Christodoulos Panayiotou


The work of Christodoulos Panayiotou (born 1978 in Limassol, Cyprus, lives and works in Berlin) is characterised by the performative – whether he is creating spaces for others to act in or exploring artistic and societal ‘performances’ in his works. Everyday and folkloric traditions and practices, popular festivals, and other rituals rooted in society and popular culture play just as much a role in his works as the associated romantic myths and subtextual desires. Hence Panayioutou’s video works, installations, photographs and performances circle around the individual and collective representation of sentimentality, longing and the associated idea of melancholy and absence. The viewers often find themselves in situations that propel them back to their own social rootedness, cultural memory and personal desires.

Kunsthalle Zürich presents the first institutional solo exhibition by Christodoulos Panayiotou that brings together works which are characterised by a strong conceptual approach and explore questions surrounding the notion of archive and the relationship between sound and image, story and history, and theory.

In his work Wonder Land (2008), the artist explores the topic of the annual carnival in Limassol. Through intensive research on the aesthetic appearance of the carnival parade in the city archive, Panayiotou documents a transformation over the years and the fascination of the Limassolians for Disney characters. Hence, Mickey Mouse, Mini Mouse and Donald Duck can now be seen parading the streets – a trend that represents a subversive negotiation of the historic and political narration of the parade.

The two-part video work Guysgocrazy (2007) was produced in cooperation with the pornographic film production company of the same name in Prague, which specialised in films featuring mass orgies. One video shows how the camera scans the venue just ahead of such licentious revelry. The studio is clean and tidy and the beams of light from the spotlights dance on the coloured walls and the sparkling clean floor. The second video explores the same space after the event. The actors have already disappeared leaving their traces behind: paper cups, empty champagne bottles, whipped cream and discarded condom packaging come under the spotlight for seconds and present silent witnesses of the events that have just taken place. By presenting the contrast between the beginning and end of a porn film production, Panayiotou simultaneously compares the expected spectacle with the vestiges of the decadent drama. By isolating the prologue and the epilogue, the artist plays with the viewer’s associations, which reconstruct the missing action and actors. The location is enlivened solely by the sound heard in the background. The babble of voices and laughter suggests what is missing on the visual level, i.e. human presence.

Panayiotou also pursues the theme of absence and its portrayal in the work Le Fauteuil de Sarah Bernhardt (2009). Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923), one of the most famous actresses of the 19th and early 20th centuries, discovered the island of Belle-Île in Brittany in 1894. She acquired a small disused military fortress there at the coastal location of Pointe des Poulains. Over a thirty year period she regularly fled there, in the company of friends so as to escape the hustle and bustle of Paris. Panayiotou’s two photographs show a seat carved in a rock and the view from it onto the rocky coast of the island of Belle-Île. The structure of the rock also refers to the art-historical background as, in the context of the title of the work, it becomes a reference to transitoriness and absence – the seat apparently carved in the rock for Sarah Bernhardt, who as said, used to sit and recite poetry to the ocean, is empty and becomes the substitute for her self.

Panayiotou deals with another great female film star in the work Judy Garland: A Biography. In this work, he superimposes the first and last recordings of the emblematic ballad Somewhere over the rainbow sung by Judy Garland. The song, which was originally written for the film version of the novel The Wizard of Oz, became one of the best known songs of the 1930s. The superimposition of the two versions demonstrates the change in Garland’s interpretation over the years, becoming almost a metaphor for her life story. It also refers to the multiple social and political revivals the song has undergone to the present day. A screen print in the exhibition room announces the staging of Panayiotou’s sound installation in the Arthouse Alba cinema: the work will be presented before the regular film screenings on Sunday, 21 March 2010.

Another poster shown in the exhibition announces the presentation of the sound installation To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause (2007) in the Arthouse Alba cinema. The work was produced and documented in audio in September 2007 during a crossing of the Aegean Sea. It presents performances of seven songs from American musicals by Danish singer Kristian Finne Kristensen. The songs have in common the use of meteorological metaphors to formulate utopian projections of a better future. This work will also be presented in the Arthouse Alba cinema on Saturday, 20 February 2010 from 1 to 2.45 pm.

Kunsthalle Zürich would like to thank the Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich and the LUMA Foundation for their support.