“Writing Trauma:” Giving Voice to a Wound that Seems to Defy Representation in Contemporary Greek Cypriot Art

Klitsa Antoniou, Frederick University CyprusAntonis Danos, Cyprus University of Technology

Klitsa Antoniou and Antonis Danos look at select, contemporary works of art by Greek Cypriot artists, from the post-1974 era amidst the ongoing, de facto division of Cyprus, after the Turkish military invasion of the island. They question what it might mean to ‘write trauma,’ or to give voice to a wound that seems to defy representation. In the examined Greek Cypriot artists’ works they detect an abstraction of the figure, a deterritorialization of form and a repetitive materialization of the Deleuzian ‘figural.’ How did artists extract the ‘figural,’ which stands in opposition to figuration or representation, from its narrative and illustrational links? Is the move toward abstraction a realization that no representational method could contain the ‘unspeakable’? Does it point to the consciousness that no aesthetic object will ever be right or appropriate to the historic trauma that it takes as its grounding subject? The artists discussed do not only confront the aesthetic potential of visual practice, but also address the theoretical and ethical impossibilities of such a practice. They enact a conception of another set of relations between representation and the ‘unrepresentable.’ As the ‘unrepresentable’ is not located in narrative representation, following a Deleuzian line, Antoniou and Danos locate it – in these abstract works – in the way the material passes into sensation, and in how this sensation affects the audience. They open up the question of what art itself might tell us about the lived experience and memory of trauma, and what the specific works studied trigger in the viewer. Art is therefore a realm that opens up the world, unfolding it towards that which we are unable to represent. The cause of the violence, the fractured sensory experience and the unpredictable and persistent temporality of trauma and memory in contemporary Cypriot art are invisible but present – they constitute a force that makes its presence known. Cypriot artists attempt the impossible in striving to bear witness, not only to the trauma experienced through a past loss, but also to something at once more general and more devastating: the loss inscribed in the movement of temporality itself.

Keywords: Cyprus, contemporary art, trauma theory, Deleuze, memory

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