A palace in exile 
Fondazione Elpis, Milan 

10.03.24 - 07.06.24

In the 1950s, a decade characterized by conflicts driven by ethnic and nationalistic tensions in Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III initiated the construction of a new Archbishopric building in Cyprus, hosting the first-ever architectural competition in the region.

The competition and the ensuing debate in the press regarding the proposals underscored the role of architecture in shaping national identity in British-ruled Cyprus. Setting a precedent that would influence future architectural developments on the island, the construction of the new building marked the emergence of a "neo-meta-Byzantine" architectural style in the Cypriot landscape.

On the ground floor of Fondazione Elpis, a selection of molds from the artist's archive marks the starting point of the exhibition. Originally sourced from the now-defunct Koromias factory in Nicosia, the molds had previously been utilized in the construction of not only the Archbishop's Palace but also several other churches across Cyprus. In the exhibition, the molds transcend their historical and archival status, emerging as standalone sculptures and serving as dogmatic negatives.

A series of collages, created by screen printing advertisements from 1950s Greek, British, and local newspapers onto construction materials and stretched on aluminum frames, demonstrates  the conflicting forces tugging at Cyprus's identity at the time and  underlines the broader relationship between colonial power and media communication.

On the first floor, the artist presents a virtual entry to the 1950's competition in the form of a video installation produced in collaboration with architectural designer Loukis Menelaou. Their proposal draws upon the teachings and drawings of Daskalos, a Cypriot healer active from the 1950s to the 1990s to inform their design. The animated film imagines the evening of the 28th of Feb, 1959  just hours before the return of Archbishop Makarios III to Cyprus to a jubilant reception in Nicosia after being in exile. The film serves as a dialogue between the real and speculative histories surrounding the competition and examines the ways in which mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion within the construction of the palace and the symbolism of its design fostered a sense of community and belonging for some, while marginalizing Cypriot minority groups.

The film is accompanied by an architectural model carved out of repurposed wood from the ceiling of the building hosting Fondazione Elpis as well as architectural drawings related to the imaginary submission.

Throughout the exhibition space, visitors  encounter further objects that can also be seen in the film. Among these items is a candle holder constructed from scaffolding materials, designed to hold ecclesiastical candle votives. These votives are produced by a workshop located directly across from the current Archbishop's Palace in Nicosia. Another piece is a Σαρκά, a broom hand-crafted from dried bundles of native Cypriot spiny shrubs, which was historically used by cleaning staff employed by municipalities during British rule. In the exhibition, the broom is connected to a motor and programmed to tap the floor of the vault downstairs, causing it to gradually shed its leaves over the course of the show.

'A Palace in Exile,' set within the context of 'Transmundane Economies,' examines the concept of 'oikonomia'—traditionally understood in theological discourse as 'household management'—and its extension to the Church of Cyprus's influence over both spiritual directives and the governance and stewardship of mundane material economic and political interests.