The wavy line made me uneasy, I sensed danger but I liked the smoothness of the up and down. The last line was agitation. My penis hurt, my belly hurt, etc.
-Roberto Bolaño, Antwerp
Diagnosing the crisis takes the form of figures and graphs, an index finger tracing a line up and down, and down, and down. Corresponding is the feeling in the gut of all those implicated in that sinking line: down and down. The symptoms of crisis follow its diagnosis. Establishing a state of chaos brings a sort of clarity where retrospectively, the parts add up, or seem to.
Demosthenes Agrafiotis’ body of work uncovers a vocabulary and a syntax to the way that “crisis” is discussed and acted through in contemporary society. His Crisiology project provides images through which to process the specific Greek financial crisis of 2010 while simultaneously probes the visual formularization of crisis-at-large. The series within Crisiology return over and over to the metaphors provided by its etymological root: the perturbation of a physiological state, a diseased body. [http://www.crisiology.org/].The series CRIES, crise captures, remain-like, photographic evidence of Athens’ blemished city-skin; Agrafiotis’ lens functions like a pointed finger, tracing the market graph down and down. What’s uncanny is that the pointed camera-finger makes no diagnostic attempt to explain what’s happened in Athens. Instead, it does the affective and performative work of gesturing into the space between the easily applied buzzword “crisis” and its physical, felt consequences.
The quote beginning this essay is lifted from Roberto Bolaño’s novella Antwerp (2002); the experimental narrative is constructed of a series of vignettes that cycle between images, describing and re-describing, so that their components are constantly in flux. Reading the novella is a process of revelation and obfuscation highly evocative of the way that crises are imaged and put into language. Agrafiotis’ artist books Krisis and Autorité, Crise. AutoCRISté distill the aesthetics of crisis into units of line and language that repeat and recombine, offering order and organization but ultimately not sense.
Despite the abstraction of the term “crisis” and the failure of description in its wake, its effects are concretized in the body: “my penis hurt, my belly hurt, etc.” From this angle, crisis is performance, enacting the symptoms of a diagnosis. Agrafiotis takes up the equally performative position of a “solution doctor” to treat the crisis’ internalization in its responding bodies, both civic and personal. The white of the lab coat he wears in the performance Crisiologi_a, contextualizes his movements towards “treating,” or erasing, the crisis as part of a scientific methodology while also making reference to the white of a priest’s robes. The performance becomes a gesture into the space between—between prescriptive action and salutary results, expertise and the faith put in stock by it. The dialogue opened by the Crisiology project asks the question: how should we move our bodies when that stock fails?
The debt crisis was diagnosed by the agitation of a line on a graph; its eventual resolution rests solely in the hands of “experts.” The largely immaterial market crisis resulted in a burden whose weight is carried on very material shoulders and felt in the cities they carry it through. The boundaries of the metaphoric, gestural, or artistic field within and following the financial crisis is expanded to the level of everyday life, where citizens-cum-performers are constantly forced to reconcile the space between the diagnostic and the symptomatic. Agrafiotis’ Crisiology does the critical work of searching for art-actions, arrangements and choreographies of bodies and language, to define the edges of that space: where our terminology and images to process crises fails to make concrete sense.
Corrine Leigh Buttah, September 2016
First publication at Vakxikon.gr