Jani Christou
(1926–1970)

Jani Christou, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Jani Christou, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Jani Christou, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Jani Christou, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Jani Christou, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Jani Christou, archival materials, installation view, Athens Conservatoire (Odeion), Athens, documenta 14, photo: Stathis Mamalakis

Jani Christou, score, work file, and photographs of Epicycle I, 1968, Collection Jani Christou Family and Music Sales Classical, installation view, documenta Halle, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Nils Klinger

Jani Christou, score and work file of Praxis for 12, 1966, Collection Jani Christou Family and Music Sales Classical, installation view, documenta Halle, Kassel, documenta 14, photo: Nils Klinger

“Metapraxis is concerned with breaking through the barrier of meaning of a single medium, whatever that medium may be. Whenever that happens, that is music. That can be in any medium, providing metapraxis can occur. Music can be silent.”

—Jani Christou, Thoughts (December 13, 1969)


“… the term ‘lunar experience’ is man’s fundamental awareness or feeling of life as a dynamic system of recycled patterns, plus his elemental fear of a non-renewal of any one of those patterns—a fear which is made worse by the additional menace of an eclipse threatening the overall process during every stage of its operation.

Now we have come a long way since man’s prehistory, having travelled down paths of the spirit and down paths of the mind to get to where we are today. But all our achievements really do seem to add up to so much litter along our journey through history, monumental irrelevancies, because all the indications are that maybe we have not really been travelling at all, or perhaps, yes, a round trip, back to square one, looking up again at the moon in a dark sky, wondering whether it will be renewed after being swallowed up by the dark, and all the time afraid of that constant menace—very real now—a sudden and total eclipse.”

—Jani Christou, Thoughts (1968)

In Epicycle Phase I there is a voluntary abdication of my role of composer in the sense of an organizer of a set of parameters within the limited stretch of conventional performance-time. Since there has been such an abdication, I must accept all the negative aspects of the action, i.e. loose form, no form, repetition, non sense, lack of synthesis, abolition of the sense of “climax,” neutralization of musical “impact,” and so on and so forth. These disadvantages are over and above the accidental disadvantages of hardly any rehearsal, non-functioning of the electronic equipment, etc. On the other hand, the role of the composer has not been devalued simply for the sake of the surprise value of some “happening” (which quickly wears o anyway). The role of the composer has been devalued in order to allow whatever elements were available at the time to behave as symbols of events, and certainly not as “artistic events,” nor as synthesized events. This is a dangerous game, I know, but it is essential if one is to get to the roots of protoperformance, the root of all art (ultimately, this re ects a questioning of the validity of history itself, and of historical societies which make “art” meaningful). In Epicycle I was concerned also with a confrontation with chaos, not in its “composed” or decorative aspect (the safer, conventional attitude), but in its negative and “non-artistic” aspect. And apart from the unsynthesized events provided by the performers, the work expected contributions from the audience, and these contributions were plentiful and spontaneous.

The other point I wish to make is that both the symbolic re-enactments of events, as well as the spontaneous events contributed by the public, occurred within a conceptual framework: the concept supplied by the score of Epicycle, with the an-historical (not relevant to history) continuum dimension carrying the historical dimension of “events” in time. In this sense, Epicycle is similar to protoperformances in which actions are significant only because they belong to a larger outlook and not because of their decorative nature or their function as components in “art.”

—Jani Christou, extract from a letter dated December 30, 1968, made public by the addressee in a lecture at the center for Plastic Arts in Athens, December 19, 1974

Posted in Public Exhibition
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