Eva Isleifs & Rakel McMahon
Festival H2H. Athens. Greece
Text by Christina Petkopoulou
The map of the city is not functioning properly. Threatening grey layers emerge over the top view of our neighborhoods. They are visible only to us: danger is inscribed on our gaze and bodies as they travel within the urban tissue. Condemned to be navigating through public space as mythical characters, while any backstreet can turn into a deep dark wood. Obscure, excluding routes are drawn on the skin of the city, scars referring to the reminiscence or the potentiality of trauma. “Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle.”
In ancient Greek mythology and its iconography numerous female characters are presented to have been eternally transformed into plants or animals in order to protect themselves from lustful gods, satyrs and sileni. Trees, birds and flowers, water springs and islands, relics of female bodies, frozen for eternity in the moment of their harassment. Female mythical entities obtain their position as literary monuments of tragedies of “blind love and fatal passion”. Apollon for instance, ancient Greek god of light, always wears a wreath made of laurel, the tree in which the nymph Daphne has been transformed into in order to escape his importunate obsession for her. A tree that kept her attached to him forever. “…he had said 'good morning' to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road, she was certain he would have eaten her up.”
Perpetrators of public harassment are still referred to in the dominant discourse as passionate men, grotesque figures, satyrs, sad and extreme personalities, thoroughly surrendered to the mystical powers of nature. Their action is perceived as a result of perversion, a recognized paraphilia instigating from their own trauma. They are a mixed divine seed: goat legs, donkey ears, creatures of a sinful, yet mysteriously appealing world. How can you blame the insane and how merciless can you be to forgive not the sinner? “Ah, how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf.”
Eva Isleifs and Rakel McMahon visit Athens and courageously attempt through their practice to reinhabit public spots that appear threatening for the female identities. In the rise of the greek #metoo movement and the first juridical condemns of performers of sexual harassment in public space, the artists engage with the issue collecting stories from international contribution, spotting repeatedly mentioned urban areas and re-envisioning the map of Athens. Having experienced several incidents themselves and processing the confessions of others, Eva Isleifs and Rakel McMahon chose to respond to the undetectable threat seeking for the “dangerous” areas, wandering across them, resting to draw and sketch the environment and fortunate or less fortunate encounters. The practice of objectifying the subjects of their suffering evolved into a cathartic process of re-examining artistically the urban space and the conditions of its perception as public. The notions of shared space, care and commonality have been brought forward by the artists who translated their experience into visual and sculptural forms, functioning as magical objects: confronting the fear of harm and the fragility of our painfully precarious existence, as well as incorporating the representation of the wicked forces that trigger them. The material, collected throughout their research, is still developing as their observation continues and as participants contribute to the archive with their personal stories. In the ground floor of EIGHT, and under the umbrella of H2H festival the artist duo shares the progress of the Pervert Hunt project so far, presenting an environment composed of drawings, paintings, sound and light.
Photos taken by Alexandra Masmanidi from the festival Head2Head that was in Athens 5 - 14th of November 2021 and will be in Iceland 2024
Eva Ísleifs b.1982 (IS) and Rakel McMahon b.1983 (IS) have collaborated on numerous projects together since studying together in the Icelandic Art Academy graduating in 2008. The central theme of their works envolves around visual and verbal communication from a feminist perspective. Addressing nudity and the power dynamic within the dominant perspective, whether the context is historical or pop culture. Their idiology is based on feminist literature and philosophy which they borrow from and deconstruct. However they use everyday symbolism (on the edge of being banal) to mediate their work, implemented in various mediums such as performance, drawing, texts works and sculpture which they present in galleries, public environments or social constructs, happenings or events.