Theo Prodromidis is not new to what one would generally label as political and socially engaged works, and when this project started, long before we were all forced into lockdown, this was exactly the reason I thought of inviting him to explore a region like Istria: a contested space between regimes of all sorts, a history of mining and hard manual labour and the presence of one of the first anti-fascist workers-led republics in 1921. There was enough material present for the taking for someone interested in these issues, especially as, at the same time in Greece a number of controversial projects involving mining and other extractive activities were raising the public attention on this subject. What I couldn’t have expected however, was the conditions in which this work, and the constant dialogue that accompanied it, would take shape.
To accompany a work from the position of a curator always involves a commitment to dialogue, to share knowledge, interests and give support in every way possible to allow the artist to realise her/his vision. In this specific case (as with all other works that took shape in this period) it also involved an intimate sharing of all the psychological backlashes the lockdown had on us individually and collectively. The hours of dialogues had over the course of almost one year often involved the work but went way past it, establishing a feeling of mutual support, trust and care which I feel, emerges in the work in unexpected and powerful ways.
If I was to describe the work formally, I would probably commence as follows. “It is the personal account of an activist, struggling with her interior motives, existential as well as political questions and the events surrounding her in a historical moment for Greece with the verdict of the Golden Dawn trials* looming over her, Children of the sun (acting) is what I would define as a self-reflexive portrait, or a self-portrait by proxy.”
And yet, key to giving a more profound and meaningful reading to the work is an analysis of the use of the camera, something which might have practical reasons to start with but with profound implications as to what the results are. The movement limitations imposed to curtail the spread of the pandemic and not secondary the budget uncertainties brought about by cuts to cultural institutions all over the world due to the lockdown meant that a work planned with shooting sessions in specific sites, with a number of actors involved and everything else a video work of this scale involves could not happen. Instead, the artist had the courage to take full control of the camera turning it not only into a tool to see the world through his eyes but also a keyhole into his own psyche, thoughts and doubts. By bringing together scenes from his own involvement in political struggles and dialogues, spoken by an actor but in which I find much of Prodromidis’ own thinking as it emerged in our discussions and glimpses of the historical times in which the events took place the work constructs a finely rounded and emotional picture of what being an activist means in a time of social distancing and increasing repressive policies. The work is in this sense also a diary of the artist’s own involvement for over a year leading with various environmentalist groups active throughout Greece, among which the Movement for the Protection of the Islets of the Aegean and Support Earth. It therefore also serves as a valuable documentation not only of the actions these groups undertook but, through its personal take gives us also a sense of what it is like to be part in these struggles.
Children of the sun however is more than just a portrait through which themes such as solidarity, care, togetherness, collective action, environmental exploitation emerge. With its dramatic and enthusiastic conclusion set in the midst of the announcement of the sentencing of the Golden Dawn trial, it is first and foremost an exhortation to action, a call to unite behind these ideas in the same way that the uprising in Albona attempted to unite the workers against their exploitation.
text in the context of
Ride Into the Sun, 3rd Industrial Art Biennial, Labin/ Opatija/ Pula/ Raša/ Rijeka/ Vodnjan, Croatia
October – November 2020