Eirini Vourloumis – In Waiting
WORDS BY MAX FERGUSON
“I think it is somewhat special and important that employees have the freedom to decorate the walls as they please (regardless of who is governing) which I imagine is not condoned or frowned upon in other countries. We Greeks like to do things our way and to not really care about etiquette” – Eirini Vourloumis
The panoptic Acropolis looms over Athens's sprawling lo-rise metropolis. It’s unusual to see a capital city with no skyscrapers. The history of the city is as difficult to escape as the heat and the traffic. If you're lucky you might find shade in a cool leafy square buzzing with young people. But the squares are not always peaceful. Riot police often surround them, leaning on shields –chatting, smoking. Some are hardly older than the kids drinking cans of Mythos in the square. The police are not kids though, they are agents of the State. It’s us and them. They are appurtenanced in the apparatus of power: riot helmets, body vests, nightsticks, automatic weaponry. It is a bored standoff between them and young people angry that they have been fucked over by a corrupt government, the economy, the EU. Anti-government graffiti is scrawled over every flat surface. Judges are named and shamed on the walls of shops. In 2014 this city, and country, was shaken by recession, caused by overzealous borrowing by corrupt officials and irresponsible lending by the European Union.
In this book by Athenian photographer Eirini Vourloumis we see Athens through the paradigm of bureaucratic waiting spaces. We step inside the State’s parliament buildings and universities, workers unions and pawnshops. Signs of recession and revolution are omnipresent, sometimes subtle, occasionally obvious: a photo of Che Guevara hangs in an office of the Ministry of Development; a statue of Lenin is glimpsed through the window of the Communist Party Headquarters – ironically one of the plushest rooms we see. “Revolt not Democracy” is carved in the old-fashioned wooden chairs in a lecture hall at the Athens University of Economics and Business. Telephone booths have been smashed up in Syntagma Central Square.
These are spaces for people – with no people. In three photographs we see parts of a person, but in most we see traces of people – a photograph on a wall or an empty coffee cup. In one of the photographs we see just the legs and feet of a taxman. Vourloumis says, “…the traces that people leave behind are sometimes more powerful and reveal so much more than a classic portrait of a person.” She is eager to point out that the stereotypical view of tax-avoidance in Greece is nuanced. “We are all aware that most of the world thinks most Greeks evade taxes. The taxman is emblematic of this and may be seen as the big bad wolf to some Greeks especially now, which is whimsically reflected by the shiny black point boots. But this is to no disrespect to tax men especially to this man who was very kind and showed me his shoes with enthusiasm.”
In Waiting by Eirini Vourloumis is Launching at The Photographers' Gallery Bookshop on Thursday 18 January 2018.
Click here for details.