Yiannis Hadjiaslanis photographs from ‘After Dark’ are part of a continuum – a theme that has been of great concern to many artists in Greece – since the economic collapse of the country in 2008. However rather than turn his eye on the noise within he takes us into the quiet darkness of without.
With a body of work that is primarily concerned with landscapes and architecture Hadjiaslanis turns his love of structure and form into a political comment, a social statement on the state of his country. Each picture a subtle reflection on the aftermath of the riots, a view of the city after the media have gone home with their frenzied images of anarchists, fascists and anti-government protests.
Walking through the deserted city at night he sought to capture the feelings of distress, abandonment and decay, taking pictures of public buildings, statues, parks, all symbols of a city that gave birth to Western civilization. Yet what we see in these ghostly photographs are defaced images from the past, sublime, ancient classicism destroyed by spray paint and public buildings boarded up. Nothing appears to be as it is, everything besmirched by a reality that has afflicted the ordinary people of Greece by a select minority, a corrupt government who have plunged their citizens into a economic quagmire with horrendous consequences.
These are both beautiful land unsettling photographs, they reflect the beauty and history of Greece while simultaneously reflecting contemporary angst and unease. In truth they could be from any European city for they reflect all our desperation and hatred of the elite, of the people who brought our lives to the edge of the abyss. Here’s what he has to say about the series:
Trying to capture the feelings of distress, abandonment and decay one encounters today, I chose to photograph in the nighttime. Public buildings, statues, parks, symbols of the city acquire a character that reflects more clearly their present state and significance.
Among these, a statue of a Satyr, a mythical half-man, half-goat, stands on a bush in the National Gardens and gives a sinister smile. A CCTV monitors the entrance of the Archaeological Museum, a junkie hangout. A building that once housed the Ministry of Education is now evacuated as the state cannot afford the high rent demanded by the Greek Church, which owns the property. Palm trees infected by bark-eating pests rarely recover and die, slowly infecting neighboring palms. The bust of Pericles’s consort and advisor, Aspasia, features a severed nose. A plastic bag full of bread is placed outside the Archaeological Society for the homeless. The empty hallways of Areios Pagos, the Supreme Court, reflect the cases that need be resolved.
What’s most fascinating about these pictures is that Hadjiaslanis’ nuanced approach lingers longer in the mind than the pictures of violent protest we are all too familiar with. In these silent witnesses we receive an allegorical but sincere reflection of the crisis.