On Saturday, May 13, opbo studio presents Janis Rafa's first solo exhibition in Greece, curated by Ioanna Gerakidi. Under the title Riddles for resilient tongues, the exhibition includes a new series of drawings and sculptural works by the artist where the mouth is perceived as its main axis for exploring issues of power, dominance and submission, and their psychosocial and political cartography, not only among humans but also among all species. Along with these works, Lacerate (2020), the short film by Rafa presented at the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2022, will be presented for the first time in Athens. The exhibition will last until June 17.
Riddles for resilient tongues launches opbo studio as an art space with a series of exhibitions curated by Ioanna Gerakidi. The program includes a series of solo shows focusing on the political and poetic qualities of seduction as a means of exploring issues of collective and individual identities.
Riddles for resilient tongues
I read a quote I liked the other day. It’s by James Baldwin and it goes: “You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone.” Yet, what happens when words don’t come as clear as bones, when the complexity of history, trauma, power, but also desire, affect, tenderness, generosity and empathy, doesn’t allow for singular approaches and meanings, but instead makes things scattered and giddy and unable to be uttered by the already existing means that language provided us with?
Riddles for resilient tongues, the solo exhibition of Janis Rafa, through a new series of drawings and sculptural works coming along with her film Lacerate (2020), traces the mouth as its main axis to speak about power plays, dominations and submissions, mechanisms of control, the undoubted value of consent, the indisputable significance of agency and along with them, their psychosocial and political cartographies; not only among us, human beings, but among all species
Shrieking whispers lingering over the unspoken words of tongues once tamed, love letters composed for grievances and losses, still waters echoing the thirst of carrying the weight of existence, or of a labour unwanted or unwaged, they all come together asking the question: What’s the sound of a multiverse where all of the world’s oxymora reside?
The piercing silence revealing the oscillations of exploitations of animals, the high-pitched chasm disclosing the wounds of mistreatments of humans, co-exist with a polyphony of voices praising interpersonal, consensual, libidinal forces and pleasures lived or imagined; these are the subtle poetics and politics of Rafa’s work. Through this series of gestures, Riddles for resilient tongues does not aim to aesthetize objects that have been used as controlling tools, but to instead emphasize on the subtle or abrupt, temporal or perpetuated, exercises of deceptions and entrapments; her gestures aim to speak about their problematic, uncanny nature when consent can’t be spoken, when voices are muzzled or unheard.
Through encountering these qualities, the exhibition brings in the forefront subjects thinking through gender roles and dynamics, domestic and non-domestic environments, impositions of hierarchical structures occurring in spaces, supposedly safe. It longs to make us, audiences, active observants of a spatial choreography that requires an unlearning of the domineering, canonized gaze. And through this subversion, others times and spaces and worlds are unleashed, exposing that which hides under the phenomenically pleasing, speaking the story of unwilling suppression and wounding hierarchy.
Yet, these worlds, find themselves in parallel with their opposites, with omniverses some call dirty and untamed, which yet, do allow the space for empowerment, growth and self-advocacy, when built in mutuality. How can these controlling, manipulative tools, symbolically disclose other longings and belongings when used in interpersonal, consensual, pleasurable acts? How close can we look at this other hedonism, without criticizing it, without appending demonic connotations on it, without letting our entitlement to exclude it as vulgar? By touching, looking with and listening through these contradictory schemes, Riddles for resilient tongues is an invitation towards resisting and fighting against oppressive mechanisms, whilst licking our wounds, loving our otherness, owning our raptures.
— Ioanna Gerakidi
Janis Rafa (b.1984, Greece) lives and works between Amsterdam and Athens. She was a resident at the Rijksakademie (NL, 2013/14) and a fellow at Artworks (GR, 2020). Her work was presented last year at the 59th La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani (2022). Her body of work combines film, video installation, sculpture and drawing, in which the nonhuman, non-logocentric agency is recognised in order to reveal political and ethical dimensions, as another kind of archaeology. Her recent work has been supported by ART for the World, Fondazione In Between Art Film, Mondriaan Fund, Netherland Film Fund and Greek Film Center.
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