XYZ Outlet #3: Panayiotis Lamprou - Photos from "Untitled History"

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XYZ Outlet #3: Panayiotis Lamprou - Photos from "Untitled History" | Tuesday January 18th 2011, from 20.00 to 21.00 | Perdika 8 & Achileos, Metaxourgeio

1 – What is normal?

0 – Normal is the expression.

XYZ are proud to present photographs from “Untitled History" by Panayiotis Lamprou, in an installation that reacts to the peculiar space of XYZ Outlet, baring the traces of previous actions. Six images are juxtaposed, hinting, sometimes sensitively and sometimes unflinchingly, at exclusion and humanitarianism, the “filter” of logic and the language of emotion.

XYZ Outlet will remain open to the public strictly for one hour, between 20.00 and 21.00.

"No, your mother… is not crazy. And neither, contrary to popular belief, is your brother crazy. He’s merely miscast in a play. He was born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river…"   (Rumble Fish – F.F. Coppola 1983)

Few people will agree, but I’ll claim it anyway. Rumble Fish is by far the best movie ever made about the relation between 2 brothers. The main character of the movie, a boy called Rusty James, looks up to his older brother, the has-been band leader ‘The Motorcycle Boy’. He tries to understand him, to follow in his footsteps but he never succeeds. He never even comes close. A lot of people call this mellow romance for 16-year olds. I call it a magnificent masterpiece by a brilliant filmmaker with an important deeply human theme.

But what happens when your older brother dies at a very young age? When this brother has a handicap that is never spoken about. Well, then your search takes a very long time, you travel for 2000 miles and you end up making a photo essay.

Panayiotis Lamprou was born in Greece in 1975. He is a  photographer. His older brother was born with Down syndrome. He died when he was very young. Of course, this made a profound impression on the young artist. When he was 25, he decided to really start looking for answers about his brother and people with a mental disability. For a European project, he traveled to Belgium as a volunteer. He worked there for half a year in an institution for people with a mental disability. During this period, he met some people from ‘De Kreek’. This is a relatively small non-profit organization (NPO) that already exists for more than 20 years. ‘De Kreek’ organizes creative summer camps and weekends for people with a mental disability. When the European project ended, Panayiotis went back to Greece. The basic idea for this photographic project however was already formed. It would take more than three years and a lot of effort before its final realization.

The project has two clearly distinctive parts. The first part contains pictures taken in the Dr. Guislain museum in Ghent, Belgium. This museum is located in a mental hospital. Its founder, Dr Guislain, was a pioneer in the treatment of people with a mental disability and psychiatric problems. The work of people like him has led to a much more human treatment of these people, together with scientific research. The museum has a large collection of documents and objects that give an overview of the ever changing attitude of society towards these people. And pure horror it once was… People tend to hate what they don’t understand. There was a lot that they didn’t grasp.

The second part of the photo essay are pictures made on a summer camp of ‘De Kreek’, july 2005. Maybe some of these pictures look ordinary at first sight: pictures of a summer camp, no different from the ones turning yellow in your closet. Just take a closer look. Look at the expressions on their faces. Look at the wide range of emotions. You don’t just see happy faces. There are also bored, happy, extremely serious faces. All too often, people with a mental disability are rather disrespectfully categorized as ‘cute’ or ‘happy’.

Maybe you’re offended by some of the pictures. You see a full grown man dressing up as a woman and you feel embarrassed. You see a man on the street, almost naked. Keep in mind that this camp is a micro-cosmos, where they can be themselves. They are treated with the utmost respect. There are no strict rules, their guidance is extremely individual.

Look at the pictures with an open mind, and enjoy.

By Erwin Goris, Volunteer

In 2002, I went to Belgium to participate in the European Volunteer Service of the organization Het Roerhuis for people with mental disability. I had the chance to visit the Museum Dr.Guislain in Ghent studying the history of medical treatment towards people with disabilities. Also, I had the pleasure to be hosted during E.V.S, by Stinne Van Espen the founder of the organization De Kreek. We had discussed this subject in depth. When she introduced me to the camp I saw the realization of her ideas in front of my eyes. The endless creativity, the fun entertainment, the equal treatment and educational behavior resulted into a fabulous event for anyone who participated.

In 2003, I went back to the Museum Dr.Guislain and photographed it’s permanent exhibition and the temporary exhibition titled Human, All Too Human. The combination of both exhibits emphasize on the description of the psychological treatment towards people inside the psychiatric institutions in history.

In 2005, I visited the summer camp of  De Kreek. The photographer Diane Arbus had already approached people with disabilities in her work “untitled“. Her sensitivity, kindness and pure intention broke the distance with the unfamiliar. She expanded the limits giving a clearer view to the understanding of the meaning of existence. Her work was a secure base for me. Photography helps to come to the core of a subject without judgement,  reality then reflects its character in clarity.

“untitled history” is dedicated to my brother Yiannis (1974 – 1981)

In honor to my soul  brother Erwin Goris (1977 – 2010)

Panayiotis Lamprou