I met Aleka at her house / workshop near the city center of Athens. Where she now lives and works used to be her mother’s practise – she is an eye doctor. Aleka has a really special personal style, which has evolved over the years that I have come to know her. When I asked her to pose for me for an imatiothiki session, she told me she didn’t want her face to show in the pictures, as she is has several masks, which she prefers to wear while posing. Also the objects she has collected over the years and has in her place are truly important to her and she insisted I take some pictures of them as well, because that is what her personal style really is. What is really interesting about her is that she has stopped buying clothes and wears hand me downs from friends or family, goes through her Grammar School clothes and wears them with great joy and searches for items in the trash. Oh yes, most of the clothes she is wearing in this session have been other people’s garbage. You have to know that one of her main ways of working is collecting people’s unwanted items, such as photos, personal things, kitchen wear, clothes, and then either uses them in her art, wears them, or makes paintings out of them, some of which you can see hanging on the walls of her apartment. I didn’t follow the classic question and answer visit, as she prefered to have a more casual conversation. Here are a few things she mentioned.
I love huge, one colored shoes. Especially black shoes, with no ornaments or decoration on them.
When I am getting dressed I want to feel comfortable. There is no point in looking good if you are not feeling comfortable. Because if you are not, then you are just not looking good. It is as simple as that. I don’t want to get compulsive over my clothes and I don’t want to look too dressy.
I am not really interested in fashion icons. And I certainly don’t want to copy someone else’s style.
I think my personal style is… the way I used to dress in Grammar School turned into adult – wear.
When I was attending the opening of my show at the gallery, I wore tights and a loose T-shirt that was from Barcelona’s Olympics (1992) and heels. And that’s that! Just wearing what I always wear… add a pair of heels and you have your fancy outfit.
I really hate ballerina flats and mary-janes. No one looks good in them. Seriously.
Many of my clothes I have collected from the garbage. I don’t really buy clothes. I usually wear stuff I used to wear as a kid, or go through my mom’s closet or my sister’s. I also swap a lot with my friends.
One of my favorite sweaters is one from Diner’s Club that belonged to my mom. I really wear it a lot.
Jewellery is really not for me. I don’t wear it. I am just wearing this bracelet the past few months, just because it feels okay on my hand. It doesn’t bother me or anything.
Oh and I love my Easter t-shirt. With the chicken and everything.
The bag I have, I knitted on my own. I used the Tunisian needle loom technique.
The rug on the carpet and the one near the spectacles are woven by me. I have almost mastered the loom.
Mostly in my art I am inspired by the Greek artist, Theofilos. By folk art and traditional art. From the fishermen’s nets to everything. I really love handicrafts. I prefer tools to machines, even though machines are tools.
When I first started investigating the things people throw away I began to wonder what lives these people lived, who they were. For example this man, Efthimios K. Zaxarias, had a lot of things thrown out. I have his photo album, his medical records, the little models he built. I discovered he suffered from thalassemia and eventually died from liver disease. This little truck, he made on his own. And everything he made, he put in a box with a label on it, which he also made on his own. But after all this procedure, I decided nothing could come out of it. It would be unethical to use someone’s story like that. So I decided not to investigate on their lives, but to give a new life to the memories they had or the moments these people lived. That is not disrespectful to them in any way, because I am turning their past into something else and not just junk.
Even my plants, I have collected from the trash!