CM: Eleni Michailou's Silence is part of the exhibition entitled Person in Pieces, which was presented in 1994 at Gallery 7, Athens, and concerns a pun on self-portraiture, where the artist identifies with the work. As known, with his work the artist creates an extension of everyday life's dimension. Therefore, the 'speech' concerning Michailou begins from everyday talk and develops into the discourse of its divine ramifications.
Michailou's Silence is polyptych work comprising of four successive pictures. First, it presents a text from an old manual, like the imperative of authority that establishes the condition of silence. Then follows the portrait, which at the same time speaks and listens. The third part brings together text and portrait. The text in the picture serves both aesthetics and concept, which need one another. The last work presents the denial of speech, with a black ribbon that blocks the mouth. In effect, Silence represents the course of development from the liberty of speech towards its negation, which imposes silence.
Initially Mich ailou intended to represent Silence in the technique of engravings (copperplate with aquatint). As the work progressed she became interested in contemporary graffiti with spray. She used a photograph of her face from an automatic photo-booth, which she simplified by means of photocopies in order to limit its tones to white and black. In her effort to identify the work with the artist she chose to keep the sides of every work at fifty-seven centimeters, in order to reference the year of her birth. She created separate moulds for the tex t and the portrait, and through them printed their negative using black spray.
Michailou used the text from a photostat edition of William Shakespeare's original Tempest (1611). The excerpt she chose reads as follows: "PROSPERO: Thou most lying slave, / Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have used thee, / Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee / In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate / The honour of my child. [...] Abhorred slave, / Which any print of goodness will not take, / Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee, / Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour / One thing or other. When thou didst not, savage, / Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like / A thing most brutish, I endowed thy purposes / With words that made them known. But thy vile race, / Though thou didst learn, had that in't which good natures / Could not abide to be with; therefore wast thou / Deservedly confined into this rock, who hadst / Deserved more than a prison." [William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, Scene II, 343-368] This excerpt concerns a monologue of Prospero addressing Caliban. By this text Shakespeare investigates the essence of silence. He uncovers the single underlying nature of the multiple human expressions. Prospero and Caliban represent two different roles, which derive from the mutal human nature. It is the same man who only changes roles, as if roles were clothes. Prospero obliges Caliban to silence because he is not worthy of speech.
With Silence and the ensuing works of this series Mich ailou refers to the loss of social identity. Such loss turns out to become of central concern, because it is in man's nature - the drive to express something more profound than social conventions that are imposed for his survival. In truth man is in constant search for his personal identity and his wavering between silence and the word is the motive fuel of his course.
[Megakles Rogakos 01/2008]
ALBUM Person in Pieces 1994 Gallery 7, Athens
GOUKOULI, CLIO / KOURIA, AFRODITE Child and Play in Neohellenic Society in the 19th & 20th Centuries 1999 Kastaniotis Editions, Athens, p.339
MARANGOU, MARIA Greek Artists, Investigations 1950-2000, The Permanenent Collection 1999 Rethymnon Centre of Contemporary Art, p.198-199
ROGAKOS, MEGAKLES Silent Dialogues: Multimedia Portraits Throughout Time 2008 The American College of Greece - ACG Art, Athens