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PB: Tuesday, 10 January 2005 NEWSLETTER

LOST #1 1. LOST #2 2. LOST #3 3. LOST #4 4.

1. Entrance to John Stathatos: The Book of Lost Cities
2. Wall Text with Arkiotis
3. General View
4. Daedala, Firozkoh, Tigranocerta, Azzanathkona

John Stathatos: The Book of Lost Cities

ART CENTER 10/01-07/02/2006

Opening on Tuesday, 10 January 2006, at 20:00

SELECTED CRITICAL COMMENTS

"John Stathatos has taken over from Marco Polo and tells us, more than several hundred years later, of Daedala and Gauzaka, Tigranocerta and Arkiotis. In The Book of Lost Cities, Stathatos reviews, with photographs and text, a Borgesian labyrinth of unearthed cities. Some existed in the remote past; others in legends, myths or archaic texts whose scientific validity is doubtful; while others existed only in the imagination of the artist… In the text, Stathatos acknowledges his debt to Borges and to ancient wisdom. He presents literary inventions filled with dates and bibliographical references that would put any encyclopedia to the test: Charax, Ptolemy, the pseudo-Aristeas, a Chinese translation of the Millindapanda, the Tabakat-i-Nasri, and on and on. In some case the data is factual, but more frequently Stathatos' erudition is infused with delirium... Unlike Borges, Stathatos deciphers the change of the millenium, transforming melancholy into sarcasm. Alternating between ecstasy and torment, his work also responds to the impact of mass media..." [JOAN FONTCUBERTA Camerawork vol 24/no.2, San Francisco, fall 1997]

"Reading in The Book of Lost Cities you become self-aware, in the best modernist style of Eliot and Pound, and aware too of continuities. Stathatos' histories, with their impulsive kings, doomed enterprises and natural catastrophes, read like disguised extracts from the news in the nineties. Stathatos' post-modernism lies in his willingness to countenance catastrophe or disappearances so complete that nothing more than rumours and a few motifs survive – a winged thunderbolt or two and a carving which may have been seen decades ago, and which is now lost. One of the possibilities he entertains is of history itself - the writing, and the collecting - as subject to contingency. You don't just lose the city, but at some point you run the risk of losing even the scanty evidence that it ever existed. He imagines, that is, some future state in which the past has become very remote indeed, in which the earth has reverted to dead planethood, like the Mars investigated by Sojourner. The photographs - and this is a 'photographic' exhibition - feature dry riverbeds and ash-grey dunes, under implacable interplanetary skies. In one instance the sun goes down, but the overall look of the series is bleak and still, as if change itself had come to an end. History with all its wrangling and vanity has taken place and exhausted itself in the process, leaving relics to geological time, of the kind marked by strata on the rock-faces which appear in so many of his photographs. His diagnosis is both post-modern and post-liberal. There could be an ending and a reversion to desiccated stillness. It would be due, the pictures suggest along with their texts, to cultures besotted by the idea of conquest and the promise of gold." [IAN JEFFREY Untitled magazine, London, summer 1998]

"Susan Sontag has famously decried photographs as 'artificial ruins', suggesting that their phenomenological status as traces of a past moment induces a passive relation to reality. In contrast, John Stathatos' photographs of all but invisible ruins, or of enigmatic architectural features seemingly lost in the middle of nowhere, suggest that whenever one enters the realm of proof, text and photograph will mutually re-contextualize each other, in an altogether more complex manner… If one approaches The Book of Lost Cities with a scientific - or forensic - urge to discover proof of the existence of the archaic referents it documents, one quickly finds these slipping between one's fingers... The Book of Lost Cities acknowledges a debt to Borges. However, associated with the Borgesian erudition of its texts, the undramatic verisimilitude of its photographs out-steps the bounds of erudite literacy. These are not fables of literary epistemology but object lessons in the art of negotiating one's way through the minefield of global communications, at the onset of the age of multi-media." [YVES ABRIOUX Lost & Found: On the Epistemological Politics of Photographs, in Réels,Fictions, Virtuel, Actes Sud, Arles 1996]

"Normally, in front of art in the 1990s you can call it a day sooner rather than later and pass on and out of the building. The Book of Lost Cities, though, doesn't let go that easily. It's texts are sonorous and attractive, and sometimes inauthentic in tone, and they ask to be read for anomalies. Then, after a while, they ask to be analysed, for each one gives a similar but not identical account of a disappearance. Sometimes the cities were destroyed, sometimes merely lost sight of - or they slipped into oblivion. Origins are mentioned in five out of ten, and warfare in seven. Food, clothing, ritual and symbols recur. Thinking further you might notice that motifs and events are all given - in the analysts' style - only a certain amount of space, and that the whole impression is one of briskness, of actions fiercely entered into and quickly resolved." [IAN JEFFREY Portfolio magazine no.28, Edinburgh, 12/1998]

"The Book of Lost Cities goes even further in its distortion of truth and falsehood. John Stathatos has photographed sites of which he shows ambiguous, minimal images, accompanied by texts of a mind-boggling erudition concerning the history and location of vanished cities. Between reality and fiction, John Stathatos introduces an infinity of nuances which end up undermining both these concepts. Legends, historical fact and pure invention are mixed up and rebound off each other, just as image and text contribute to each other's legitimation: spinning about its axis, the entire system finally becomes a machine producing poetry." [JEAN-CHRISTIAN FLEURY Photographies Magazine, Paris, July 1996]

"John Stathatos' Book of Lost Cities offered up a pseudo-photo-archeology of entrancing historical richness and detail, appropriately installed in the newly constructed Musée de l'Arles Antique." [WILLIAM MESSER World Art no.12, New Jersey 1997]

"John Stathatos, light-hearted adventurer, ex-war photographer, freelance explorer of the Middle East, reinvents mythical cities which he evokes by means of desert images bolstered by texts of an erudition as impressive as it fanciful..." [Ange-Dominique Bouzet Libération, Paris 16/07/1996]

"Alas! John Stathatos: The Book of Lost Cities is an unparalleled exhibition for being a proper embodiment of ambiguity, confusion, distortion, and slipage. In actual fact, it is a celebration of anti-academia." [Megakles Rogakos 10/01/2006]

INFORMATION: Megakles Rogakos, The American College of Greece - ACG Art
6 Gravias Street, Agia Paraskevi, Athens, GR 15342, Greece, T: +30-210-6009800/1456, E: info@ACGart.gr

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