In April 2017, Nancy Holmes and Denise Kenney were invited to facilitate Eco Art Incubator Cyprus: Sites Embodied, in collaboration with the European Dance Network and Dance Gate Lefkosia as part of the programming for the Eco Art Projects associated with Paphos 2017 European Capital of Culture. The Eco Art Incubator Cyprus workshop and performance series brought together local and visiting artists from various disciplines throughout Europe to research ecological art methodologies as they pertain to a particular contested site. These artists shared their expertise and used site-specific embodied research to generate new artistic and ecological resonances. The intent was for artists to experiment with their own practice through a thematic lens and to seed practices for ongoing engagements in this region.
Arianna Economou, Director DanceGate Lefkosia (CY) , Justyna Ataman, Intern DanceGate Lefkosia(Scotland), Ergenc Korkmazel, Photographer and Guide (CY), Isabel Andrés (DE/ES), Yiannis Avraamides (CY), Zoe Balasch (DE/ES), Bernadette Divilly (IR), Geopoetics Group: Anna Tzakou and Antonis Antoniou (GR), Athina Georgiou (CY), Panayiota Gregoriou (CY), Lara Haworth (UK), Ida Johannesen (NO), Nina Ossavy (NO), Natalie Tsingis (CY), Nefeli Tsiouti (CY)
The purpose of the 6-day workshop was to expand the participating artists’ own artistic ways of knowing by collaborating with the tangible and intangible web of sensory, spiritual, cultural, historical, ecological and economic complexities of the Akamas Peninsula in northwest Cyprus and its villages and environment. We focussed on the village of Androlikou, mostly depopulated after the Cyprus invasion of 1974. It is home to several villagers who live alongside ghostly abandoned stone houses. The village contains the ruined home of Cypriot poet Tefkros Anthias; a large quarry that visually dominates the panoramic view; rich red clay banks scooped out for pottery-making; a Turkish Cypriot graveyard which is featured in the film Akamas, the love story of a bicommunal marriage by director Panicos Chrysanthou; rock-strewn agricultural fields with old fig and orange trees bordered by stone walls and villagers’ homes; deep biodiverse gorges; and stunning views of the Mediterranean sea. Large parts of Akamas Peninsula are ecologically protected under the EU’s Natura 2000 and some areas are under pressure to develop. Many of the local villages are working on plans to protect the land and enhance local economic development in the area. Androlikou’s plan is for the development of organic gardening demonstrations, natural building education, and as a place for a Centre for Cooperation and Cultural Bicommunal Interaction between Turkish and Greek Cypriot peoples. We intended for our workshop to support these aspirations. Our stated goals for Eco Art Incubator Cyprus: Sites Embodied project were:
- to bring artists together in a retreat-like setting to develop an international network of ecological art practices and practitioners
- to explore how artistic practices can disrupt intransigent cognitive frames
- to focus on embodied practices for the creation of ecological art
- to support ongoing projects in the region
- to respond to a complex, contested, inspirational place fraught with social, cultural and ecological anxieties
- to witness and acknowledge these anxieties, not to offer to solve or remediate them
- to work together and create art that acknowledges that the quality of our approach and our commitment to life-enhancing relationships between humans and the more than human world are our guiding principles
We are currently in the process of completing documentation of the project in a catalogue and publication of the processes and experiments. We’d like to express gratitude to our support team of Arianna Economou, Justyna Ataman and Ergenc Korkmazel whose photographs will provide an enduring and exceptionally fine record of our terrific experience in Cyprus.