Review of Haris Epaminonda: Chapters at Modern Art Oxford

Cyprus-born artist Haris Epaminonda has a new exhibit on display at Modern Art Oxford. The exhibit features four screens in a blackened room playing a continuous loop of tableaux filmed in Cyprus. Captured using 16mm film converted to digital, the exhibit is tinged with an air of reminiscence that questions the presentation, expectations and interpretations of cultural rituals.Examining themes that include love, death, dress and the body Epaminonda’s series is set in remote Cyprus both outdoors amongst ruins and inside historic buildings.

The film addresses a variety of practices that include the use and merits of film as a medium of presentation. As a medium that allows for staging, editing, directing and candid exploration Epaminonda’s role as an artist morphs into that of a director and curator.

In one scene, two young women remain close to each other against the harsh and dry backdrop of the Cyprus. Dressed in vibrant kimonos with white makeup, the placement of this traditional Asian dress in the desert creates a jarring disconnect that reveals the role of environment in creating a seemingly cohesive cultural impression. This creates a disconnect that leads the audience to question the potential negative repercussions of environmental expectations on fostering cultural understanding. The tableau serves to invert expectations about the presentation of cultural practices with the effect of highlighting the challenges that face the promotion of intercultural understanding.

The film also features a scene of a young woman moving through Cyprus against an arid backdrop and waning daylight. Wearing a white, translucent kaftan the fabric blows around the woman’s slender body she slowly approaches the camera and then poses for close-ups. If this scene were available on the television it could easily be mistaken for a rough cut of lingerie commercial. However, Epaminonda’s staging veers away from the edge of objectification and instead functions as a dynamic moving-sculpture that provides a complex representation in a medium typically associated with superficiality.

Together the tableaux create an atmospheric examination of cultural rituals, their presentation and preservation. Through the use of film the exhibit carries a distinctly modern, yet historic feel that highlights the evolving role of film as an important and increasingly versatile medium of cultural exploration.

Haris Epaminonda: Chapters, 5 July until 8 September, Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP.


1. Haris Epaminonda: Chapters, Installation view. Courtesy Modern Art Oxford