The following film was a remake from a project I did in 2003
In 2003, after some years regularly being on Cyprus for exhibitions and my work as a curator/event organizer, I became quite aware of the situation and a desire to do something started to grow.
A short history.
Cyprus was divided since 1974.
Interpretations why exactly, differs between the two communities on the island, but also the international official opinion is not congruent in this. The general greek cypriot opinion is that in 1974 Turkey invaded the island, which resulted in an occupation since then until today. The turkish cypriot opinion of the same event is that Turkey did a peace operation, or intervention, which rescued the turkish cypriots. A pseudo state was formed which was a self-declared independence in 1983, However only Turkey recognizes this. Turkey has still approximately 30 000 troops based on the northern part, scattered on the many military bases. The city of Varosha, once the Saint Tropez of the eastern Mediterranean, is still an inaccessible Turkish military zone. A ghost city for 42 years. For most of this period there were and are peace talks to reunify or find a solution to overcome the antagonism between the two communities. So far the results are marginal and a real solution is always approaching, but never really happening.
In 2003 the two communities were not able to cross into each other’s part of the island. There was a notion about the other side of the wall, by cypriots of the two communities. But no real knowledge, only what was mentioned by their authorities. The image generally was based on years of propaganda, and old stories of people who knew a time when both communities were living together. Due to my international non-cypriot passport, i was able to cross, and intended to make a project which could somehow, in the mind of the people, connect the two divided parts as one again. I hoped that i could exhibit the work parallel on both sides. One of the arguments i decided, was to not make this project biased, i did not want to not tell a story or my personal opinion, but to show each community the journey from the other side of the wall. Were those comparable, or was there a striking difference? These questions needed to be demystified. Could someone just see the other side and understand that the misinformation presented by governments on both sides were actually manipulated and constructed realities. And what were those realities?
Cyprus is divided and the two communities are separated by the green line, also known as the buffer zone. This no-mans land is controlled by the UN. The line roughly is drawn from west to east. I intended to draw a new line from south to north. Initially I wanted to make a slide show. I designed a system, to walk the whole way, and start making pictures on one edge of the island. Each center point of the image would be my next standing point to make the new photo. When seeing the sequence in the end, it would be, as if you would zoom through the island from one side to another. There were some problems though. I had limited information about the northern part, except that there were a lot of military zones and bases, but not the precise locations of those. Photographing in their vicinity is not allowed and punishable. Also the green line is a restricted zone. On the southern part there was a lot of information and problems in regard with forbidden zones were eliminated by the choice of path the detailed information available. The idea was to take geographically the most accessible regions. Not to high mountains, a distance from sea to sea which is not to long. The path Mazotos, Nicosia, Kyrenia, was perfect. Around 70 kilometers in birds-flight. Which is exactly what is was planning to do. Ignoring the roads and just walk with navigating with a compass the bearing as we drew it on the map, which was 348° Azimuth from Mazotos to Kyrenia. I would avoid all impassable barriers and obstacles, but further I would be loyal to this path, off the road, a hike through the landscape. It was February and the weather was not so hot, thus it was ideal and doable.
The journey over the southern part of the island was without incidents and apart from the wrong footwear, a pleasant hike. It took me 3 days to do it. Then I passed the checkpoint through the UN controlled buffer zone and started my journey through the northern part. Nicosia is divided and now I walked in the northern part of the city. No problems there, but when I reached the edge of the city and started to walk in the fields towards Kyrenia, a military vehicle came through the fields towards me and stopped next to me. Four military ranked officers came out and started to ask me questions. They were pushing quite hard and were everything but friendly. What I was doing with a big camera and a compass? Where I was going? Who was I? Why was I walking though the fields? For who did I work? Where did I enter the country? What was the purpose of the photographs? A stream of questions which I could answer easily but not comprehensible to these men of suspicion.
Art? What are you talking about? Art is painting. And that’s it, so I decided not to continue to negotiate with them about my project and tried to find another way out of this. The conversation was more than an hour and I think they were becoming bored or they had enough of me. They noted my name and passport number and warned me several times that I was very lucky now, and if I would be caught again, I would not be so lucky and that I could go in prison for a long time. I though this was a bit hyperbolic but took their advice serious and reconsidered my project.
I had a friend in the northern part who offered me his help. He suggested to do it by car, and approximately keep holding the line of 348° azimuth. Would this work? I was a bit depressed that I could not finish the work as I planned it, not walking the whole distance, but after considering the project would fail if I did not continue, which was not an option, the exhibition was approaching. I agreed and proceeded with that. We were driving twice to do all the shootings, trying to be as loyal on the line. But were not able now to go off the road. We passed several military bases, and it would have been impossible to do it as I though I would at first.
The project was finished and the slides were developed. But we did not have any carrousel projectors for the exhibition. I decided to digitize all the slides and editing everything in a movie. The first version was just a silent slide show, with simple transitions. I lost the project and only had a very bad quality copy, of a low resolution. I decided when making this website to redo the project using the old footage and edit sound in it and make my own transitions. Something which generated the feeling of zooming in through the landscape.
The film somehow failed its objective to let the island be experienced as one again. This is perhaps a utopia, and analogous to the real situation. Now 13 years later, the problem is still not solved, the island is still not one, and if it ever will happen is a big uncertainty. There are talks, there are negotiations, but there is always some issue which jeopardizes the process. It seems that both the project as the real situation are turning out to be elusive.