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Hot Wheels Athens
When taken for its constituent parts—representation in situ, abstraction, metadata, and the culture that sits in-between—Cypriot-born Marina Xenofontos’ work beams into view. Looping between poetic conjectures, indexical evidence of process, and (your; my; her) short-term memory, the works play to a viewer’s longing for sentiments and associations that were never there, never personally experienced. This is Xenofontos’ craft: activating invisible nostalgia while moving between inhuman ontology and life-like storytelling, contending that reason is in retrospect. In anticipation of her Liste showcase, Marina and I discussed the methodical and material considerations which inform her practice. We spoke about retranslation—moving between digital/analog versions of the same avatar—and “reperformance”, Monobloc chairs, and about what possibilities exist, if any, towards the reclamation of abstraction.
[Elizaveta Shneyderman's interview with Marina Xenofontos continues below]
Elizaveta Shneyderman (ES): There is a flow between digital and analog modes of working in your practice, as evidenced by an adolescent avatar Twice Upon a While (2018 – ongoing). The character is reanimated in virtual and physical form, lending it immortal status—and embedding the possibility of its infinite reanimation. How do you tackle the evolution between digital and analog representations, particularly when representation (and reperformance) is also constitutive of the work itself?
Marina Xenofontos (MX): When an image or material moves from digital to analogue, or the other way around, apart from the possibility of infinite reproduction—or as you put it, “reanimation”—the process generates small inaccuracies, slip-ups, and cracks, which eventually snowball and become more evident. It’s these types of errors that I routinely tap into. I started working on the avatar Twice Upon a While (2018 – ongoing) at Rjiksakademie. At first, this was for a video game about an ideologically befuddled teenager failing to complete her tasks.
Every time I carve a new version, it feeds back into my understanding of the virtual. At this point, all these versions have melded into one in my head– there isn’t an original anymore, they’re all glitching, mutating, and branching in and out of each other like a rhizome. Collectively, the work acts as a witness to memory that is disjointed and fragmentary, inescapably fallible, and as a testament to a confluence of errors.
I found the one I used in the Liste presentation in front of a taxi office called “New Faithful”, positioned on the pavement where the drivers hang out while waiting for bookings. “The Queen” type Monoblocs are made by Lordos Plastics, the largest plastics manufacturer in Cyprus, and because they were misprinted in the manufacturing process, they were usually sold to small businesses and factory workers at a discount.
A lot of my work rests on these kinds of details, stories, anecdotes, or histories, which could all be placed under the umbrella of “metadata”. They usually come in the form of vestiges—either of a political event or change—buried and abstracted in a place you’d usually consider untainted in that respect. These gestures and particulars become enhanced by their relationship with the larger cultural histories that they are embedded within.
ES: Right, that makes sense. I also notice that many of your materials are “readymades”, or lightly manipulated found objects which are abstracted from their originally intended use and presented in a new vista. This opens up the objects to represent their nostalgic evocations—a “return-to-myth”—and I am wondering if this misregistration can constitute “misuse” (or sabotage). To know something so well that one can deploy its fictions and reveal its contradictions from the start...
For their construction, I used found extruded aluminum from window sills and gates, where the aluminum goes through oxidation that turns it silver or gold, signaling an aspiration for the American dream– middle-class housing with three small bedrooms, ideal nuclear family, a kind of faux modernity.
Elizaveta Shneyderman is an independent curator, artist, and researcher working in the fields of contemporary art and media studies. She holds an M.A. in Curatorial Studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on the history and philosophy of new media materialities and the techniques which emerge from them, including their influence on corporality in the era of digital images. Shneyderman’s essays on contemporary art and visual culture have been published in
Marina Xenofontos is a sculptor working through painting, installation, video, and animation. Acutely aware of the rifts produced in a personal memory when confronted with the hegemonic, ideologically produced versions of history, her work narrates a struggle to recoup the imaginary, lost in the dissonance between them. Affected by the politics of intersubjectivity, the dichotomies of individuality and collectivity, proximity and distance, her practice morphs their contradictions into a p ...