Christina Makri: You’re particularly interested in the relationship between digital and physical. How does your work address this relationship?
Simos Banos: I’m indeed interested in the physical and digital relationship, or else phygital phenomenon and the threshold between these two situations. As an artist and curarchitect, I like to blend materiality with digitality in order to create illusions and change the audience’s experience of an object or a space. After all, what is reality if not another illusion? I try to achieve the phygital phenomenon by fractalising the method of producing my work. For this digitopia, for example, I take mental photographs of objects I find during my journeys in the city, which I digitally articulate afterwards. By projecting them on the urban environment or by 3D printing them, I re-insert them into the physical world, increasing their phenomenological properties and their aura; they possess both the heideggerian aura/remembrance of their origins while the imprint of the digital fabrication has been embodied in their shape. I like creating environments that narrate this back-and-forth crossing of the phygital threshold.
CM: The relationship between the body and physical or digital space has been a constant and fundamental part of your practice; how does this relate to audience participation? Is the performative part something you are interested in?
SB: The human body is the most powerful medium as the audience can easily project themselves on it and be successfully engaged with the narrative. My physical presence is really important for the narrative of my projects; either as a narrator that guides the audience through the installation, or as the protagonist that performs the story. The audience experiences a metalepsis as the hero and objects of this fictitious world are physically there; the videos in the installation come into life, are believable.
CM: Your work is significantly connected to the physicality of the body; How do you think you transmit the message better to the audience/viewers? Through your installations or performances?
SB: As an architect, I’ve learnt to create holistic environments and “total works of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk), as Richard Wagner suggested. A synthesis can tell a story in a more efficient way than stand-alone pieces. A performance adds to a composition by completing the narrative, as aforementioned. It’s our generation’s stigma, growing up in the Internet realm, to mix different tools, mediums and aesthetics in experimental ways. I have the tendency to accompany my digitopias with performances and that comes naturally; as if the installation suggests it.
CM: What about the imagery and text in your installations? How do you decide which images to include in your work and what writings you will have? And in particular in your latest exhibition in the window space…
SB: It’s always all about the narrative which I’m trying to address. In the environments I create, each artifact constitutes a piece of the whole puzzle. In a bottom-up curatorial strategy, I add pieces of other artists to fill the gaps of the story. This responds to my keen interest in creating metanarratives by mixing my work with pieces with their own story, aura, connotations and signifieds. The “Digiscape from reality” narrates this digi-departure; a great escape from our Kafkian cosmos of absurdity. The artefacts are the chorus that surrounds the central scene, forecasting the transition. The videos “Roses are pink” and “Water“ (Kelly Spanou, 2016) start blurring the line between physical and digital, while projections of pixelated politicians illustrate the reason for leaving. “Phygi-objects” depict the process of packing and preparing for leaving. It is accompanied by Anvilla El’s poem “Preparation for leaving” that sets the context of the first chapter. As the linear narrative unfolds inside the window, the video “Pixelating” opens the gate to the digitopia while the one called “Digitopia” gives you a free tour inside this world. This chapter is supported by Kelly’s video “Wind” and Anvilla’s poem “Home”: a poem that narrates ordinary (compulsive) domestic rituals that bring the feeling of intimacy. Finally, the 3D printed Frankensteinic creature extracted from this digitopia – appears as a textual cue.
CM: Your work consists of multiple layers, take us through the progression – development of your practice.
SB: The way I “inhabited” the window space illustrates clearly my struggle with identifying myself professionally under a single discipline. I would call this project “a multimedia performative semi-solo exhibition/bottom-up curatorial attempt” where I identify myself as a curarchitect/curartist; someone that orchestrates things in order to tell a story. At the first layer, I am the narrator placing the objects in a way that serves the story. My architectural background gave me the right tools in order to spatialise a story, creating dialogues through the intangible threads that link the artefacts. At the second layer, I’m a curator in terms of complementing the installation with other artists’ works to fill the gaps of the story and bring coherence to the whole installation. Some of them were selected by the body of their works whilst others were produced for this particular installation. I am finally a performer; the protagonist of this narrative.
CM: In your latest exhibition ‘A digiscape from reality’ you transformed the windowspace into a hybrid space creating a discussion between the digital and the physical space; is your intention to offer an escape from the physicality overload or to point out the issue?
SB: I would say that I am using the transitional phase we are experiencing nowadays as a tool in order to comment in a metaphorical slash ironic way on the political situations and the madness of our times. This project was fueled by my necessity of molding a place that I could call “home”. Being part of Millennials’ compelled -by political and economical situations- nomadism; this digitopia gave me the chance to digitally sprout my roots. As a generation, we have disowned current political systems as an educated and conscious political statement. We are disappointed by the structure of values and ethics within which we were brought up. The cyberspace is our great escape from a reality which is too challenging to deal with. That reality has caused a mutation; and this mutation in its turn might even feel that the environment more natural to it is virtual/digital.
CM: The window space is a very particular and interesting space in terms of its nature and its physicality comparing to a common exhibition space. How did you work around that space? Did you have to modify your idea to match with the identity of the space?
SB: This project responds to my long-term study of the heterotopic non-spaces; the vitrines. I’ve experimented in the past with these “extended thresholds” trying to play with their timeless character. In #emojimilan project for La Rinascente, Milan (Milan Design Week 2016) I tried to incorporate inside the window the intangible layer of the city; its citizens’ language used in social media. This non-space belongs neither to the interior nor to the exterior space of the building, while it’s full of potential to “unlock” the gate for this coexisting within the city layer. In “Digiscape from reality”, the foucauldian heterotopic space of the window operates as an extended threshold towards a parallel digi-universe. The linear, narrow space of the window was synchronized with the linear narrative, while its semi-public character matched with the political message I’m trying to address. It wouldn’t have worked in the same way if exhibited in a gallery. In addition to this, I think we are witnessing a big turn to the history of exhibitions. Galleries and museums try to open their gates even further to the excluded audiences, while socially engaged art is more fashionable than ever. However, instead of trying to bring the audience in, we should just take the exhibitions out! In a much more democratic way, windows are more connected with the urban fabric and the citizens.
CM: Your work ‘a digiscape from reality’ was a continuation of the ‘lost in google translation’(2016) ; Do you still see a future on this project? If so, would you like to say a few words?
SB: I personally don’t believe in the notion of completion in art; I face each piece of art as a living organism that accumulates and evolves in time adapting to the current socio-political changes. The project “Lost in Google Translation: The Heterotopia within which we meet” started, two years ago, digitally articulating the relationship between the city and its habitants through the dialogue of two foreign citizens of London. The result of that conversation was this digitopia; a platform where I insert my emotional journeys and project my dreams, agonies and fears. As my relationship with the city and its citizens develops, this digital city will be infinitely accumulating in cyber time and space. As the structures of this digitopia became more complex and its connotations have been enriched, “LIGT” evolved into “DigiRandez-vouz”, which in its turn evolved into “A Digiscape from reality”. Ideally, this digitopia will offer residencies for artists to inhabit it and digitally articulate it. Consequently, it is meant to be eternally unfinished.
Christina Makri is an independent curator and an MA student living and working in London; where she currently works for the Articurate platform. Her interests explore the relationship of technology with culture in the art world and the society touching, upon issues of materiality of the space in juxtaposition with the fluidity of the web. Recent exhibitions include A Digiscape from reality, Window Space, London; Urban Bliss, Graphic Space, London; Between Concealed and Exposed, The Wall Gallery, London Concrete Matters, Bank Space Gallery, London.
Featured image: Roses are Pink (video still) (2016), Simos Banos