“A journey to the Greek island of Karpathos ... was the starting point for Cornelia Mittendorfer in creating a series of paintings that deal with the structure formulas (Umberto Eco) surrounding the special circumcision of sheep ears on an island that is still characterised by archaic rituals. (...)


In this setting, which appears almost raw due to the often earthy tone and sandy-stone soil, a symbol for the circumcised ear of a future sacrificial animal recorded on the left or right of the scene is combined in such a way that the contours and reason behind the painting form a congruence between the “modes” that is in fact highly unusual. The allusion to the soil of the Greek island is intended, as the inhabitants protect their property with markings which they paint on the ground. That provides information on property conditions and also represents a part of the sign language of the islanders for Cornelia Mittendorfer that temporarily reveals the secret of faded hieroglyphics.


She found an explanation for the symbols of dozens of variable incisions in the ears in a book on the island: the fissions, stubs, perforations and shedding of ears with deeper, broader incisions or those from the side refer to saints and their name days, on which the relevant animal is designated for slaughter. (...)


The religious iconography is of less interest than the reference to death and attention to icons by the population. Anyone able to decipher such codes is part of a community that communicates with each other through vivid images. The language of cutting sheep ears therefore refers to the traces of archaic societies lost in our mechanised world and old spiritual references to the vivid use of eloquent symbols.”


Excerpt from: “Structures of an unknown language” by Brigitte Borchhardt-Birbaumer, text for the exhibition entitled “Designations“, Lang Gallery.


For german version see texts.