Jannis Kounellis | Γιάννης Κουνέλλης

Last time I visited an exhibition was in Tate Modern. I went to see Kusama’s retrospective exhibition where I combined it with Alighiero Boetti’s “Game Plan”. Highly intrigued by his conceptual work within the Arte Povera movement I went on to an exhibition of a Greek conceptual artist, Jannis Kounellis. Even though called the patriarch of Arte Povera it wasn’t the reason that led me to his exhibition, but the purpose this brand new installation served.

Jannis Kounellis installation 1

While the situation in Greece is something new to Kounellis, it is not unfamiliar. He left Greece in 1956 due to the consequences of the on-going political clashes. Kounellis went to Rome where he studied Fine Art. Later was introduced to the Arte Povera movement which was not so known till the late 60’s. Its literal meaning is poor art. Arte Povera was a modern art movement, which had a different stance towards the establishment of the government, the industry and culture.

Jannis Kounellis installation 4

Kounellis has introduced new materials in the movement such as fire, gold, bed frames, windows, smoke even live animals and performing people. Each one of the materials symbolised something particular in his work.

As in previous installations he deliberately questions the contemporary way of living. By using antithetical media and juxtaposition in his works expresses the tension and alienation in our society. I guess he always wanted to express his feelings in that manner for Greece.

His exhibition in the Museum of Cycladic Art was not a collection of previous works. Brand new works, inspired by the issues haunting Greece for the past four years, made by local material found in flea markets and junkyards of Athens. Old and used materials, like marble and coal, burlap sacks and newspapers, hats and overcoats, shoes and soil not only served as the media for the message but as the media carrying the history and memories of a city and its people. Combining them resembled the process of putting pieces of a puzzle together, which ultimately presented the issues that currently strike the people of Greece, have roots deep in the past.

Jannis Kounellis installation 6


The Guardian
Frieze Magazine
Museum of Cycladic Art
Tate Modern


‘Cairo Divided’ – A critical review/reflection

Less than six months ago, ‘Cairo Divided’ made its appearance. A two year collaboration between Jason Larkin of Panos Pictures and Jack Shenker, Egypt correspondent for the Guardian. ‘Cairo Divided’ is an account of Cairo’s attempted shift towards the Western standards of living, “an exploration of the city’s rapidly-mutating urban landscape”. A shift that initially might seem as an effort to upgrade the standards of living for many Egyptians and residents of the largest and most populous city of the Arab world and Africa.

‘Divided’ Cairo: A megacity turns itself inside out which was self-published in a 32-page newsprint format (both in English and Arabic) by Jason Larkin in association with Panos Pictures, a really intuitive format that made possible its release for free in the streets of Cairo, where the epicentre of social “deformation”.

Cairo Divided © Jason Larkin.

Cairo is a megacity inhabited by almost 20 million people and in an ever growing rate, it is expected to top 30 million by 2030. Worth mentioning that the standard of living in Cairo is not high and according to Larkin’s and Shenker’s documentation is about to get worse. The development planned by the city’s largest real estate agencies and corporations, which drew attention of foreign capital as well as local, is mainly directed to people holding enough money to escape a decaying city. Decaying because of the government failing to serve its people, in a city whose political and social fabric are torn apart.

The outcome of this transformation is not a consideration for the future. The outcome will not serve the rapid population growth of Cairo, but the needs of the rich people and their subsequent urge to acquire the western life-style packet (guarded communities, golf courses, swimming pools, satellite television, yachts and malls), the whole lot in the middle of the desert.

Cairo Divided © Jason Larkin.

Whilst the rich enjoy the complimentary treats in the exhibitions set up to sell the numerous villas, the poor will remain in complete chaos and desolation. The satellite cities build around Cairo will not just be a congregation of the privileged, but a centre for new economical and business ventures that will benefit their interests. A great deal of things are at stake while the gap between the poor and the rich is getting bigger.

Cairo Divided © Jason Larkin.

During my assignment on Creative Digital Practice (151MC) I did research on city regeneration planning and mostly centered my attention in European case studies. I found that many factors could lead to an unsuccessful regeneration, where many cases were mostly profit driven, but reading through Shenker’s essay, what is attempted in Cairo was beyond my imagination.

The essay is quite objective, includes facts, as well as interviews with a broad range of people, amongst them academics, a project manager, a sales representative, a former minister, a labourer and a psychiatrist.

To end this review/reflection I think that ‘Cairo Divided’ is a well-documented account of Egypt’s first steps into the 21st century, with simple, truthful, but stunning photographs from Jason Larkin and an amazing essay from Jack Shenker, covering the necessary political and social background of Egypt of today and the past, giving the context for understanding what is at stake.

Cairo Divided © Jason Larkin.

“For any social system to flourish you need different classes to have symbiotic relationship…

… and that gap has produced a very dangerous situation for the Egyptian society.”

– Professor Ahmed Okasha

Sources and information:

  • British Journal of Photography (December 2011 issue)
  • ‘Divided’ Cairo: A megacity turns itself inside out (2012) Jason Larkin, Jack Shenker

Infernal Affairs (2002) – A critical review

Infernal Affairs tells the story of two graduates of the police academy and how
their lives took a different path the moment they became police officers. A film
with a brilliant plot written and co-directed by Alan Mak, is not your classic
police and thieves story. Andrew Lau’s vision of this story really adds drama in
the story. Basically one officer became undercover from day one. We watch his
life in about 10 years after being an undercover cop. Only two know of his  real
identity. One of them is the police chief and Superintendent Wong Chi Shing
who gives Chen Wing Yan, the undercover cop, a last job.

The second man, inspector Lau Kin Ming, graduates the police academy and is to
become the cleanest cop ever in the department, also one of the most successful.
The only flaw here is that when he graduated the academy he also started
working for the mob. He swore among others to the big boss Hon Sam brilliantly
played by Eric Tsang. It happens though that the undercover cop has infiltrated
the same gang as the one inspector reports in.

When a cocaine deal between the mob and a Thai dealer is about to go down due
to Yan’s work, inspector Lau is trying to disorient the police task force. It’s then
that both sides figured out that there is a mole among them. On both sides.

Hearing that the movie inspired Martin Scorsese’s The Departed a remake of
this brilliant plot and adapt it to a crime thriller based in Boston instead of
Hong Kong, made me want to watch Infernal Affairs. The Departed is one of
my favourite movies, but I really don’t appreciate that just because it was
produced with the biggest names in Hollywood, it received a Academy Award
for Best Picture. Infernal Affairs is a slow paced, strong thriller with amazing
shots and innovative direction.

The “party”starts when the inspector is assigned by the CIB (I suppose the IA
department of the police) to find the mole among them. Instead he uses him time
to find out who is the superintendent’s man in the gang. He didn’t play it very
safe though and repercussions are to come. On the other side Yan, who took
some safety measures has realised that there is mole in the police and tries to
find him out. Yan has told his story to the nice psychologist before the mayhem
started. A dead slow thrilling mole hunt starts and there is no happy ending.

This movie show’s us what it could be really happening in undercover situations
and how each side will protect their own. How tough a situation becomes
between these two worlds. Even though the plot is quite linear, Alan Mak and
Felix Chong twisted it to the edges!

Brilliant movie, great acting! I guess I will be watching the prequel and the
sequel soon. A proof of course for the success is that it ispired the great Scorsese
thriller that hit the top by winning an Academy Award. Recommended!