Traveling with the artist-run group Campus Novel at the Greveniti Residency in the Epirus Mountains in southeastern Europe, between Albania and Greece, the sense of the place and the people offered us unique perceptions and experiences of the inner and the outer immensity. The landscapes and the history of these places flow through their traditional customs, music, dance, food, and drink.
The martyric village of Greveniti, destroyed completely by the German occupation of 1941 to 1944, is now under threat once again. Oil and gas exploration, whether by conventional or unconventional methods (such as fracking), will have a devastating effect on Epirus’s extensive livestock farming, beekeeping, wine-growing, and natural resources, such as its famously pure mineral waters. The industrial extraction of oil and gas and the inevitable accidents that will follow will have profound negative impacts on natural, animal, and human health for many years.
Therefore, I decided to work through an unorthodox way of performing. This ephemeral act, which took place at night in the main square of the village with all who were residents of Greveniti at that time, tackled the issue of personal and collective memory. People like to remember, but also to forget. Through an improvised dance, combining the traditional slow dance of Epirus and the whirling dervish dance, the polyphonic group of Sbaraglia sang the folk song “Γιάννη μου το μαντήλι σου” (“My Yianni Your Handkerchief”) dedicated to emigration, oblivion, and remembrance. Under the lunar eclipse and consuming tsipouro (a local, strong, un-aged distilled spirit) at that gathering, I experienced the loss of my memory for the rest of the night, until the fest was finished. What I left in the memory of locals is a strange dance, full of fraternity and loneliness at the same time. Places, just like our bodies, have their own memories, and their reflexes are stronger than history or our minds.
My Yianni, My Yianni,
My Yianni your handkerchief, come on
Why is it grimy my Yianni, my little Yianni?
why is it grimy my boyo?
It got grimy, it got grimmy
it got grimy at the exile, come on
The lonesome exile my Yianni, my little Yianni
the lonesome exile, my boyo
Five riv-, five riv-, come
five rivers have washed it, come
Oh and all five got stained by it, Yianni, my little Yianni
Oh and all five got stained by it my little boyo