ion Grigorescu, Nuria Guell, Akram Zaatari, Sophie Calle, Eli Cortinas, Fouad Elkoury, Jonas Mekas, Lee Mingwei, Boris Mikhailov, Tracey Moffatt, Nikolay Oleynikov, Yoko Ono, Koka Ramishvili, Mariateresa Sartori, Anita Sieff, Andy Warhol, Hans Peter Feldman, Gabriella Ciancimino, Katerina Seda
About The Human Condition project
Conceived by the three leading Moscow institutions – the National Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA), the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA) and the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center – the interdisciplinary project comprises seven thematic sessions unfolding across time and including exhibitions, symposiums, lectures and workshops.
The title of this project refers to the homonymous book by Hannah Arendt, whose philosophical thought attempted to answer the key question of the past century — how to be and stay Human in the face of the drama of History? The idea of this project, realized by the three museums, springs from the assumption that the Human today has once again become a central cultural issue. Artists and thinkers are revisiting the themes of memory and trauma, origins and homelessness, biography and destiny, hope and love, faith and fidelity. Contemporary reality cannot be reduced to simple definitions and exhaustive interpretations, and this is why the human and his experience become the starting and the ending points of the current state of the world.
The Human Condition encompasses an array of activities including research projects, exhibitions and discussions, draws on current worldview issues, showcases current social sciences achievements and brings world leading intellectuals into the discussion. It aims not to offer outcomes, but to reflect the agility and multifacetedness of contemporary thought and perception of the world. The Human Condition is intended to serve as a platform for intellectual and artistic reflection on topical issues of contemporaneity and challenges of these tumultuous times.
The project will conclude with an extensive exhibition and publication of the collection of articles based on the symposium materials.
Solo Exhibition ‘The story like all stories is incomplete’, curated by Vali Mahlouji, Taymour Graghne Gallery, NY 11.01.2015 – 20.02.2015
With the devoted meticulousness and determined rigor of a biographer, Rania Bellou investigates and chronicles the details of a life. Whose life? In the present exhibition, it is that of a certain Mrs. Margaret Becker, resident of New York, circa 1940. The central personage and present protagonist of Bellou’s expansive work was a regular US citizen and a past resident of a small in the state of New York. Bellou picked up Becker’s unremarkable diary dated 1940 during a regular scouting expedition through second hand markets in London. Such found personal objects – literary or pictorial – have formed the bedrock of much of Bellou’s continuous imaginative epistolary and biographical adventures to date. Obsessively centering her creative practice on other people’s, random people’s, memories and recollections Bellou has created extraordinarily delicate and yet powerful bodies of work.
Rania Bellou’s voyeuristic tenacity drives her foraging through pages of diaries, prying through personal albums and cross-referencing found historical photographs that may hold clues. Such intimate objects are usually the only remains of a past life. Therefore, no imperfect or rudimentary detail may suffer obsolescence. Bare hints dropped here and there and whispers where nothing is said or heard are extracted and imagined by Bellou to trace the whole boundary and circumstance of a subject’s life. She conducts her research with the necessary unease and sometimes nauseating interventionism that the job demands in pursuit of all materials personal and historical in order to construct a life story. Mrs. Margaret Becker was 32 years of age when she wrote the diary. She was married to Stillman Becker who was four years her senior. She and Stillman shared a house with Margaret’s mother and her two unmarried sisters. Stillman died prematurely from illness in 1949 while still in his forties. Margaret’s sisters never got married. Both sisters died more or less young. Margaret died at the age of 80 after living her entire life at the same address. She bore no children. By the end of the process Bellou knows all that there is to know about this life story. She is privy to its moments of banality or significance, its secrets and its prides, more than anyone but the intimate circles who shared them with the subject. Without concealing hints of nostalgia and melancholy, which are inevitable qualities of existing near a person who exists no longer, Bellou then sets herself on the task of recreating the world of the protagonist, visualizing the events, characters and moments of this life story. She reconstructs these moments and brings them to life in series of meticulous and remarkably technically refined drawings, usually accompanied by narrations.The randomness of the subject to the artist’s own subjectivities and circumstance safely distances Bellou from content, factual or emotive, and serves to emphasise a biographers’ objectivity whose first duty it is to plod in the indelible path of truth. The distancing is fundamental to any understanding of Bellou’s practice. As any history is not exactly a past but a story of a past, the tracing and retelling of a life story is inevitably a selective narrative. And Bellou is fully in charge of this selectivity, which she cunningly exploits while superimposing and interweaving her own and others’ narratives. The artist allows her imaginative fantasising to fluidly permeate every scene and float through the reconstructed stories of others’ lives. Bellou’s very personal and own deep-seated experiences or sublimated existential anxieties are discharged through the interventionist displacements. This in turn underpins the viewer’s own not just voyeuristic curiosity but desire for projection. Here lies the key to Bellou’s pictorial story-telling work – the degree to which this implacable projective identification is at play either at a given moment or across the various interrelated iterations within the exhibition.The exhibition the story, like all stories is incomplete consists of six elements: a large book of drawings; a related projection; a set of framed drawings; a further set of large format drawings; the original diary appropriated through layers of drawings; and an animation recording Bellou’s invasive drawing process over the pages of the diary.The found diary,The diary of M.Becker 1940, the central object, which is presented on a pedestal is a non-descript brown leather-bound pocket-sized hardback object of no special distinction. The handwriting is now illegible and embedded under the furious successive layers of pencil marks. It once recorded daily activities between I January – 29 December 1940. The entries always started with the weather: a beautiful day; a nice day; a cloudy and windy day. They recorded Margaret’s time of waking, her daily and repeating mundane chores and the time of Margaret’s retirement to bed each night. Others mentioned were members of Margaret’s immediate family, which consisted of her husband, her two unmarried sisters and her parents all of whom lived together under the same roof with Margaret. Recovered from amongst the pages were also two loose newspaper clippings from the same year and a postcard addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Stillman Becker and signed mother. The postcard was stamped: Delanson 27 Dec 1940 5:00 pm. There were no entries describing personal thoughts or feelings, no moments of introspection, no epiphanies, desires, or regrets. Remarkably, the internal life of Margaret Becker as reflected in her diary, was voiceless and her external reality remained dully uneventful and quite unmoved by and oblivious to the state of affairs in wartime 1940.
The animation, which is projected next to the diary begins with the figure of a woman walking across the pages of the diary. She is Bellou’s Mrs. Becker who paces forward across the open pages of the diary such that she only steps out of the frame at the end of the first sequence, exactly when the last page of the diary has been turned. The animation then flows into a new sequence showing warplanes flying overhead as the protagonist paces across the pages. And so a third sequence follows in which explosions appear all around the oblivious walking figure of Mrs. Becker. As Bellou’s drawing builds up in graphite density, the scenes get darker and the pages get blacker. In the final sequences Mrs. Becker is only visible in traces while the world around her has been swallowed into darkness. What are left are dispersed occasional bursts of light overhead emanating from the force of the explosions. In a frustrating reaction to the drab personality of the protagonist and the banality of her life – potentially of any life – Bellou’s pencils work and rework the pages of the diary and activate them into a frenzy that ultimately obliterates each original page and the handwriting, the subject’s only means of existence. Bellou’s contemptuous violation first animates the found object, but ultimately in a final act of protest obliterates it page by page through successive applications of drawing.
Across the room the artist presents a large hand-stitched book of drawings entitled Threading Dreams through an Embroidered Past. The book is composed of one hundred individual drawings on sheets of translucent handmade gampi paper. The layered drawings create multiple compositions that inter-permeate. The protagonist is always visible although she does not appear in every drawing. The hardness of the gampi paper affords Bellou the use of a broad graphite grading scale and the application of hard pencil markings, which remove fibre as they deposit colour. The translucency allows the artist to sculpt with light. The formal qualities of the realistic drawings are rigorously sophisticated. As the viewer leafs through the visual diary, characters and settings appear and disappear through a lyrically nostalgic fog. Scenes compose and decompose. In a departure form truth, Bellou imaginatively imposes fantasised scripts along with invented events and characters beyond the original story. The artist invents scenes and manufactures events, characters and relations, which could have happened but in actuality had not happened. The new elements are referenced from unrelated photographic sources, which correlate with the era but are factually outside of Margaret Becker’s diary. This way the artist as author relieves her protagonist from the repetitively monotonous loops of her insular life. But she also allows her own personal feelings and memories to intrude and inform the fictional narratives, in a defiant act of addressing the protagonist’s, or her own, powerlessness in the face of reality. By inventing events Bellou is also commenting on our inherent desire to rewrite our stories.
Solo Exhibition ‘Forty Floating Moons’, Kalfayan Galleries, Athens 03.07.2015 – 27.09.2015
In the exhibition “Forty Floating Moons”, Rania Bellou elaborates upon and expands a favorite motif of her artistic practice: the mnemonic presence of the past through various unrelated photographs compiled in a highly personal way. She explores in depth the photographic and material trace of the past, the photograph itself, which is common to every home, an indirect memory, and perhaps the most characteristic example of a personal collection, the photograph album.
In the series titled “A short History or the short Story”, the artist isolates and regroups on paper human figures and words, urban landscapes and places drawn from photographs, letters and postcards, using the external form and inner structure of family photograph albums. If a single photograph remains opaque and inaccessible to the viewer who searches for a story behind the image, the collection of fragmentary, mnemonic photographic moments in the album reinstates the connection between the photograph and the subsequent narration. This relationship is particularly obvious in the first work of this series in which the correspondence between a couple is accompanied by images of ships, which could have transported their letters. In subsequent works, she shows us the image as a story and the story as an image.
In a double ‘reversal’ of the logic and function of the album, Bellou places these works in display cases and then reproduces them digitally, reminding us of the tactile qualities of the photograph and its unavoidable attrition over time. The video projections are not simply a recording of the contents of the albums in the display cases. Bellou repeats the same gesture, leafing through the album so as to create a narrative cohesion amongst the successive images. As in ‘real’ albums, where the part submits to the whole, here, too, the final narration is the result of a complex process where imagination, subjective experiences, family and personal memories intermingle in order to create the sense of a life that has been imprinted on paper.
Bellou’s work invites us to think about the succession of events that make an incident or emotion worthy of being recorded, that particular moment behind or in front of the camera lens or on paper. Her works are not merely a memoir of the other (as in the work of the same title that is in the show), but to ourselves and the ways in which we preserve our personal autobiography through infinite images. In her works we recognize, through successive visual coherence and indefinable familiar faces and parts of a past which does not belong to us, something common. In their repetitiousness, these images of people and places demonstrate not only the interplay of collective and personal memory, but also of History and its subjective narration (Story).
The artistic universe of Rania Bellou is composed of material fragments and traces of past relationships, of letters and dedications that recount ‘minor’ stories of love and patience, of familiar faces that stand primly in front of the camera lens. Bellou draws out of family ‘archives’ and photograph collections personal documents of the past, in order to wander through the common places of collective memory.
Anna – Maria Kanta
Museologist, Art Theoritician
Solo Exhibition ‘Between I and Me’, 12 Star Gallery, European House, London 30.05.2012 – 15.06.2012
Going through the love correspondence of an unknown couple -that reveals a torrid tale or repressed love in 1930s Egypt and England- creates the impression that one invades a thorough personal sphere with only means the guidance of his instinct and experiential symbolisms.
Such an invasion requires the profound understanding of the relationship’s dynamics in order to be able to follow its lead. The restricted amount of information that the artist chose to provide, leads the audience’s imagination to reconstruct ideas and incidents by making assumptions and representations that he will never be able to crosscheck.
But is one person capable of understanding thoroughly the intentions and emotional mechanisms of another? Or is it that human nature really lacks empathy and just projects and identifies most experiences through the sense of self?
Marcel Proust notes that, “every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth”. Bellou’s real challenge is to read an image as a presentation that is capable of creating new contexts, or – to distance ourselves from the textual metaphor – new configurations.
Taking a closer look at Reggie’s love correspondence makes one sense his loneliness and his wholehearted dedication, his struggle for life and his gradual disintegration. It almost appears as fiction when the human instinctual inability to deal with absence of information, drives the audience to come up with thoughts and ideas in order to put the pieces of this communication together; always in such a way that the whole image appeals to the individual’s personality.
The exchange of letters seemed to serve the need of Reggie for a constant reminder of feelings and sexual self-stimulation, hence the repetition of the expressions. In other instances, writing those letters to his beloved one, was almost as if he was keeping a diary, holding on to images of the past and the desirable future, hoping that this continuum of feelings coming from far away –in terms of both place and time- would somehow maintain the sense of past self and that of a past era. Even after his decline, Reggie strived to fulfill his needs, bringing forward both a sense of circumstantial suppression and a narcissistic outburst.
Winkie’s absence requires an effort from the visitor’s side to understand her perceptions and feelings. Since Winkie’s letters are not provided, one can only assume that the impressions created by Reggie represent with accuracy the culture of the relationship. Her vivid presence on his mind is empowered by the void that her absence indicates.
In these letters, anyone could be either Reggie or Winkie, or even both of them in different instances of their life. Some could even stay distant just to observe the passion and the destruction and protect themselves from feelings. Each person will projectively identify with the characters in a completely different manner, as transference of behaviors and personality traits depends mainly on the individual’s experience.
If such a load of self is engaged and involved in love, could it be that in between every human’s I and Me, there is an available space for the significant other to be contained and appreciated? Or are love and passion just projections of one’s feelings onto his own self?
Solo Exhibition ‘Living in a Cerebral Fortress’, curated by Dorothea Konteledzidou, Kalfayan Galleries, Thessaloniki 10.09.2009 – 30.10.2009
“Le présent du passé, c’est la mémoire; le présent du présent, c’est l’attention actuelle; le présent de
l’avenir, c’est son attente.” 1
Rania’s Bellou artwork is characterized by various aspects and subjects, by the reflection of the body in a trans-subjective space transforming the image, allowing it to build the experience of a present which exceeds itself and has as unique goal its development.
Photography, as the substantial artistic background, is for the artist a material-to-be offering the opportunity to highlight the relation between visible and invisible.
Besides, the invention of photography prevented the “present” from being drawn into the invisible side of history, didn’t it?
This story is produced by Rania Bellou, she made it available to time, but also to the performance of the other through the extension of the “Other”.
The shabby, old photos, past stories not belonging to anyone anymore but the “Other”, processed digitally, create a fake “dialogue” between the represented figures, the artist and the audience.
They create, let’s say, a kind of romantic and social touch, where the object of the representation is evolved to the object of reality.
The reproduction of the image in the artwork serves as the installation desire of the temporary images of a mirror reflecting its extension, the idol, but also the invisible side of our desire as a kind of worship to Prometheus stopping the ongoing wear of the images through the relation of past-present-future.
The potential of her artwork is found in the use of new media being used, like video-screenings with animations, or even in the traditional Japanese technique “origami”, which gives to her artworks-at first reading-a childlike, but also fragile approach, but in her intention to explore these spaces, where the time of the look means for her pause, movement, anti-movement, meeting point of phantasy and symbolism, that is of a dialectic making obvious the time progress.
A time progress being supplemented by the pedagogic, but also active involvement of the audience challenging in that way the memory of the “Other”.