Another life: Human flows / Unknown Odysseys


Alexandros Avramidis – Reuters / Petros Giannakouris – Associated Press / Louisa Gouliamaki – Agence France Presse / Yorgos Karahalis – Associated Press / Giorgos Katsagelos / Alexandros Katsis / Yannis Kolesidis – Εuropean Pressphoto Agency, Athens News Agency / Yannis Kontos – Polaris / Alkis Konstantinidis – Reuters / Giorgos Makkas – Panos Pictures / Aris Messinis – Agence France Presse / Sakis Mitrolidis – Agence France Presse / Dimitris Michalakis / Giorgos Moutafis / Yannis Behrakis – Reuters / Giannis Papanikos – Fos Photos, Associated Press / Antonis Pasvantis / Nikos Pilos – LAIF / Lefteris Pitarakis – Associated Press / Thanasis Stavrakis – Associated Press / Angelos Tzortzinis / Dimitris Tosidis – INTIME / Konstantinos Tsakalidis – SOOC / Kostas Tsironis / Milos Bicanski – Getty Images / Enri Canaj

Duration: 31/05/2016-31/01/2017, Opening: 31/05/2016, 20:00
Location: Museum of Photography, Thessaloniki (Warehouse Α’, 1st floor, Port)

Curation: Hercules Papaioannou, Penelope Petsini

Another life: Human flows / Unknown Odysseys

I came from the sea, from Ionia. Where did you come from? *
Since ancient times the prospect of Another Life has been for mankind a geographical displacement spring, sometimes an evolutionary necessity and sometimes a tough ordeal through serious dangers and brutal expulsions. The evolving refugee drama at the Eurasian crossroads spawned sophisticated terms such as “forced displacement”, and rough as “the Mediterranean’s watery grave”. The term refugee implies uprooting, deep suffering. Migration is often a less violent process. Their difference, however, is not limited to legal formalities. It becomes precarious when the inalienable right to a decent, safe life is raised. The new refugees are victims of a merciless war. The most effective generator of refugees and migrants, however, as an underground endless war, is poverty which, despite the unimpeded flow of capital, information and goods, is spread like a disease, thickening and crumpling the Human Flows. The exhibition chronicles elliptically a profound trauma of contemporary history, taking into account distinct forms of representation: professional photojournalism, which forms its main body, “citizen journalism” recording actions of solidarity, and the self-representation of the refugees themselves propagated through the internet and the social media. The photographers immerse from a breath’s distance in the turmoil of events, at times closely involved with the subject of representation, unfold the consequences of politics on the crushed people, depicting the despair of those who are sleeping exposed, in a foreign land. At the same time, they experience the tragic losses, depict lives that in the era of flash speed are trapped deadlock against all sorts of fences that curl up by the roadside as an indissoluble unfinished business. Refugees and immigrants live in suffocating regime of visibility against the public, a visibility which they use as a communication shield but also can not avoid. Similarly, they generate their photographic self-representation by transmitting network existential signals from the community of the homeless. Within this massive, impersonal process, the Anonymous Odyssey of each one is inevitably lost. Everything seems clear yet at the same is vaguely generalized, as the numbers go beyond any possibility, conquer and distort reality, returning mountains of urgent problems. Choosing to present these works ‘bare’ (like their subjects), and putting no distance between them and the respective “amateur” and “professional” images, might allow one to cast a critical eye over the issue, as well as photographic representation itself. Photography, herein inhabited by unusual findings such as the bright isothermal blankets or stacks of life-jackets, has been theoretically challenged both for its close relationship with reality and for representing “the pain of others” from a priviledged position. Faced with phenomena such as the refugee crisis, however, theory reciprocates, tacitly recognising the need of palpating the social condition, moved in front of the rough poetry of human destiny and photography’s ability to claim a place in the public sphere for those excluded from it. Photography, after all, like the reality it describes, resembles itself to an elegant fence, an incomplete game of limits which is called upon to confirm the almost century-old historical claim of Lewis Hine, “to shed light upon the dark side of the social existence”. Maybe the light that photography sheds is insufficient. Perhaps crucial aspects often remain outside the frame. But even this deficient ability to interrogate, to illuminate, to delve into, to invite for reflection is one of the few we are left with, so as to denounce it painlessly.

Penelope Petsini – Hercules Papaioannou

*A Greek addressing an SS squad before his execution, from the film “The Travelling Players” (1975), by Theo Aggelopoulos