thinking about the unthinkable


a loop, a line, a limbo is my exploration of perpetuated states of limbo, borderlines, memory and trauma and their impact on the personal, a further development of my photographic work green line (2013 - 2017) about divided Cyprus.

In green line I had used Cyprus as an example to ask questions about the perception and imageability of traumatic events. In a loop, a line, a limbo I go one step further. After almost five decades of limbo, memories are transformed, the arbitrarily drawn dividing line has formed incongruent concepts of reality, paradoxes become entrenched in the everyday. The dissolution of the de facto border seems almost inconceivable to many, stagnation overlays the unresolved. I want to create space beyond memory, a new resonance space that allows us to experiment with changeability.

Research, the working process and the confrontation with these questions are sorted into a complex of initially seemingly disjointed works. This digging into the layers of memory and recollection takes place not only in the layers of others, but begins with one's own memory, one's own feelings, one's own recollection. This archaeological research in the human mind can never be completed. It takes place in a cloud of the unknown. Experience and memory never produce more than shards, than fragments. Our mental perceptual apparatuses transform these shards in their own particular way.

I see dedicating oneself to reflecting on the unthinkable as one of the possibilities and tasks of art. It takes time, it cannot be a closed whole, it encompasses contradictions and fractures,and a whole field of questions is unfolding.

Nevertheless, I was looking for a thread through my work, out of the thicket of photographic work about Cyprus into this new space. To this end, I had a long conversation with the media artist and theorist Gerda Lampalzer. I wanted to become more personal without becoming too prominent, but at the same time I didn't want to give up my particular way of working. Lampalzer's idea of ceremonial was the catalyst for me, as an artist, to also understand myself as a shaman. This led to an essential element of this work: the performance.

In the performance, I deal with the attempt to make the horror of an enforced boundary tangible and discussable by naming it, measuring it, discussing it and returning to it again and again. I measure 132 metres of green wick yarn and make a protocol of my quasi-scientific investigations. Then I wrap my head completely with it - until I can free myself and breathe again. Meanwhile, my sound piece commands can be heard. The sound is meant to envelop me and the audience in a common sensory space where we share concentration. The text circles as an inner voice around the impositions and contradictions of perpetuated limbo and dividing lines. To Chris Barber's voice is added an unsettling and sometimes threatening layer of sound based on recordings of a sea organ - from the same Mediterranean Sea that washes around Cyprus.

I want to involve others in the process of thinking about a space beyond memory. Thus in comments on the line I asked 10 people from different backgrounds and with different biographical experience of lines or borders to comment on their concept of line. What does a line mean to them? What do they feel when they cross a line? They were all asked to choose a small green object and include it in their statement.(1)

There are other works in the exhibition, such as the video uncertain ground, which directly targets the senses. Shots superimposed on each other in a loop at the Aphrodite Baths in Cyprus make uncertain ground directly tangible. In untitled, a short video loop, a (green) Bengal fire is burnt down.(2) Rescue blankets on a clothesline taken with long exposure at night float in a tower-like installation in the room. The interactive installation Ballgame invites the visitor to take into their hands the "fate" of different countries, by throwing into a basket balls of crumpled maps. All the photographs from the book green line(3) form the frame for the performance as a narrow line on the wall.


(1) The video features: Martin Breindl (media artist and curator), Paul Chatterton (environmentalist), Enrique Guitart (art worker),  Elena Ioannidou-Ortner (political scientist), Lena Knilli (art worker), Gerda Lampalzer (conceptual media artist), Claudia-Maria Luenig (artist and curator), Manfred Oppermann (media artist), Dieter Schindlauer (human rights expert), Ksenia Yurkova (artist and curator)

(2) untitled, together with Catherine Ludwig

(3) Cornelia Mittendorfer, green line_evocative of an archeology of desperation and desire, Verlag für moderne Kunst, Vienna 2017, German/English, Paperback, 25 x 21 cm, 192 pages, 105 ills. in b/w, ISBN 978-3-903153-57-8, Editor: Rolf Sachsse, Texts: Cornelia Mittendorfer, Rolf Sachsse, Yiannis Papadakis, Design: Martina Gaigg


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Cornelia Mittendorfer, green line: a loop, a line, a limbo at the House of Cyprus, Athens, 2023.