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Exploring the liquidity of Cyprus

The picture shows the island of Cyprus as a satellite image at night. You can also see various yellow dots and white stars on the island, which light up in the dark Mediterranean.
© Demetris Shiammas

Exploring the liquidity of Cyprus: Navigating the island by looking at the stars and challenging the reliability of maps.

Maria Hadjimichael talks with curator Evagoras Vanezis and artists Stelios Kallinikou and Korallia Stergides about the Cypriot participation in the Atlas of Mediterranean Liquidity with the map Take us to the Water.

Maria: All the maps in the Atlas of Mediterranean Liquidity project, as well as the Cypriot contribution, become interactive through different mediums. The Cypriot map Take Us to the Water is quite different to the others. It is a night map where the water locations are sparkles, stars. So the focus is not on human made lights, but rather water elements that Stelios captured in different locations, accompanied by video works and a poem written and narrated by Korallia. Evagoras, could you please share with us why you chose to present the Cypriot map in this way?

Evagoras: “Liquidity” is a word that is filled with all these images and connotations: it moves, it connects, it overflows. There are many things you can think of when you hear “liquidity”. But this is a mapping project, and it was important to create a map that somehow reflects Cyprus. My immediate thought was, how do we talk about liquidity when every day we are faced with division, with immobility, with being unable to move and to go to the water, as it were? This also links to the research you [Maria] do about the coasts, the politics of the coast and this intense privatization that is happening. All the coastlines are changing, they are being taken over by forces, that we might not necessarily understand or have the capacity to follow. But you see the result, you see it in the landscape, you see how infrastructures change. You can tell that a space you could go to is not accessible anymore. How do we acknowledge and empower the environmental and political struggles that suggest that things could be otherwise? So, I wanted to take liquidity as a metaphor and see it as a dynamic idea that carries both the intensity of water in its transit and the ways in which this transit is blocked and diverted.

Maria: Could you explain what you mean by water transit?

Evagoras: I explored this idea of 'water transit' through the work of Astrida Neimanis. She proposes that water creates material forms of belonging and exclusion. But of course, we as humans are also bodies of water, so we are always connected to this map. I then approached Stelios and Korallia because they are two artists who speak about their embodied experiences. All the work on our map is about navigation: how you go from one point to the next, while being a body of water, connected to all these other flows. It touches on history, place, time, geology, politics...

Maria: Evagoras explained to us how he came to you, Stelios. Could you please share with us how you selected your photos for Take Us to the Water?

Stelios: In the beginning, we thought about how current technologies bring the person to the center of a map. For example, you search something on your phone and suddenly, you are the dot in the map. Some centuries ago – even some years ago – people navigated by looking at the sky, at the stars. Now we look at our phone almost every day. That’s why we thought it would be interesting to use stars on the Cyprus map to indicate points of interest. And then I started to reflect on how a map is considered a very reliable way of navigation. That’s why in the heart of Nicosia I chose to place the photograph “Bridge”.

Maria: That’s a stone bridge between two rock formations over the sea. That doesn’t seem like Nicosia?

Stelios: This is a picture I took in Portugal. I consider it to be a good starting point to challenge this idea of the reliability of maps. By placing an image of something that does not exist in Nicosia, but at the other end of Europe. At the same time, placing this bridge in Nicosia, which is divided in north and south, was an interesting metaphor for how you create an infrastructure that can bring people together.

Maria: Your work addresses also other issues…

Stelios: Yes, I also placed an image in the sea, between Turkey and Cyprus. There are ongoing discussions about our sea borders with Turkey. But we never think about what drilling inside our water means for other entities. That we are not the only ones that have a right to the sea. I read recently, that the soundscape created by these drilling machines has a very scary dimension for wildlife in the sea.

For me placing something on a map is a political gesture. There are many things that are not considered important enough to be placed on a map. How will you navigate a map through a poem or through the perspective of wildlife?

Maria: This brings us to Korallia’s contribution, her poetry, and videos. Korallia, could you please tell us what you created for Take Us to the Water?

Korallia: The work that I made was inspired by my family, by my uncle. I come from a family of refugees [who had to flee from Karpasia and later built new homes in Famagusta and Akamas]. Both my father and my uncle were here in 1974. I thought about the map that my uncle has in his house in Akamas. And I guess, I really wanted to talk about this journey that they did and kind of mirroring that, as Akamas mirrors the landscape of Karpasia. How do you talk about generational trauma and pain and organize it on a map? I took the framework of a letter, because then I felt like I could talk. I used my uncle as a figure to talk about it. I acknowledged what my process of healing is. It is the water. To be immersed in water. I think we all use water. All the trances of water.

Maria: How has your uncle, who is shown in videos on the map, influenced your approach for your contribution to the Cypriot map?

Korallia: The physicality of my uncle’s body and his change in mobility directed my orientation of how I thought about our engagement with land, with the map. But also, his persistence on accessing this place, even if he is now not experiencing it in a vertical way, but a horizontal way.

In one of the videos, we are looking for Sterkos Island. It’s right opposite of where we used to live in the Karpasia peninsula. In winter, the tide would cover it, in summer, this tiny island would be revealed. They named it after their family name. I guess this plays on the mythology of what is there and what isn’t there. And when it is there, how do you embrace it, how do you engage with it?