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Iconostasis: A portal to the territory of returning

Driving around Greece the road is sporadically seeded with “ekklissakia”, memorials containing the icon of a saint of the Orthodox Church, a candle and probably some oil and matches. These miniature churches stand at the point of a fatal accident, they signify both a memorial of the deceased, arbitrarily put up by family and relatives, and an alarm for the drivers, marking a dangerous passage. No urban or street planning can pre-empt where and when these “iconostasia” are going to be erected; one could claim these spiritual symbols are illegal. They come in all forms and shapes, made of various materials, reflecting the financial and social background and, of course, the taste of each family.

They stand there bearing an icon, flashing the odds of death by their mere presence, like road light-houses. Through their stillness though, they bear a move, a move-on for the lives of the loved ones of the deceased and a move-ahead for the passers-by. They are inherently marked in the map of everyone’s wandering around the country, only with a sense of conspiracy, as they are registered nowhere. They become part of the landscape. And through repeated journeys, they acquire different meanings, giving a hint for the distance left to destination. Familiar landmarks.

Curled up at the back seat of the car between my brothers, traveling to some anticipated holiday, we were counting those boxes at the edge of the street, oblivious to any mournful connotations. It was a game we shared and enjoyed which helped immensely to deal with the long voyages and dull “grown-ups” music playing in the cassette player.

Many of these journeys have been captured in my father’s VHS video camera. Infused with additional material from holidays and celebrations from the late 1980’s, it only felt natural to include these video-snaps in this project.

After my father passed away I returned to our most beloved places, following the same paths across Greece, photographing those crates of loss and shock. Regarldess of their symbolism, this documentation is not an attempt to impose macabre emotions or a metaphysical itinerary. Quite the opposite; “iconostasis” functions as a passage to something intimate yet openly shared. It is a pilgrimage to childhood, to unspoiled memories and the longing of revisiting. 



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Yiannis Katsaris