Text by Natalie Yiaxi for Phanos Kyriacou’s show This Case is in the Process of Arrangement (2017)

(Απόσμασμα) Κείμενο από τη Δήμητρα Ιγνατίου και τον Ευαγόρα Βανέζη, επιμελητές της έκθεσης Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (2017)

Text by Peter Eramian for Planetes show catalogue curated by Elena Parpa (2017)

[Review] Natalie Yiaxi at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space, Nicosia  by Kiriacos Spirou

Excerpt of the exhibition text of Aye Bad Dome show by Evagoras Vanezis, show curated Peter Eramian (2016)

Those in Daily Life by Natalie Yiaxi for Phanos Kyriacou’s show Daily Life at Maccarone Gallery, New York, 2015

Essay for DESTE Prize catalogue (2015)by Peter Eramian


In this case [this particular situation; this occurrence; this container; this space] you shall encounter a group of entities whose life journey begins in early 2012. Not being constrained by timeframes, deadlines or any form of anxiety, they were somewhat finished by 2015, un-clingfilmed and dusted in 2016, polished, arranged and rearranged in 2017.

They are the outcome of a growing interest in the different methods of restoration and display-mechanisms encountered in museums. These practices become visible to the museum visitor only when the natural rhythm of the museum cabinet is interrupted. This is when the card reading THIS CASE IS IN PROCESS OF ARRANGEMENT appears, or when we get to observe the unique, tailor-made structure designed to carry the precious artefacts. The interest in these practices and ‘supporting acts’ strays away from the realms of ‘Archaeology’ and engages through and through with the potentiality of these ‘invisible’ structures for sculpture.

This interest resonates with something else so different, yet so similar, Kyriacou has been documenting for years, since these professional ways of mending echo the less methodical tactics of ‘street-smart mending’. This could perhaps be a name for universal DIY restoration methods, abundant in the urban and rural landscape, a name tag for the diverse language of practical, visible gestures whose sole aim is to resurrect a thing’s or a situation’s functionality quickly and efficiently.

The distillation of these observations takes the form of a ‘rupture-sculpture’.

Rupture here implies a disturbance in the ‘how-things-are-usually-done’ flow, for these sculptures cannot be separated from their display bodies; the display mechanism itself is sculpture; the guest is an extension of the host and vice-versa. There’s also another rupture in play, one that turns the idea of restoration on its head: there is a general understanding that to restore is to begin from a whole missing a part.

Here, what has been fabricated both literally and metaphorically, through a series of unimaginable extensions, expansions and protrusions, always had as its starting point a single fragment. These terracotta fragments/initiators are mostly accidental findings collected through the years, from various pottery workshops and random places. They have been placed and arranged on bodies made out of construction plaster in synergy with polyester resin and polyurethane foam. Parts were also engineered in teflon, wood, steel, bronze, aluminium and zamak.

“I think of them as a mothership and so should you too”.

During these years of patience, silence and growth, these sculptures have also given birth to a number of ideas, sounds, objects, words, structures, frustrations, walks, dust, emotions, friendships, injuries, tools and travels.

Η Ναταλί Γιαξή προσεγγίζει και διαπραγματεύεται τη φαινομενολογία του παρόντος. Χρησιμοποιώντας εμφατικά τη γλώσσα ως υλικό και εργαλείο, δομεί χώρους όπου αντηχεί η χρονικότητα μιας ανάγνωσης στην οποία ο εαυτός ορίζεται ως ποιητικό αντικείμενο. Τα έργα Potential και Solid Plans αποτελoύν μέρος ενός μεγαλύτερου συνόλου που μας φέρνει αντιμέτωπους με δυνητικές εκδοχές των μετασχηματιστικών διεργασιών που υφίστανται οι πρώτες ύλες (γύψος, νερό, χρόνος) τις οποίες κατεργάζεται η Γιαξή στη συγκεκριμένη περίπτωση, για να καταλήξει στην καθησυχαστική κατάφαση ότι τελικά είναι ‘ok’. Στο dasein ist rund παίρνει ως αφετηρία τη διαπίστωση του Karl Jaspers, ότι ‘every being seems in itself round’, που παραθέτει ο Bachelard* ως μια ανυπόστατη μεταφυσική αλήθεια, στην οποία όμως καταλήγουν κατ΄επανάληψη πολλοί διανοητές. Η Γιαξή παραθέτει στο χαρτί και στο χώρο αντικείμενα και καταστάσεις που ορίζονται από την σφαιρικότητα τους, δημιουργώντας στην πορεία μια ποιητική της μεταφοράς˙ από ένα βιωμένο επίπεδο σε ένα άλλο. Ταυτόχρονα μας καλεί να προβληματιστούμε γύρω από τη διαφορά ανάμεσα στη σφαιρικότητα ως έννοια και στους τρόπους απόδοσής της.  Στο Types of Time η καταιγιστική αλληλουχία συγγενών χαρακτηρισμών του ενδιάμεσου χρόνου -ο οποίος αποκτά χωρική υπόσταση- συνθέτει μια αυθαίρετη τυπολογική αλυσίδα αποδίδοντας τις διαφορετικές αποχρώσεις της δυναμικής του χρόνου εντός του οποίου κάτι ίσως συμβεί.

(*στο βιβλίο Η Ποιητική του χώρου)

While visiting the Cesnola collection of Cypriot antiquities, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Natalie Yiaxi listed all the titles of the anthropomorphic sculptures on display. She then recorded herself reading them to create a rhythmic conceptual poem, as if read from label to label while moving in the museum space. The recording was then milled as a marble waveform using 3D modelling and CNC milling technology. Metropolitan Cypriots (2014) interrogates the failure of translation, in this case between conceptual vessels and material forms, in an exercise which deconstructs notions of ideological and institutional identity-crafting. Playfully employing her trademark irony, Natalie states that Metropolitan Cypriots can be understood as "a portable monument of these exiled ancient compatriots." A perverse audio-material synthesis, a miniature monument of monuments represented as monuments by the museum apparatus. Perhaps the perfect souvenir for the museum enthusiast who wants to collect and own them all in one neat package. Categorisation as representation invokes museum ideology and in turn the very ideology of the historical and political climate which it serves. Yet, by offering her own voice as a starting point, Natalie satirizes and rebrands this categorisation with her own critical disposition. Confronting Cypriot heritage and artefacts as representation per se, in this case within the framework of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, she thus offers more insight into the representer. As such, Natalie strikes back and represents the museum apparatus under her own terms as a Contemporary Living Cypriot Artist.

Cypriot artist Natalie Yiaxi has been working with words for years, as seen in her various publishing projects —and more recently, through her ongoing series of self-published “a book a month” booklets titled Bast Fooks. Treating “words as materials”, Yiaxi composes short texts that usually relate to the everyday and seek to unearth poetry out of the mundane and the pedestrian. Along these lines but featuring mostly material objects is her first ever solo show, “Solid Plans”, now on display at Thkio Ppalies Artist-Run Space in Nicosia.
Using plaster as her main material, Yiaxi created dozens of small objects, most of which are gathered together in the form of an installation (Homework, 2016); each of these objects was made by embedding everyday objects into the plaster, creating surreal and often comical versions of familiar things usually found in the home. Combined with the work’s title, this gathering of funny little sculptures looks like a cheerful parade of squeaking, adorable everyday distractions, a visualisation of the many things we have to revert our attention from in order to get things done during the day. (At least that’s what my mind looks like by lunchtime.)
The everyday element is also evident elsewhere in the exhibition, as in for example the large print of a supermarket receipt (Receipt Poetry #1: Plan for a Book, 2016), for which Yiaxi went to the nearby convenience store and bought four different kinds of menstrual pads; the names of the products on the receipt formed a kind of chance-poem that reads: ALWAYS NIGHT / ALWAYS ULTRA NORMAL / EVERYDAY SUPER / CAREFREE ORIGINAL. “Always Ultra Normal” is also repeated in three painted ceramics for another piece with the same name (2016), thus acting as a motto for the whole show. Other works continue Yiaxi’s practice in word art and poetry, like the tiny tablet screen playing a slide show of constantly rotating nouns, the English alphabet and question marks (Ask Quora, 2016) or a handwritten pastiche of plagiarised quotes on a piece of red paper (Plagiarism #2, 2016).
In the press release, Yiaxi quotes Kathy Acker, the American feminist and experimental writer, as follows:

“Imagine that you are in a foreign country. Since you are going to be in this place for some time, you are trying to learn the language. At the point of commencing to learn the new language, just before having started to understand anything, you begin forgetting your own. Within strangeness, you find yourself without a language.”

This feeling of in-between (of languages; identities; the material and the immaterial) is also evident in “Solid Plans”, not only in the tongue-in-cheek irony seen in many of the works, but also in the fragility and melancholy behind all the humour: words will never be objects, and language will never be a place. This fluidity of meaning contradicts the rigidity of plaster and the “words written in stone” around the exhibition, and a poet like Yiaxi knows that words are elusive. What she does then is materialise writing, and take us into a realm where words become objects and are lined up like sculptural sentences — like reified texts waiting to be read through touch, space, movement, time.

The conditions of the appearance of AyeBaDome are not clear. AyeBaDome is a word of hybrid mutation; the result of autocorrection by a mobile phone’s algorithmic surveillance of its user’s typing habits. Autocorrection and predictive input methods layer language formation with a technologically mediated level of complexity, which creates words that can be used as the new vernacular. AyeBaDome:Super presents an opportunity to usurp the signifying power of this hybrid. By giving it the status of an open discursive field that functions within the interstitial space of art, an open, non-whole point of enunciation is created. The works in this exhibition create series of fluid differentiality. Working differentially - that is, creating with and whilst immersed in cultural tropes that often appear as the very thing that blocks change- is the contemporary exigency of our being-with. In a society such as the Cypriot one, where the local dialect creates a disjuncture between official and everyday speech, the space for differentiation is continually open and local identities are built on difference. It is this disjuncture that allows the works in this exhibition to raise their demands in a way that reveals what constitutes the innermost convictions and desires that create the shared intersubjective space of society. AyeBeDome is a hybridising sign that challenges us to give time to the works themselves to infiltrate and infect processes of translation and thus change and expand the social conditions of political enunciation.
The diachronic problems of the local art scene and the newly justified blatant exploitation of a growing number of ‘cultural workers’, has stiffled the voice of artists and culture as an active part of society. Natalie Yiaxi submits to AyeBaDome an idea that will be processed as the exhibition unfolds. ‘AAAFAY Donation Station’ paradoxically exists as both a mobile sculpture and a direct course of action, and this dual status will not change once the intensity of the prevailing space allows the dust to settle, as it were. Faced with the donation station, the viewer has a choice. One can express interest, pledge funds or directly donate money for the cause of Adopting An Artist For A Year; or just admire the booth’s aesthetics and walk away. The artist expresses her intentions through a radio campaign, a printed leaflet and a website. All three borrow from emotive charity commercials but the tone is ironic and exasperatingly funny in equal measure, creating the conditions for a confrontation within codes that feel eerily familiar and thus allow for the problem in question to be discombobulated and made visible. The creation of this ironic charity fund indexes conditions of social and political inequality and provides a platform for artists to create in a way that allows them a degree of freedom and decency. If the idea unfolds in days of retrograde planets then the money raised will be used for the settling of debts incurred for the creation of the campaign and ‘AAAFAY Donation Station’ will stand, as it does now, as a monument to the lack of bread and butter.

Not all of them have travelled all the way across the Atlantic, so what you are looking at is a distillation of an already rigorous distillation. However, they all do come from the same luminous studio on the second floor of an otherwise lifeless warehouse, some 5455 miles away. In that room I would always sense a mix of mysterious improbabilities, for instance, I always felt that they have the ability to cleanse the energy of the room or cool down the temperature and dim the noises coming in from the numerous windows surrounding the studio.

What if these powers emanate from their earthly materials? Mountain rocks; fragments of terracotta; metals in a state of coolness. While trying to verbalize this feeling of calmness I sense around them I scribble down: ‘Noise mutates into white noise, focus shifts inwards… Something happened before now and now everything is cooling down’.

Before them I feel the total freedom from geography or historical time. Are they from the past, the present, the future, or are they fragments of an interstellar archaeology? In a way they manage to ‘purify’ from the greatest contaminant of all; one’s expectations.

Of course, I cannot ignore the possibility that these impressions are mere mental projections of the fact that I am aware that these are pure objects themselves; each and every one of these clusters has been gradually stripped down to its most essential elements. Try to lift an object from the ‘Fugue of Founds’ or the mountain rock from ‘Frame Work’ and both structures will immediately collapse. This manufactured balance acts as a binding agent unifying the different elements of each cluster, while also instilling movement in them.

In some, the body is inscribed and mediated but never overstated. In ‘Monoblock Measurements’, the average human body as envisioned by the ‘universal’ chair is communicated through fragments cast in lead. The weight of lead makes them look like oddly shaped humanoid limbs and before them one can catch a glimpse of the future archaeological museum. In Guide Lines, the camera zooms in on the hand of the craftsman caught in the act of making. But what is it making? A universe of things, derivatives of everyday items, since this is a collection of guides created by shaping rods of Bronze on various objects and forms. Now these abstractions act as propositions and tools for making possible, yet, possibly useless objects.

Is their subtle sense of humour cooling down the room temperature?

Looking at the serendipitous teaming of a pile of stones and a terracotta pot wittingly called ‘Stone Ware’ or the pun-sculptures ‘Frame Work’ and ‘Guide Lines’, one unconsciously smiles but also realises that words here are treated as objects.

In ‘Daily Life’, the interdependence and unity between forms is a recurring theme that is perhaps more obvious in the cases where there is a ‘found’ and a ‘made’. For example, in ‘Fugue of Founds’ and the various Complementary Forms, the fragment is being extended by first becoming a guideline for a complementary form, which is subsequently rendered in a heavier material. The incompatible materials highlight the relationship and interdependence between the two otherwise compatible forms that appear as one.

The found in ‘Daily Life’ is reimagined, completed, doubled and equally made.

And so, it disappears each time it faces a possibility of itself.

The everyday as an area of inquiry, extensively scrutinized in the second half of the 20th century, is perhaps now more relevant than ever. From the surrealists to the feminist artists of the 70s, the quotidian has been encountered and reencountered fervently, not just as a subdivision to social and cultural theory but also as an aesthetic category in itself. The distinction between private and public life was, however, more apparent then; designating the everyday as an interplay between a private realm 'within', in which instances of sincerity, boredom, reverie or tiredness could transpire as radical departures from convention, and a performative public realm 'without'. The 21st century has seen immense corporate advances into the everyday. Via cyber technologies, the line between private and public realms has become virtually non-existent. Social media platforms and web-based services offer a level of personalisation and interactivity previous telecommunication mediums, such as TVs and radios, lacked. The marketing ploys of 20th century capitalism, which were more evident one-directional affairs relying on seduction and mimesis, have evolved into significantly more complex psychological entities that occupy the everyday subconscious.

What one desires is fast becoming less important than how one desires it. The 21st century consumer is a skilled content moderator. Via social media platforms we encounter thousands of titles, blurbs, photos and clips per day which require automatic filtration, distinguishing what may be of interest, ignoring what is not and steering away from spam and scams; offering priceless statistics and insight to market analysts with every click. Through our portable laptops, tablets and smart phones we stay connected to our online profiles 24/7, receiving newsfeeds and updates incessantly. The task of high level advertisers, social media strategists, copywriters, public relations officers and market researchers is to figure out ways to break through our cyber-cognitive filters and grab our attention, without being identified as spam. A recent trend, for example, is the appropriation of the meme phenomenon as an inexpensive form of guerrilla marketing. Memes are characterised by their ordinariness or homemade qualities. In fact, one may argue that it is because they carry such an accessible and relatable everyday aesthetic that they go viral. They may take the form of a video, image, hyperlink, website, word or phrase. However, what essentially characterises memes is that they are privately produced by your average Joe or Jane yet somehow achieve millions of views and shares within hours. This leap from private to global sensation skips any notions of public life altogether, disregarding cultural locality or social context. As such, the simulation of meme logic by market strategists entails the appropriation (and homogenisation) of the everyday global-private aesthetic.

Reclaiming the everyday means reintroducing the interplay between private and public life as an explicitly local experience. It means noticing, being present, allowing oneself the chance to do nothing, be bored, and disconnect from the world wide. For this to happen, however, notions of the everyday need to be redefined as unspectacular again and as far removed from the ironic sensationalism of the global-private meme aesthetic as possible. Such an endotic infra-ordinary everyday, in Georges Perec's words, would prove infertile grounds for the spectacularising efforts of advertisers. However, a further step, a form of radical emptiness, which requires not simply the reduction of content but the addition of a conscious emptiness-as-content-in-itself, is also necessary if we are to reclaim the everyday, according to Natalie Yiaxi. Whereas before the post-internet era one had the chance to fall back to emptiness and boredom, simply by doing nothing, today most 'connected' individuals fall back to their newsfeeds, emails and profiles instead; self-reproduction has become virtually indistinguishable from cyber-capitalist-reproduction. Passive emptiness, as a default buffer, is quickly becoming an obsolete notion in the 21st century and, like the everyday, needs to be reinvented as an active practice.

Natalie has worked as a copywriter in the past and is well acquainted with the techniques of title-crafting. In the piece 'Untitled' her skills are implemented to subvert the very expectations which they designate. Sans content, title-crafting acquires an unexpected poeticism, an intuitive play of words, definitions and references composed together for no apparent reason. 'Crafting' is an inappropriate definition altogether as many of the titles were either found or appropriated from Natalie's everyday life, dragged out of their context, from conversations, TV, books, online, overheard phrases, observations or simply as moments of epiphany discovered via introspection. Introducing radical emptiness means heightening awareness and engagement with form as an isolated aesthetic entity. After we discover that Natalie's books are empty we begin to wonder what their titles might mean. Our creative participation is called forth, we become the content.

'Posh Taro' refers to one of many anagrams, sourced through a process of lexigramming, of the word ‘Athropos’, which roughly translates as ‘Human being’ in the linguistically defined non-standard Greek-Cypriot dialect. The lexigram, "a phrase composed of words which contain only letters found within an original expression," is a form of word-play established by American astrologer Linda Goodman. The decision to translate a non-standard term using a non-standard method of intuitive, pseudoscientific, conceptual writing provokes a revision of the nature of translation and further disturbs title-crafting logic. The cultural specificity of the term ‘Athropos’ delineates a very particular portrait of Cypriot identity, emphasized by the playful symbolic appropriation of the taro (a root vegetable often used in traditional Cypriot cuisine). The frisky tone of Natalie’s voice, embittered by caustic references to local social issues, both at once denies and celebrates this identity. A love-hate anxiety is formed, resisting the temptation to sentimentalise in order not to neglect more pressing social realities. Yet, the translation of the 'Cypriot Human being' into a root vegetable, not just a 'Taro', a 'Posh Taro', offers a necessary tinge of humour, reminding us not to take such overloaded Humanist concepts as culture and identity too seriously.

While visiting the Cesnola collection of Cypriot antiquities, at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Natalie listed all the titles of the anthropomorphic sculptures on display. She then recorded herself reading them to create a rhythmic conceptual poem, as if read from label to label while moving in the museum space. The recording was then milled as a marble waveform using 3D modelling and CNC milling technology. 'Metropolitan Cypriots' playfully interrogates the failure of translation, in this case between different conceptual vessels and structural forms, in an exercise which deconstructs notions of historical identity and institutional identity-crafting (as opposed to title-crafting). According to Natalie, 'Metropolitan Cypriots' can be perceived as "a portable monument of these exiled ancient compatriots."

In 'Wind of Change' Natalie introduces the wind as a conceptual element in her work. Using just paper and tape, she performs a tongue-in-cheek caricaturisation of man's desires to construct meaning, empires and civilisations, only to fail in frustration with every attempt. Things emerging from cocoons usually undergo serious transformations. According to Natalie, once she emerged from her ephemeral cocoon "[her] brain got all weird and [she] had these bizarre flashes of thoughts in an echoy voice 'your body is the cocoon of your psyche, your clothes are the cocoon of your body, your home is the cocoon of your life, Earth is the cocoon of your home.'" Yet one wonders to what degree these cocoons, everfailing to resist the force of wind, ever yield any valuable transformation. Perhaps the raw and unpredictable grace of the wind, as experienced in our everyday environments, is something worth meditating and succumbing to, as suggested in 'Flying Page'. Or else there will be consequences. In 'Time' Natalie likens time to the wind, an experience which exists outside the linear logic of man. Efforts to control or make sense of time are as futile as efforts to escape the wind. Time can only be witnessed in the same vain as the wind blowing around plastic bags or the leaves on trees. The act of cutting down trees is here presented to symbolise man's efforts to take control over time and hence over nature. Yet, as Natalie warns, such efforts are always met with a response.