Of course you’ve seen Dead Toys Society, right? I have always thought this blog was inspiring. I am already making twisted Toy Stories on my mind starring the headless heroes and bald Barbie dolls pictured in Alexis Efstathopoulos’ blog. As usual, I spent hours and hours going through the things he chooses to publish, only to find that he is a true artist, in his own special way, using everyday tools, like his phone, for instance. But his house was a whole new world, that revealed a whole new Alexis. A tea enthusiast and a music lover, he played Arcade Fire and Devendra Banhart on his record player, talking about his love for his vinyls, books and pottery and showing me the small treasures he has managed to collect over the years in his apartment overlooking Galatsi’s park.
Ok, tell me a little bit about yourself. You are an archaeologist. How come you chose this job?
I wanted to become an archaeologist long before High School. It’s not like I got into that school by chance. I hear a lot of people saying they wanted to become archaeologists. Especially cab drivers. I get that a lot from cab drivers. I think I became one because I enjoy the process of digging something out and also the feeling of discovery.
If you could live at some point in the past, in another era, which would that be?
No idea. As a context, I love the past. And many things that relate to the past. Sometimes people will tell me I am stuck to it and always look for it, but then I go: ‘I’m an archaeologist, what can I do?’ But, no, I wouldn’t want to live in another time. I like being in the present and unveiling the past.
What will archaeologists 1000 years from now discover about our culture?
That’s a rather unpleasant thought. We live in the times that produce nothing but tons of garbage. And that’s the reality we live in. Endless piles of trash.
Maybe they’ll find our pcs?
Look, if you observe civilisation you can clearly see that what’s happening the last 100 years is very abnormal. Our civilisation’s evolution, before the Industrial Revolution, has always been steady and precise. Take pottery for instance. From prehistoric times up till today, people have always used pottery. But us? We are the generation that stops using something so natural, and start using plastic. So, I don’t know what future archaeologists will find about us. Computers? Will they survive? I am thinking of a question Umberto Eco was asked. Someone wanted to know if he preferred real books to digital books. Eco said real books of course, and I totally agree to that, because we have tried books and we have used books for centuries now. We know how they behave and we know how long they last. Digital books? If you remove the plug, there’s nothing there! You just have an object that you cannot use and all you can do is stare at it.
So I guess you also enjoy the relationship of the present to the past. And how you perceive that today. I guess this is what you are doing through your blog, Dead Toys Society?
Dead Toys Society didn’t start as a rigid and straightforward idea. One day, while walking on the street, I happened to come across a small horse toy, which I captured with my phone. When looking at the picture, I loved the forms in it, the horse, the pavement lines, a fence. The following days I randomly encountered other toys on the street and this became more and more intense as the days went by. Obviously the toys have always been there, on the streets, I just never had the eyes to see. So, this whole dead toys on the streets project.
The pictures I see on Dead Toys Society are yours?
No, 1/3 is mine and the rest is from people that use the #deadtoyssociety hashtag. I use Instagram a lot and when I started uploading pictures of toys came up with this hash tag. Not long after many people started using it as well, and I realized I could make a project out of this collection of dead toys’ pictures.
How has your dad being a photographer affected your work?
I have always watched my dad’s work and I am very familiar to photography. What’s really interesting is that I recently rediscovered my dad’s early work. I must have seen it back then as well, but somehow erased it from my mind. You see my dad’s early work was shooting abandoned toys on the streets. His pictures are a lot different than mine, of course.
In what way?
Their design was different. He found many dolls. But apart from that people back then had a recycling mentality. In toys and in life in general. Nowadays we recycle, but most of the appliances end up in some country in Africa. When you recycle, you reuse, and many times you have to change the function of the appliance you are recycling, in order to reuse it.
If you weren’t shooting toys out on the streets, what would you be shooting?
There’s this project I’ve been running parallel to Dead Toys Society. It’s called Invisible Death. What it really is about is this: in the past, people died in their homes, whereas nowadays they die in hospitals and no one is really familiar to death, we have shut it out of our lives. So I started taking pictures of dead animals on the streets. Not everyone could see my photos, and I understand that. But shortly after, my hash tag #invisibledeath got some very creepy pictures, so I stopped sharing these photos on Instagram.
So, long story short, you are an archaeologist who is in search of old toys and furniture?
I describe myself as an archaeologist, slash photographer, slash collector of rejections by publishers for my first novel.
That’s funny! I always thought of you as someone who communicates strictly with images. Because all I know about you is what I see online, but now that I know you write, I wonder why you haven’t started writing something for a blog?
Because this is not the way I work. I write a text and then go back a million times to make sure I am completely satisfied with what I’ve written. I get obsessive and compulsive over issues such as these.
Honestly, I have never seen so many T-shirts in my life! Do you follow a routine when it comes to dressing up?
The way you dress is a small story, a form of autobiography if you will. It’s who you are, what you do and what you want. That’s why people that have nothing to say, dress homogeneously.
You are a bookworm, that doesn’t really like to share his books. Right?
It’s very hard for me to lend a book. It was once said that the greatest enemy of a library is not moisture, rats or insects, but borrowers. I am really looking after my books, although I still haven’t found a proper way to arrange them.Ways of arranging books according to Georges Perec could be alphabetically, by continent or country, by color, by date of publication, by date of purchase, by format, by genre, by major periods of literary history, by language, by reading preferences, by binding, by publishing houses. My library is organized according to a personal algorithm, than not even I can understand. Basically it’s organized according to the principle of chaos.
Is there something you’ve read, that’s made a big impact on you?
The first book that made me want to write, was Catcher in the Rye. Since then I have read dozens of good books, that once you are done reading, you want to write something yourself. But there are those few masterpieces, that make you want to never write a single word for the rest of your life.
Will you tell me a short story?
On a death notice: ‘Irini T, age 91. Her friend’
A few comments on the things pictured and said above:
Alexis keeps notes. All the time. He keeps track of the things he loved in the book he is reading, he always writes down the movies he watched and so on and so forth. / These notebooks that are filled with bits and pieces from his readings make a beautiful archive. / He dreams of making a Frankenstein book that would be made of phrases from those notebooks. / Alexis is a wine connoisseur. He knows some local producers and has some inside sources. He keeps his collection in the old fridge pictured above. / Most of the furniture in his house, the bed and the coffee table have been made by his dad and him. / The album cover he is holding in the picture, was a gift from Elenh to Kounoupi, imatiothiki’s web designer. She made it herself and in it she placed Sigur Ros’s latest album. / The small man in the painting is actually a subbutteo player. This is his dad’s work. When Alexis was younger he was obsessed with the subbutteo player. After finding out he can get his hands on as many as he likes, he stopped wanting to take it off the canvas. / The bowls on the floor are collected from various trips around Greece. The toothbrushes are another thing he likes to collect. They’ve been collected from all over the world. / He doesn’t like his handwriting. Which means he tried to persuade me to take off his name from the first picture. It didn’t work. / The picture with the two jackets, shoes and backpacks are his personal style. This is the evolution of design. Or a before and after shot.