‘Hiding Endemic Targets’ was a Praxis-installation by Cypriot artist Rinos Stefani. The work was made within the ‘Eco Art’, one of the most ambitious projects of European Capital of Culture Pafos 2017.
Hiding Endemic Targets and Eco Art
The Τarget story began in 1991, when Stefani came upon a perforated military target in the Akamas peninsula, Cyprus. As a result he created the installation ‘Soldier Targets’. During an exhibition in Nicosia, in 1994, three of his ‘Soldier Targets’ were stolen. The incident elicited varied reactions from the Police, the Nicosia Municipality, the Chamber of Fine Arts and the Ministry of Culture. This consequently fed the media with “polemic” material. To this day, the ‘Targets Case’, remains unsolved in the files of the Criminal Investigation Department under record number Σ/744/94.
In 1995, he placed 21 ‘Soldiers – Targets’ in Coral Bay, Pafos, among the bikini – clad crowd. Furthermore in 1997 during a festival in Pafos a multitude of Stefani’s Targets intermingled with a cast of 200 students. He also showed his Targets in Samos and Thessaloniki, Greece in 1999. In the following years, he went on to stage various Praxeis incorporating his Targets. In 1991 Stefani became the first to introduce Cyprus to a new artistic genre which he called ‘Praxis’. This was a hybrid form of art that combines installations and performance, often engaging the public.
Description of Hiding Endemic Targets
For ‘Hiding Endemic Targets‘ Stefani produced 49 facsimiles of the original target. Then he asked the local population – shepherds, fishermen, farmers, priests, intellectuals – to hide the replicas in the Akamas area. Akamas is an area of a natural beauty and valuable ecological importance. For Stefani, this area is very important; he has been working in Akamas since 1990. In spite of its ecological importance, the British Army was using the area as a shooting range until the year 2000. Most noteworthy Akamas today is under threat by land developers. In this area, Stefani with Susan Vargas has been doing installations and happenings – which he calls ‘Praxis’.
An act of exorcism or a sign of warning?
This particular Praxis of ‘Hiding Endemic Targets’ appeared to be an act of exorcism. A desire to chase a restless spirit away from Akamas. The artist believes that the shooting target has a double meaning. It contains two contradictory images; a target and a human figure. It seems like Stefani not only investigates issues of violence but also calls visual semantics into question. He reveals hidden significations. Hence he brings out an oxymoron: man aiming at his own image, aiming at himself. Does perhaps violence inescapably return to its generator?
We live in turbulent times. Wars raging not so far from Cyprus have forced millions of people to flee their homelands; the terrorist attacks and the rise of far-right ideologies can render each one of us a potential target. The ‘Target’ in the perforated human form becomes a metaphor of our times. And it raises questions about the role of art towards violence on nature and towards violence in general? Is there still magic in art today, in the age of digital world and virtual reality? Is Stefani’s ‘Hiding Endemic Targets’ an apotropaic ritual against the curse of human self-destruction? Are the ‘Targets’ a sign of warning?
Text from the catalogue of the exhibition “On Target”, European Capital of Culture Pafos 2017, Municipal Gallery.
Eco Art, Paths on Common Ground. Artists In Situ
The works of Eco Art project would be probably distinguished by a recurrent desire to delve more deeply into everything that surrounds us, revealing how that which is “natural” is perhaps not fully so—and vice versa.
If we go back to history land art, environmental art brings forth a heritage that we can think of today and recontextualise the theme of our project. How are artists responding to processes of change, to modifications of the immediate environments of their daily lives and shifts that affect their own identities? Some even proffer proposals for change that limn an alternative future.
Shall we explore the poetic potential artists discover in processes of social, cultural, and political change? Considering nature as our new working place, can we anticipate the way we work and live now that mobile computing and the internet have made many of us independent of designated workplaces? Are we expected to envision not a building but a network faculty?
Trying to reconfigure Akamas myself as part of the Public Sphere I proposed an almost interdisciplinary investigation into contemporary art’s renewed engagement with the public sphere. Bringing together artists with different backgrounds, the artists invited are called to examine the place and role of aisthesis—the faculty of perception by the senses and the intellect—in emerging models of the public sphere.
Rethink the human/nonhuman relations and propose new ways of discovering the territory
The artists might rethink the human/nonhuman relations of the public sphere’s communality, following a reinvented dialectic between mutuality and individuality, agreement and dissensus, common good and common activity. With the working hypothesis that art offers a unique realm for the configuration of public spheres today, we would ask in the frame of Eco Art Project: How is the public sphere rethought aesthetically (in terms of forms, media, materialities and sensibilities) in contemporary art? And how does an artistic public sphere, and basically a natural one, succeed in permeating a political public sphere?
Therefore the artists are invited to dialogue with the urbannatural landscapes of the region and to propose new ways of discovering the territory as a continuum, without there being any dualistic divisions between nature and culture, city and countryside, street and path, local and foreigner, human and animal, herbs and herds, day and night.
Text: Thoulli Misirloglou, curator Eco Art, Director of Macedonean Museum of Contemporary Art