“Mother had a headache, I recall, so they sent me to the pharmacy” writes poet Tasos Leivaditis. “On my way back, it’s true, I loitered a little, mocked an old man, scared two birds with one stone so that when I turned onto the road again there was no more home, no more youth”. In his exhibition ‘My Mother’s Silence’ at Museum Alex Mylona, writer and photographer Christos Chrissopoulos mourns the loss of a home, by compiling a photographic necrology while exploring what makes a house a home.
Silence is not a sign of solitude as it takes more than one person to perceive it as such. Silence is the absence of something expected - a signal, conversation or one’s own voice. One can either fill this void or choose not to feel it at all. Chrissopoulos did the former by visiting and photographing his childhood house at a time when his mother wasn’t home, his father had passed away and, to him, it didn’t feel like home. With the mantra ‘objects do not lie’, Chrissopoulos uses photography to achieve Viktor Shklovsky’s defamiliarisation, namely to view familiar objects afresh, examining what made them familiar in the first place. The result is a series of twenty four bluish photographs and one video piece, depicting furniture and mostly decorative objects which personify systems of behaviour, relationships and the indissoluble presence of family; that is, the rhizome of perceptions of home.
Chrissopoulos’ ‘Blue Period’ is triggered by his focus on intimacy; after all blue is said to be the colour of man’s heartland. Ink is blue too and, in spite of him describing his work as a narration, ‘My Mother’s Silence’ is actually a letter; a letter whose recipient would be himself, as the artist told me during a telephone conversation.
In this letter, Mother appears to be the verger of what is known to him as home. She is the keeper of his home. She loves antiques; she identifies herself with them as she thinks that they remind us of our roots but also imply that we have transcended them, at least socially.
Mother thinks that homes radiate from within, that’s why she has carefully placed lighting around the house, like the two table lamps with tasselled edges in the living room; one for her and one for father, Chrissopoulos’ leading lights. One for her and one for her son, the lights that are still burning.
Value resides in intimacy. In her apartment only a few functional objects are in sight, such as a power socket and a spoon; she has even placed a table runner and a guitar-playing figurine on the top of a radiator. She loves knitting little flowery table runners. Mother wants her son to remember that building a home lies in putting effort and time into something.
Finally, glass shields everything that is transient: pictures of Mother’s youth and liqueur for her guests. One sees the content but is excluded from it. Similar to Mother’s crystal liqueur set, Chrissopoulos’ camera lenses reveal his exclusion from what is visible. But that’s good. After this realisation, he is free from the weight of familial objects and objectives, free to climb the circular staircase leading to the space that is left void by Mother’s silence; and start making it habitable.