When we first spoke about your practice, you told us that you never sketch or write when you visit a place, but rather depend solely on your senses; sight, smell, hearing, etc, and thus your memory. When you visited the area of Kifisou/Iera Odos, for example, it seems that you experienced a bit of sensory overload…the limited space, the loud passing cars, the heavy air… When you tap back into a memory, does it always come naturally, as if your senses become re-triggered or brought back to life, or do you ever struggle to remember?
Alexander Schellow: This requests a different answer for different projects. In the case of the Kifissos-search, I mostly follow(ed) a certain self-dynamic of the memorizing-process. As before: following an associative walk-path. It is true that in a situation like the one, where Kifisou and Iera Odos meet, an overkill happens in terms of speed, pressure, sound. But the relational system of perception is complicated. A context like that might even lead to a more focused, or to say it another way, a more subtractive structure of attention. Accordingly, images reconstructed might be more clear in their architecture. Or they might not. Anyhow I would possibly describe the very inner circle of the situation – on the traffic-island around Arif and his colleagues – as being defined by a certain stillness. Its quality is hard to express.
You have spent numerous hours alongside the Kifissos River and it’s clear that it has become a home for many immigrants from different countries around the world. Given you’ve spent a great deal of time in immigrant communities for other various projects in the past, as well as ours, what was it about Arif from Bangladesh that made you feel his story was important to tell via Project Nero?
Alexander Schellow: Well, others appear as well in the project. Still, somehow, I experienced the way Arif and the others used this fold of the urban landscape within their lives in a very particular way – saying that without any romanticism, concerning the immense pressure that their living-situation is putting on them. If I write that, I am more referring to a specific attitude that I attach to them looking back within the recollection-process. There is, for instance, a level of sobriety in the way they speak about their daily practice, that at first glance, stands in a sort of violent opposition to their immediate sourrounding and to their status within Greek society. So beside a personal attachment that grew over time, for me their system, in a strange way and with all obvious caveats, became like a particular modelcase of certain larger-scale social and economic structures.
The article series De-constructing the Kifissos was produced with and published by Meld.cc