Athens Photo Festival 2018

Satellite Programme


Opening 25th June 2018 | 20.30






The Infernal Machine


What is hell? How do we react in the face of a looming disaster we cannot escape from? Threats are manifold in a world that is ruled by machines, weapons, and information. The “Infernal Machine” is a collaborative exhibition project by 10 artists from Vienna-based artist association 280A, referring to the title’s two semantic fields of the bomb built to kill Napoleon Bonaparte, and Jean Cocteau’s play based on the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus. The resulting bodies of work create a tapestry of ubiquitous nightmare scenarios of violence, distress, and limbo in the continuous loop of history. Recurring motifs within the show are the wars of the past, present, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of future strife that is not necessarily geopolitical but instead, to be decided between human and non-human life. What defines us in the end? A never-ending battle between memories, physicality, and ever-present virtuality.

In her work “The Infernal Machine”, Linn Phyllis Seeger engaged herself with the same-titled play by Jean Cocteau, which deals with how history continues to repeat itself despite of the knowledge of past mistakes or the knowledge of a calamity being imminent. Creating a fictional narrative from previously unused files from her personal archive, she arranged a visual cadence of pairs and single images that rhythmically repeat itself, just like similar motifs are reoccurring throughout the years and places depicted. By rooting out the images from their original context and arranging them to a self-contained sequence, their meaning is shifted. Each image is a semantic level, an allegorical unit, adding up to a story that waits to be deciphered. She is referring to the esthetics of binary coding language, which translates information into sequences of two different symbols: 0 and 1.

The Infernal Machine is a bomb that could go off at any moment. A danger that lies in the dark; even though we might know about its existence. Like Oedipus - who knew about his prophecy, but exactly fulfilled it unknowingly - we wander in the dark. In Michaela Putz’ words “we are blind and we are being blinded, as he was.”

In the dark. Like our portrait on screens, lured by technology and prone to merge with virtuality. Is there a danger in feeling attracted to all these digital surfaces reflecting back onto us? Is it a real threat to lose connection to everything lively around us? Will we give up being human (whatever this means) to neglect our bodies, the bodies of our lovers, the body of nature and live on as bodiless creatures in the cloud? Is this a prophecy that we might try to avoid but fulfill it nonetheless?

Those are the questions Putz leave us with to reflect with her work. Which, following the line, Magdalena Żołędź has created with her work “Melancholia”, a trailer-remake of the film ‘Melancholia’ by Lars von Trier. She used the soundtrack from the original movie to mix it with old VHS materials from her parents.

Von Trier raises essential existential issues surrounding human life: What is a catastrophe? How does a person react to the impending doom? Żołędź decided to create a peculiar omen of THE END - a real ending of love between her parents intertwined with fictional story of the end of the planet we live on. After all, she thinks of The Infernal Machine as a programmed catastrophe into human life, one that a person has no influence or whatsoever.

And, still from a humanizing point of view but, diving a bit into the politics of it, Sasha Kurmaz shows an installation collage. A big wallprint shows a documentation of the ordinary city life in Kiev, part of the

series “Chronicle of Current Events”. On top of it, he divided the scenario into 12 sections holding little dark phtographs. Each of these photos was taken in a public space and belongs to one month of the year marked with a date on the picture’s corner. These were taken on the day Ukrainian soldiers died in the east of Ukraine. Every single photo represents one human life.

Philipp Pess The concurrent presence of everything created, as the medieval theologians have taught, is HELL. Under these auspices, the Internet can be understood as a place of world blockage, as a digital hell. The proliferation logic of the web contributes to the fact that every data entry receives eternity values. During the infancy of the Internet the scientific community saw an indicator for the growing world knowledge in the swelling of stored information. Now it appears as if dull sense, baseness and superstition expand to much bigger value than actual information.

In addition, systematic forgeries and disinformation cause waves of excitement. Marketing and/or government organizations bring forward how one can use these quakes in the social networks for propaganda.

As a sum up of everything above presented, Pess has created a virtual reenactments of infernal landscapes. Areas are photographed in their entirety, meter by meter, and rearranged in a virtual 3D- Model. The resulting scenarios, made out of the original 3D-Scans, photographies and also found footage from the Web, are then filmed or photographed with a virtual camera within the 3D-simulation and subsequently completed with digitally drawn intervening elements.

Moving forward, in Nikolas Ventourakis piece, we see disparate views of construction cranes, urban landscape, skies, clouds and aviation machines blend. The aircrafts pass in standard patterns in view from the artist’s balcony in London. The construction cranes that fill the horizon stand as avatars of develop- ment, of a city that expands to accommodate the population’s needs but also to create value and capital.

The first part of the video references the instance when we, as a western society, project our anxieties and fears on to machines that demonstrate our technological capabilities and the fact that we, as specie, have mastered the world and how almost twenty years in still shapes our politics and social behavior. In this sense, Ventourakis lead us already to a more socio-political view with references on terror and death from the original Infernal Machine story.

The second scene with the helicopter references the reaction of the state power that suggested that the panoptic on expanded to every aspect of our society would render us safe. In both instances a cloud expands and contracts, a visual cue of an explosion cloud...

The same way, referencing terror and social issues as a metaphorical comparison with The Infernal Machine, Apostolos Zerdevas present us “In Every Home”. In his work, he uses a source material that comes from the personal computer archive of the deceased leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden. It became publicly available since 2017 through the official site of the CIA. From this archive, Zerdevas selects seemingly random images mostly taken from bin Laden personal cameras and corrupted image files found in the archive. With the artist’s seemingly random selection of images he tries to give a fragmented glimpse to the mindset of this controversial figure that is perhaps considered the greatest terrorist mind to date.

Through this assemblage of images he tries to examine and propose the possibility for them, no matter how ordinary or commonplace they may seem, to be considered as elements of a possible conceptual construction that could be analogous to visual infernal machine. Their explosive possibility being not in the content of the images but in their status as personal files of a terrorist mastermind and their similarity to common files found in an average computer.

Isidora Krstic revisits her memories of the Nato bombing of Belgrade, which she had experienced as a twelve year old child in Belgrade, in 1999. Krstic tried to reckon with any emotions related to the

bombing, which she found were quite numbed in relation to the objective horror of the event itself. The artist went on to search for any visual footage of the bombing which would be available online, to see what kind of reactions these would illicit.

She found videos of the targeted locations, seen from cameras mounted on the missiles or planes themselves: still aerial view - firing - racing through space - darkness. The almost casual aspect of the filmed footage evoked feelings of terror, which were actually felt for the first time. The video work, which was finalized in 2018, represents found footage from the Internet. The photographs represent stills of the videos, where she “censored”, with a black marker, all the redundant information featured on the found footage (numbers, coordinates) that did not relate to the direct event of the dropped bomb.

These political struggles also influence the art work of the Portuguese artist Tiago Casanova presented at The Infernal Machine. His work in general is mainly focused on a set of aesthetics and artistic forms that are used depending on the specific theme or story that he want to tell, and also in concepts like Nostalgia, Memory and Destruction.

“Pedra da Calçada” is the traditional Portuguese stone used for street pavement, with which it is possible to create an infinite number of designs and drawings on the ground. If, on the one hand the use of the “calçada portuguesa” is a topic of discussion for the relationship between tradition and utility, on the other hand it symbolically assumes the metaphor of the political struggle. In several occasions it has been used as a throwing weapon in demonstrations in front of the Parliament.

The presented print, made with a very unique technic explored by Casanova, pretends to amplify the symbolic power of the stone, as if we can actually get power with our own traditions.

So, this humanity ambiguity, political issues and social behaviors towards specific problematics, direct us to reflect with the work title “Notes from Paradise” of Christiane Peschek. Her piece is an exploration of mental abysses and the decay of idealized images in the post-digital age.

In the context of a “romantic reality”, the work builds a tension between expectations and disappointments, emotionality and the photographic surface. The quest for aesthetic perfection was already a central aspect of the Greek worldview in the antique, which can be rediscovered in virtualized form in a post-internet society.

This phenomenon of the idealization of body and environment also experiences the construction of love, whose endeavor is not reality but idealization. The decay, the breaking of that constructed utopia, a mental state of the infernal machine, should mark the end of a relationship between ideal and reality. (09.05.2018, 00:02)




The Infernal Machine

280A: Michaela Putz (AT), Christiane Peschek (AT), Isidora Krstic (AT), Philipp Pess (AT), Nikolas Ventourakis (GR), Apostolos Zerdevas (GR), Linn Phyllis Seeger (DE), Sasha Kurmaz (UK), Magdalena Zoledz (PL/UK), Tiago Casanova (PT)


Opening: Monday 25 June, 20:30

Duration: 25 June – 15 July




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