P a r e i d o l i a – Seen from Poros town there is at the distance a range of mountains which resembles the shape of a woman lying on her back, looking at the sky. She is known as ‘Koimomeni’, which means ‘sleeping woman’. Full-buxomed and long-necked, she draws the gaze of Poriotes sitting at quayside cafes. Not only the gaze, but also their innermost thoughts and desires. According to a local writer and folklorist, Koimomeni is the reason why Poros is such an erotic island, a ‘place for distinguished lovers’ as Seferis would have it. Her imposing presence keeps those on the island in a constant erotic mood, brings immanent desires to the surface. Koimomeni, because perhaps she is sleeping and not simply up at night thinking of her heart’s elect, is a tough mistress. In a way, she symbolises those desires that remain unfulfilled, always at a distance. The distant object of desire, however, is what makes most human endeavours happen, when they happen at all. And, just like her, human endeavours are formed of many small and irrelevant parts, projected from a distance, which, filtered by desire, produce a recognizable whole, a phantasmic image of completeness. Because Koimomeni is not one mountain range, but many different ones, situated in disparate places. Their projection in space forms the shape of the sleeping woman.
A n a m o r p h o s i s – But Koimomeni acquires its form and beauty only from a specific vantage point. Only when seen from the quay of Poros do those different mountains take the shape of a sleeping woman. So the Poriotes feel, and are, privileged, in that way. ‘You want to know what is Poros’s most important landmark? It is Koimomeni!’ told me Eleni, the president of the municipal cultural association. The reason is that this unbelievable coincidence of elements which shape a recognisable form is only visible from the Poriote vantage point. Then an inverse occurrence happens: if the vantage point is so privileged by a contingency, it starts to act as an attractor. It is not the form that matters any more, but the vantage point. It is Poros which is blessed, and not the Koimomeni. Much like the facetious question often asked: is it better to live on Poros and look at Galatas -the village on the opposite coast, comprising fine specimens of 80s concrete architecture-, or live at Galatas and admire Poros? Or much like this photo of Fotis that comprises the successive shots of the same position taken over one day. This made me think whether the juxtaposition of many disparate actions, persons, machinery, techniques, discourses, narratives, etc at the same place and at the same time is what makes us recognise this process as ‘archaeology’, and not vice-versa. Is this glorious conglomeration of desire and action a visual effect? And if so, what is the vantage point from which this jumble of material looks like a recognisable method? And what does this vantage point tell us about who stands there?
D e c o n s t r u c t i o n – As I was driving out of Galatas on the last official day of fieldwork, the shape of Koimomeni gradually disintegrated. Getting shorter and stockier, she gradually turned into the garland of mountains and hills that comprise her. From this point of view, I could scarcely believe that this is the natural phenomenon that attracted my gaze along with the Poriotes and their visitors. Suddenly she became indistinguishable, unremarkable, unrecognizable. At the same time, I felt a relief, a release from her spell, her attraction. It was nothing after all. Just a pareidolia, just a play of the imagination. I was free from the demanding mistress. Looking closely at things and their social expressions, analysing them and deconstructing them promises, I guess, the same feeling of relief from their attraction, the same sense of open possibilities and nomadic thought, of intellectual freedom. Much like Fotis’s photo, the mirror is smashed and the vision is broken into shards, which are much easier to study but somehow less attractive in themselves. Right now, sitting in front of a laptop writing all this, I cannot keep but ponder at the uneasy balance that intellectuals try to keep between their effort to reduce desire into discourse and their more or less secretly held will to unite disparate elements into wholes. The one makes for a cool, measured exhibition of facts, and paves the way for communication and dialogue (and pedantry, of which I am here guilty). The other, is an erotic work that simultaneously constitutes subjects for thought and subjects who think.