MISSING ISLAND 2021
What differences reveal.
In 2020, I started a research based on spiritual and social concerns, specifically referring to the phenomenon of religion, faith and morals.
Very soon I realised how important religion has been; how deep its influence lays in the structural roots of our society and how much suffer most of them have caused during time (and still do).
I grew up in Greece, a land where the Christian orthodox religion still has a big influence on the everyday life, even on political matters. I saw it affect people on a great level with personal issues and by creating traditions that brought communities together or torn them apart.
When I moved to the Netherlands (a Christian catholic and protestant land), I came across a whole new world where religion was almost vanished. This made me notice big differences in people's behaviours, qualities and way of life that I assumed, had their background, mainly in the differences of the two religions. It is very obvious that every religion affected the perception of life, morals and values of people on a different way, providing us today with a diversity between cultures.
Moreover, I came across the concept of duality by seeing things around me separating themselves between material and immaterial, living and dead, good and evil, with religion being again a big influence on those separations. (see more on the project Agios).
I work on these ideas, so I can bring under the spotlight the complexity of people's psychology. With this I'm referring to the need of having a faith and a common purpose, to the ability of faith to shape cultures, morals and take new forms through the years. But faith is not only to be found in religions as it is something that can be also seen apart from its divine and even spiritualistic character. People also have faith in things, in physical persons, ideas and ideologies.
In psychological terms:
"There is another part just as compelling, one which is not rooted in bodily processes but is the very essence of the human mode and practice of life: the need to be related to the world outside oneself, the need to avoid aloneness.To feel completely alone and isolated lead to mental disintegration just as physical starvation leads to death. This relatedness to others is not identical with physical contact. An individual may be alone in a physical sense for many years and yet he may be related to ideas, values, or at least social patterns that give him a feeling of communion and "belonging". On the other hand, he may live among people and yet be overcome with an utter feeling of isolation, the outcome of which, if it transcends a certain limit, is the state of insanity with schizophrenic disturbances represent. This luck of relatedness to values, symbols, patterns, we may call it moral aloneness and state that moral aloneness is as intolerable as the physical aloneness. The spiritual relatedness to the world can assume many forms; the monk in his cell who believes is God and the political prisoner kept in isolation who feels one with his fellow fighters are not alone morally. (...) The kind of relatedness to the world may be noble or trivial, but even being related to the basest kind of pattern is immensely preferable to being alone. Religion and nationalism, as well as any custom and any belief however absurd and degrading, if it only connects the individual with others, are refuges from what man most dreads: isolation."
-Escape from freedom by Erich Fromm
Before continuing, I want also to point out some separations that will help understand more the concept of faith.
First, the separation between rational and irrational faith as, according to Fromm; "There is an important distinction between rational and irrational faith. While rational faith is the result of one's own inner activeness in thought or feeling, irrational faith is submission to something given, which one accepts as true regardless of whether it is or not." In other words he believed that irrational faith is based on submission to irrational authority. But rational faith is based on one's own convictions.
Secondly, the separation between belief and faith.
Belief is an opinion or judgement in which a person is fully persuaded.
So our beliefs are things that we are thoroughly convinced of. Usually (but not always) they are ideas, concepts that we gather through acquiring information and experience. Because of that, our beliefs can change over time as we gain more knowledge and experience more things throughout our lives.
Faith (= Belief × Action × Confidence ) includes our beliefs, but it is bigger than that. Faith requires action. If it doesn’t move us to do something or say something – actually take some kind of action – it’s not really faith at all.
Belief is a product of the mind, but faith is not. Faith is a product of the spirit. The mind interferes in the process of faith more than it contributes to it.
In the project Missing Island, I focus on two different kinds of faith: the religious and the ideological one of communism in order to come closer to the common idea, that lays underneath them, the need to structure life through faith in something bigger.
These two principles can also be described as the two opposites. Communists recognise themselves as atheists and see religion as right wing conservatism and religion condemns communism for its "anarchistic" spirit and independence from any religious beliefs, that in this case emphasises how opposites can have a common base.
The roots of the idea to focus on these two radically different concepts, lay in the relationship between my grandparents. My grandfather as a communist and my grandmother as a deep religious woman, had big ideological differences, yet this didn't stop them from being together until passing away.
Except from the relationship of my grandparents, there is also a place, where these two opposites met; a small Island in Greece, called Palaió Tríkeri (greek: Παλαιό Τρίκερι, Old Trikeri).
It is an island of 2,5km², has less than 20 residents and can only be reached with a small boat. On top of it, is a monastery (Monastíri tis Panagías, Monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary) for nuns, built from 1925 to 1937 and today offers a room for people to stay there for some time. Between 1946 and 1949, after the second World War and during the Greek Civil War (that was fought between the Greek government army, supported by the United Kingdom and the United States and the Democratic Army of Greece - the military branch of the Communist Party of Greece) 5.000 communist women got exiled on this island as a punishment for what they believed in.
In both cases (political exiled and religious beliefs), women got there, willing or not, for what they believed in.
As we live in a world, mainly speaking of the western world, that vanishes away traditions, greater common purposes and other things that bind us with each other, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and the era of social media, a distance grows between people of the same and different cultures, not only a physical but also a mental one, more than ever. It looks like believing in the world of science and technology is after all more lonely than believing in the world of God and the divine.
The title Missing Island occurred when realising that an island like Palió Trikeri, an island dedicated to the will and power coming from faith, will never exist again. It floats there, between the Pagasitikós Gulf and the Aegean Sea as a reminder of the past, of our ancestors and their faith.
Missing Island visualises my ideas on the topic of faith and its effects in contrast with the modern world.
What can we learn from faith and tradition? Why is the future so afraid of the past? What should we avoid and what should we keep as a part of our cultural identity that will get passed on the future generations?
As we live in a world that tries to rationalise human behaviour and nature, we turn to modern faith, faith in money, science, technology, self-centred abilities so it can serve capitalistic interests and the illusion of the individualistic freedom. I believe that the essence lays in what we are most afraid of with that being the irrational and unknown side of our existence.