Angela Melitopoulos

Angela Melitopoulos, Corridor X (2006), two-channel digital video installation, color, sound, 80 min., made with the archives of the collective video editing project Timescapes/B-Zone, © Angela Melitopoulos/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Angela Melitopoulos’s work consists of complex cinematographic cartographies that assume the form of video installations. Introduced to video by Nam June Paik, she went on to elaborate the medium’s philosophical relation to time, memory, geography, and subjectivity, notably in her long-term collaboration with sociologist and philosopher Maurizio Lazzarato.

Since the late 1990s, the artist’s practice has been characterized by a unique relationship between research and the narration of political geographies, on the one hand, and her use of the nonnarrative properties of moving images, as geographies of affects and intensities, on the other. This has resulted in far-reaching explorations of the mnemonic landscapes of twentieth-century Europe, imperialist violence as seen through the prism of migratory experience, and deviant, minoritarian, and resistant subjectivities. Her narrative method insists on a subterranean collective memory of imperial violence and fascism. This shared history constitutes a commonality which is permanently endangered by the segmentation of memory and imagination through neo-imperial, neoliberal, and reactionary ideology.

The groundbreaking video-essay Passing Drama (1999), for example, deals with the memory of political refugees deported from Turkey to Greece in the 1920s, many of whom (including members of Melitopoulos’s family) experienced forced labor under the Nazi regime and repeated displacements thereafter. The film renders remembrance and forgetting as rhythmic structures through the interweaving of collective memory, subjectivity, and time. The moving image is linked to movement in space—a method of research and image-production that maps geography and psychology onto each other to reveal a different political imaginary.

Recent work by the artist, who was born in Munich in 1961, traces the geopolitical history of experimental forms of psychiatry tied to the struggle against fascism and disciplinary terror. This research is realized as audio-visual cartographies of what the artist describes as the “secret coding of communication of minority cultures,” as well as concepts such as “machinic animism” through which these codings, like the musical refrains of memory, can come to the fore. The revolutionary psychiatric practice and political activism of Félix Guattari provides a foil for Melitopoulos’s engagement with the current neoliberal onslaught on the social fabric, as manifested in the Greek crisis.

—Anselm Franke

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook
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