Athens Biennale | OPEN CALL | Work of art

Dry Teardrops

Salt is the protagonist in my installation because as I concluded from my research it is an element with 14,000 uses in life. Even today, the history of salt touches our daily lives. The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt” because Roman legionnaires were paid in salt, “salarium” the Latin origin of the word. It served as currency at various times and places, and it has been the cause of bitter warfare. As an example, the salt tax was a significant cause of the French Revolution. In 1893 after the bankruptcy of Greece the loans were paid by the tax of the salt.
Salt is the main ingredient of the human tears with water being absent as reflected by our present state of mind and exists even in our execution of our feelings, in our teardrops. So I decided to create black teardrops made by black stockings that have inside salt not only because our teardrops are salty but also because of the psychological situation of the Greek people that I receive when I walk in the city, from the news, even sometimes from my colleagues. I chose black stockings because the tears are not tears of happiness, but of sadness.
In my project I want to show the negative aspect of tears. I used stockings for practical reasons, because of their elasticity but also they are a material that mainly women use and it was familiar to me. This made me think of how something that we use to enhance our beauty, clothing, or dancing can be transformed to something that shows sadness. I chose to remove the water element from the teardrops as it is obvious many tears have dried out from many Greeks today as they find themselves trapped in despair and anxiety.
Apart from the common stress, the Greek economic crisis is confronted with the most prevalent mental disorder in decades, depression. Fear and uncertainty about tomorrow are major health indicators of most Greeks and disease challenges women twice as often as men. Mrs. Daphne Kalogeropoulou a psychologist has shared some important findings with me. She informed me that in 2009 there was an average of 1 suicide per day in Greece while in 2010 there were 2. As a result we have 1,730 suicides in the last two years. While attempts are 3 times more common in women, men attain death 3 times higher. Obviously suicide attempts are more accepted as a reaction of protest to the female gender in our society. Additional research conducted by the Society of Social Psychiatry and Mental Health reveals that 7 out of 10 Greeks are on the brink of depression due to the economic crisis.
This project is also a social based work meaning that I was inspired from my social environment and what I feel is the present state of mind of the citizens of my city. This is the reason that I decided to install it to the central square of Ag.Paraskevi. The work as an installation within its context that I decided to place it, in this case in the central square of Ag.Paraskevi it was really different from what I expected. Meaning that the people and especially the kids gave me different interpretations of what I had thought about this project because they played with the tears but in some cases the tears became a “weapon” by pushing the tears violently. In addition, I installed it at Varvakios Agora in front of a butcher shop. The momentary occupation of the stand by an aesthetic presence confuses the usual operation of the butcher shop-but also of the artwork. Removed from the sterile environment of the art world, the art work’s function and value is called into question. As aesthetic beings, the module may also draw attention to the aesthetic qualities of the meet and architecture. Equally, their occupation of a consumer display space presents them as products-cultural produce? The activity generated here is a consumer benchmark and, as, such an indicator of the economic whole. Here the installation appears perhaps as if certain sadness has crystallized upon the facade of the butcher shop. The curator of the exhibition at Varvakios Agora was Danae Filioti.
The answer to all these sad outcomes maybe what Nietzsche said “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” The economic crisis can be an opportunity to become stronger. But to do this we must first be alive. What I wish the most, is that these tears will stop being dry and that water will come back to them to wash away all our fears and sadness.

Maria Louiza Biri