Caressing the vicious
An online correspondence between Ioanna Gerakidi and Iria Vrettou, tracing Vrettou’s artistic practice as a vessel for thinking across the limits of the real, the potentials of the imaginary and the pleasure of the habitual, for becoming with monsters, animals, nymphs and other deities.
Ioanna Gerakidi (IG)
ceremonies rituals broken
legs wide open
allowing for others to come in
fragments monster animals
having more than one
head licking each others
their darkness their light
where eternity is
real the ephemeral
when movement is the only
entrance to silence
skin shows when covered
in blood colors clothes
when angels are born the water
flows naked when demons
die the earth grieves her cries
turn fire into love her scars
melt the human
psyches into laughter and affect
blues and bruises
of lives lived in parallel
Iria Vrettou (IV)
I’ve been reading a text of Raquel Gutierez, on the work of Wu Chang, it starts by them quoting the words of José Esteban Muñoz: “Communal mourning, by its very nature, is an immensely complicated text to read, for we do not mourn just one lost object or other, but we also mourn as a ‘whole’-or put another way, as a contingent and temporary collection of fragments that is experiencing a loss of its parts”. Muñoz’s words echo, in my ears, a cathartic scheme embodied in your practice; a paradoxical mourning arising from what you call “ephemeral border”, when referring to finding new forms of kinship, togetherness, love in between “water and land”, “individual and collective”, “solid centers and liquid peripheries”. And the reason why I think of this perpetual process as a mourning one, is because it comes with a perpetual separation from the self, in order to find and “touch” the other, a perpetual separation from “land” in order to find safety, or that which has never been explored, a perpetual separation from staticness, solidity, linearity in order to “grow bigger”, to quote the words of Kathy Acker. Within these endlessly transforming ways of being and producing and growing, are you ever scared? Have you ever been attracted by the pleasure and comfort of the habitual?
I am scared. I think this ‘thrill’ of transforming, shifting, changing must include feeling scared. Forms of life are always shared — both collective & singular and in that, there is a responsibility.
I see producing as translating sometimes, and through that, new forms of language arise. There was this lecture of the philosopher Steven Shaviro, where he said something like “to imagine a language means to imagine a new form of life”, and then he continued with what Latour calls ‘a proliferation of hybrids’. To me, forms of life stretch everywhere, they do not respect the borders between entities, they have fuzzy outlines and resist definition. So, in this translation sometimes I am scared; in this exact responsibility I feel towards the real, the imaginary and the in between. What is being gained, and what is being lost in the process. And in this process I find comfort, also, and pleasure of the habitual. Creating worlds of hybrids and hybrids of worlds is an escape and something very familiar to me. It is hopeful.
I’m thinking of your “Volcanic Identity”, for which again you engage with transformations, when you write about their power to “regenerate”. I googled the etymology of the word volcano, and realized that it was named after the Roman God of fire, “Vulcan”. And it’s interesting, because fire to me, is not only the most transformative element, but also -at least symbolically or mythologically- a tool and a mechanism to reach empowerment, demand agency, fight for existence, resist. It’s a vessel through which you can break hierarchies, protect your rights, desires and needs. In that sense, with your project “Volcanic Identity”, it’s not only demons, and nymphs, and all kind of deities that speak, shout, or shriek their voices, but also us, women, outcasts, marginalized, dismissed human, non-human, or as you say “more-than-human” beings.
Absolutely. Volcanic Identity is queer identity. Queer, in the sense of resistance, metamorphosis, active participation, remapping, revisiting, recharging, cultivating, birthing, of a radical empathy and I can keep going. It’s an identity that helps me understand different states & concepts but also the realities around me. Volcanic is femme. And femme is a way of thinking for me. One which reclaims power, reclaims nurture, reclaims love, reclaims anger. Volcanic witchcraft.
Recently I’ve been having more and more dreams about volcanoes. And there is always a very familiar face involved. It is usually my mother, somewhere close by, closer to the crater than me.
And even though the Volcano erupts, and there is lava, and smoke, the dream is never angry, nor scary, nor sad. It is reassuring, it is a feeling of tiptoeing around a shift/a change/a leap. The more I dream of volcanoes, the more I speak to them and they speak to me.
I read elsewhere that you speak of your works as portals. And I remembered you mom telling me once something about portals as inductions to things unknown and therefore as something that has to be tender in its abruption, comforting in its scary quality. I’m sure I paraphrased her words, but it’s interesting, because even though your practice uses various media, your (or your creatures’) presence allows for this exact inclusivity, stroke, affect required when entering an altering state.
Dancing for me is a way to portal. Another one is dreaming. To either be a portal or go through one. And portals in themselves are a neverending in-between.
An ever-shifting feeling, which blends, absorbs and births new entities and moments;
Recentering with no center
Rebalancing without balance
Caressing the vicious
Wilding the tender
Teeth and limbs and multiple tails.
Eyes and eyelids and tongues speaking
speaking in tongues
haunting in tongues
Portals of love
Profoundly in love.
There is this exercise I ask from my students to do in advance of our first meeting, where I encourage them to send me their alternative short bio. And by alternative, I mean, writing about loves and rejections, past fears and future hopes, unrequited or fulfilled desires, astrology, candles, psalms or prayers, dances, walks or any other schemes meaning something to you.
Dream sharing is something I’m hoping to practice more. It structures my thinking and renders my everyday experience. And I dream a lot. A scheme of dreaming? That could be a part of my short bio. This and making my favorite pasta dish. Cherry tomatoes, feta, caramelized with garlic. It’s a process of healing and comfort. The definition of the habitual for me.
Iria Vrettou is an artist, born in 1995 and based in Athens. She holds a Diploma in Animation from University of the Arts London and an MA in Contemporary Art Practice-Moving Image from the Royal College of Art, London. Her work is primarily focused on concepts and modes of hybridity as methods of research and practice, whilst addressing aspects of hand-drawn animation, performance and installation in relation to their conceptual, eco-queer functions. Her practice critically examines the function of the ‘screen’ in the context of cultural production and political processes, and explores the creation of art works that can work as disquieting, complete spatiotemporal experiences. Within this framework, in the last couple of years she has developed a keen interest in the real and symbolic life of volcanoes. She has participated in various art projects in Athens, London, Seoul and others. She has been awarded the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS (2021). She was a resident of International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York City (2022).
Ioanna Gerakidi is a writer, curator and educator based in Athens. Her research interests think through the subjects of language and disorder, drawing on feminist, educational, poetic and archival studies and schemes. She has collaborated with and curated exhibitions and events for various institutions and galleries and residencies and her texts and poems have appeared in international platforms, magazines and publications. She has lectured or led workshops, seminars and talks for academies and research programs across Europe. Her practice and exhibitions have been awarded by institutions, such as Rupert Residency, Mondriaan Fonds, Outset and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS, amongst others.