Research Project Summary:
The economic crisis in Greece, that became an acute reality in 2010, revealed the pre-existing cultural crisis in the country and created the need to redefine the Greek identity. This practice based research explores this particular need through the conditions of emigration to European metropolises, repatriation from abroad and internal migration to Greek islands that are incited by the crisis. The project uses an original photographic narrative with morphological elements from the genres of subjective documentary and landscape photography as a methodological tool that develops in parallel with the theoretical research on the areas of (i) displacement and exile, (ii) Greek culture and aesthetics and (iii) Greek landscape photography.
The project uses the mythological ten-year journey on the sea of Odysseus towards his home, Ithaca, and appropriates it to represent the voyage of contemporary Greek migrants towards their own Ithacas. The story is seen from the perspective of Odysseus, who becomes the narrator that experiences displacement and tries to define his identity in relation to the borders of each place he resides. The narrative, that is presented in a book form, consists of two main types of images, colour landscapes and black-and-white instant images. The colour landscapes explore the concept of the border and build the inner landscape of the narrator, while the black-and-white images use representations of the Greek landscape to explore memory.
The question that came to the fore mainly at a philosophical level due to the crisis is whether a western country can develop autonomously and independently in a globalised capitalist Europe, politically and culturally. After a review of the evolution of Greek landscape photography and the perception of it as an art form, from the foundation of the modern Greek state until today, this thesis argues how Greek landscape photography has never been developed autonomously as an art form in a Greek context. In addition, it reveals the lack of significant critical analysis in photography within a Greek cultural context and a lack of academic debate in order to frame such work. My practice seeks ways in which to form a new photographic language that embeds elements of the Neohellenic aesthetic principles, and particularly the metaphoric use of geography and climatic conditions, into contemporary photographic practices and an outcome that is analysed in a Greek cultural context.
Born in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1984, Grigoris Digkas studied electrical engineering in the Engineering Faculty at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In 2012 he finishes his MFA degree in Photography at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham, England, where he is currently a PhD candidate in the same subject. He was awarded the British Council’s Prime Minister Initiative 2 award and in 2012 was awarded the Birgit Skiold Memorial Trust Prize during the London Art Book Fair at Whitechapel. His work has been exhibited in group exhibitions and photography festivals in England, India, Brazil and Greece. He has published two handmade limited edition photobooks. His photobook Memento Mori is part of The National Art Library Collection of V&A museum.