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Breathing life back into the dead zone

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Breathing life back into the dead zone

Postby brother » Mon Mar 14, 2005 6:15 pm

Breathing life back into the dead zone
By Kath Toumbourou

THE PHYSIOLOGY of the Green Line is nowhere more intense and politicised than at the Ledra Palace checkpoint.

The process of crossing the gaping no-man’s land between the north and the south affects every pedestrian, be it a matter of blocking out the untouchable space or trying to come to terms with the static misery of a ghost town that’s bustling with life on either side.

Used for over a thousand years and then abruptly abandoned, in a matter of decades this tract of land has become a supreme expression of the worst of 20th century politics and ‘diplomacy’, with its sandbags, derelict houses and sad reminders of happier days. This is a space whose violence, though no longer physically manifested, is omnipresent.

One group of artists is trying to change all that. On May 13, a unique exhibition is set to open in the buildings lying between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot checkpoints.

After receiving permission from the UN, the owners of the properties and the two municipalities, the organisers are planning on using the dead zone as a springboard from which to explore the scar that runs through the heart of a town.

Sixteen international and local artists have been invited to visit the island – specifically the Green Line around Nicosia – and present their works based on the emotions and ideas evoked by these spaces. Though based in the buildings just beyond Ledra Palace, the exhibition hopes to fan out and use different areas throughout both sides of the old town.

Under the curation of Greek Katerina Gregos and Turk Erden Kosova, the event hopes to make use of a space blocked from public consciousness for 40 years.

The curators are eager to emphasise their wish to exempt their involvement from any political associations. Both say they were invited primarily for their individual talent as curators and secondarily for their ability to communicate in the island’s three main languages.

They consider this to be important because they both believe that beyond the politics of why lies a deeper issue of what prolonged division can do to a collective consciousness, and it is the latter that they are trying to harness through the project.
The task of inviting artist to get involved is not a simple one. Gregos and Kosova explain every artist who has been contacted is relatively well known in their field and has work that is “socially engaged”.

The works presented will be multi-disciplinary and though a final list of participants is in its final phases, a quick look at a provisional list reveals names like Croatia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Palestine and Israel.

All of these nationals have a first-hand experience of ethnic divisions and the concept of an identity that is indelibly linked with politics and ideology.

The project differs slightly from the traditional exhibition in that artists will be creating work to a specification and for an exact location. Gregor and Kosova agree that this will be the only limitation on the work – everything else is negotiable.

After their initial visit, artists will return to the island in the weeks before the exhibition to produce their works. Watch this space.
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