varosha

5.1 sound, video, text.

Varosha (Disco Debris) from Resorts and Ruins by Yannis Kyriakides from yannis kyriakides on Vimeo.

Varosha is the name of the abandoned tourist suburb of Famagusta in Northern Cyprus. It was left uninhabited since the summer of 1974, evacuated at the time of the Turkish invasion; a ghost town inaccessible to anybody except military personnel. In its heyday Varosha was one of the most popular holiday destinations in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean, having undergone extensive hotel development to cater for the expanding tourist industry. Since then the area has been fenced off and kept as a possible bargaining-chip for peace negotiations, which never transpired. Today the buildings are beyond repair, uninhabited and unmaintained for almost forty years. The resort is crumbling, the once lavish hotel structures are yielding to nature’s persistent pressure.

Varosha also happens to be the location of my earliest memory. At the time of the invasion in July 1974, my family and I were spending our summer holidays there. Almost 5 years of age, I remember hearing sirens and running into the basement of the ‘Hotel Loiziana’, where we eventually spent the day drawing pictures on the concrete floor, with the chalk that was being dislocated from the limestone walls by the bombing outside. Returning there again in 2008 and seeing the derelict façades of these hotels from a distance, was an unnerving experience. Knowing that one’s earliest memory was formed on the very day that time stood still there, was like being confronted by the image of memory itself.

The installation, ‘Varosha (Disco Debris)’ was born out of an association with a group of artists, under the collective name ‘Suspended Spaces’, that took Famagusta as subject matter for an enquiry into what happens to places and spaces whose development is obstructed by political or economic conflicts. The initial form of the installation was created for the group exhibition that took place at Maison de La Culture in Amiens, France in early 2010. In this version the public would enter one at a time into a dark neutral space, in which they would experience the sensation of metaphorically walking through sonic debris. One would stumble onto a landscape of frozen voices, barely recognizable shards of 1970’s pop music, static bird song, broken pulses of disco music reduced to an almost Geiger like clicking, ghostly resonances. These imaginary spaces were mapped onto a topography of intersecting voices and sounds, slowly transforming over time. Technically this was achieved by using a video tracking system that mapped the movements of the audience onto a granulated moment of sound. The position of the person in the space would determine which moment in time would be heard, as if they were a play-head of a tape machine, or a stylus of a record player, exploring the sonic tracks of an invisible architecture