Petros Koublis‘ photographs from ‘Lamenta’ are part of a project from The Depression Era Collective, a loose group of artists, photographers, writers, curators, designers and researchers who are cataloguing, re-interpreting, distilling and expressing the collapse of urban and social landscapes of Greece after the economic crash of 2008.
Like many Greek artists – such as Panos Kokkinias and Petros Efstathiadis – Koublis has been exploring ways of understanding the present by examining the social, economical and historical fabric of his country in the aftermath of 2008. How people and place have been transformed in the wake of am economic tsunami that has left many in destitution and created a political space ripe for exploitation by political groups such as Golden Dawn and corporate vultures who feast off the carcass of a country that was the cradle of Western Civilisation.
The artists involved in this project don’t pretend to know the the future neither do they offer hope or opportunity. Rather, they seek to create their own images of the present, make us aware of the situation, not from a Greek standpoint but from a European one. From a point of view that understands that we are at the end of an era, teetering on the edge of an event horizon, peering into the oblivion of the black hole of depression as they state themselves:
With clear eye in the blurry air we put this work forward, no longer looking forward to a future, to progress, to the idea of growth, but standing together in Commons, level-headed and broke, beyond the white noise of riot porn, shopping, new feudalism, speculator pundits, hashtag reportage, disaster media, analysis paralysis, photoshop urbanism and the constant crisis, straddling the red line of a divided Europe, building an ark of images and texts (a mosaic of lenses: an anti-screen: a sidewalk museum: a viewport to the shape of things to come), as the West slowly sinks into our very own Depression Era.
In ‘Lamenta’ Koublis takes us on a journey into the suburbs surrounding Athens, into places that exist between a capital city in chaos and a landscape that’s encroaching upon it. We are witness to nature taking over and re-appropriating what were once material prizes – of a people conspicuously consuming in a booming economy – but now lie idle, rusting, unwanted, the detritus of a society that, as happened here in Ireland, refused to acknowledge that the Wizard of Oz was an imposter who promised us the moon and the stars on endless credit.
In these pictures everything moves slowly, nature moves in, creating an echo of what was, a lament for the past that lingers in the winds of the present, whispers of the future, a lyrical voice that sings of a civilisation in freefall lost in the nether regions of suburbia. Here’s an excerpt from Koublis’s statement on the project:
[The suburbs are] an area that persistently gathers signs and images, preserving in a blissful stillness the remains of the past, creating random symbols that influence the emotional interpretation of the present. The unique dimension and density of this kind of time, which seems to move slower around the city’s outskirts, assimilating in a less intensive way the changes, allows these scattered symbols to sound their echo in a discreet yet continuous way.
Nature itself seems to enhance such semiotics, as it creates its own references that influence in a parabolic way the interpretation of these sings and it encourages a psychological identification with the present period.
It is the collision between the two different spaces, the urban against the nature’s one, which creates a new intermediate space, where nature seems to collapse together with the crisis of our cities. But it’s also the collision between the two different kinds of time, the center’s against edges, which creates a new, parallel time, where the traces of our past influence the present and tend to describe something about the future.