Site-specific VR installation
Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin

14.01 – 06.02.2022

Bellapais Abbey, the ruin of a 13th century monastery in northern Cyprus, is the subject of investigation for the site-specific, virtual installation Transmundane Economies. Testament to many lives, following the different colonial periods over the centuries, the monastery went through changes, architectural but also cultural, organizational and operational.

Theo & Daki address the long-lasting, shape-shifting history of Bellapais Abbey to discuss the codes and hierarchies that have been established and inscribed into it over the years. Starting from the architectural structure as well as the ceremonial use of the place, while examining its narratives, liturgy and history, the artists speculate on the relationship between queerness, restoration and reinvention.

Visitors to the exhibition are immersed in the partial reconstruction – based on drawings by George Jeffrey from 1912 – of the monastery’s Gothic refectory by means of VR technology. In this way, alternative paths and possible uses that deviate from colonial interventions of the past become free and accessible. The virtual architecture, which in its digital translation appears to be sacred yet free of Christian intentions, in turn exposes the socio-political fabrication of the monastery. Besides this conceptual grounding, by virtually transposing the site into the gallery space, the artists turn the ruin into an event rather than an object, proposing an alternative to acquisition in this way.

The Cypriot Orthodox Church exerts a strong influence on the political affairs of the island and participates in the instrumentalization of the national collectivity, often through the superintendence of gender and sexuality. In doing so, it claims to protect the Greek Cypriots from ‘the ethnic other’ as described by Nayia Kamenou in her text Sexuality, Gender and Nationhood in Cyprus, and hence exploits the country’s postcolonial milieux. The queer community on the whole island is therefore not only subjected to marginalisation based on their sexuality but on all the processes of identity formation that constitute their bodies; race, class and gender. Transmundane Economies is an offer to discuss mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, and to think of the potentiality of any place to transcend its own physicality and hence escape its embodied ideological charge and power.

Architectural design: Dakis Panayiotou
Sound production: Jazmina Figueroa

Grant provided by: UNDO Contemporary Arts and Cultural Services and the Ministry of Education and Culture, Cyprus