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Reliefs- walking through languages started in 2014 during the Art Residency Program at Vyrsodepseio in Athens, Greece.
For both as foreign artists, illiteracy in Greek interrupted our direct access to the local culture, leading us to investigate not only western language restrictions but artistic language boundaries. In our wanderings throughout the city, we noticed the Greek alphabet not only in informational signage that we could not interpret, but everywhere- manhole covers, newspapers, magazines, posters–every expression of literal and visual communication that we take for granted in our native language became a focus of attention because meaning and understanding felt unattainable.
In the attempt to approach an unknown linguistic symbol, we collected photographs, produced drawings and collages that dealt with the alphabet in an abstract way, whether treating the letters as forms or considering the possible sonorities it might have.
While exploring the city by foot, we discovered old, traditional letterpress printing shops that still own presses that use antiquated, moveable lead Greek type. One of the companies that worked primarily with letterpress printing and typography in the 20th century allowed us work in their facilities and use the printing techniques that have become obsolete in the digital era. These typographic prints on paper were then offered to national and international collaborators to be interpreted in different ways, depending upon their disciplines and abilities. For example, the letterpress print in the hands of a singer was transformed into a musical score. The recorded voice of the singer heard by the sensitive ears of a blinded dancer was translated with gestures and voice. Or the letterpress print relief was physically read by the fingers instead of the eyes and interpreted by voice.
Regardless the symbolic meaning of the text and the fields of expression of the participants, we were faced with a restrictive element present in every communication process, called by Roland Barthes as an oppressive power implicit in every discourse. The power he says (p.11) is the “parasite of a trans-social organism” and it is not perceived in everyday use because it is a convention. The project attempted to deal with language limitations and the artistic boundaries by inviting artists and non-artists to invent a individual usage of symbolic language
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