Human Targets is a series of Praxis happenings by artist Rinos Stefani who has been working on since 1994. With this work Stefani investigates issues of violence but also calls visual semantics into question.
The Human Targets’ story began in 1991, when Rinos Stefani came upon a perforated military target in the Akamas peninsula, Cyprus. Akamas is an area of natural beauty and precious ecology but is also a territory of debate. The British Army was using the area for military exercises and as a firing range until the year 2000.
In 1994 Stefani created the installation ‘Soldiers – Targets’ as a manifestation of his own take on violence. After his ‘Praxis with Earth’ in the Apocalypse Gallery, Nicosia in 1991, Stefani became the first to introduce Cyprus to a new artistic genre. He calls it ‘Praxis’ which is a hybrid form of art that combines installations and happenings. He employs ambiguity, sarcasm and humor and often engages the public.
Human Targets as a Praxis happening
Until 1990 happenings and performance art were something of a rarity in Cyprus. Only a handful of visual artists had put forward this particular type of art. Glyn Hughes’ ‘Synergies’ in 1973, Antonis Antonios’ happenings during the 1970s and Horst Weierstall’s actions from 1986 onward. These are some of the recorded art happenings or actions.
In May 1994, during the exhibition of the Panhellenic Art Symposium at Famagusta Gate, Nicosia, three of Stefani’s ‘Soldiers – Targets’ were stolen. The incident fed the media with “polemic” material. It also elicited varied reactions from the Police, the Nicosia Municipality, the Chamber of Fine Arts and the Ministry of Education and Culture. To this day, the ‘Targets Case’ remains unsolved in the files of the Criminal Investigation Department under record number Σ/744/94.
Stefani, in the following years, went on to stage various Praxeis incorporating his Targets. In August 1995, he placed 21 ‘Soldiers – Targets’ in Coral Bay, Pafos, among the bikini – clad crowd. During the opening ceremony of the Flower Festival in 1997 in the Pafos Stadium, Stefani used a multitude of his Targets. He also used a cast of 200 high school students. In addition Stefani showed the Targets in Samos and Thessaloniki, Greece in 1999. In the year 2000, he participated in the exhibition ‘From the Chisel to the Electron – A century of Contemporary Sculpture in Cyprus’ hosted at Kasteliotissa Hall, Nicosia, with the work ‘Human Targets’. ‘Human Targets’ were also shown in 2005 at the Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre in the context of the ‘Accidental Meetings’ exhibition.
‘On Target’ exhibition: A major project of Pafos 2017 based on Rinos Stefani’s Human Targets
In 2011, in his capacity as member of the artistic team, assigned to work on Pafos’ bid-book for the title of European Capital of Culture 2017, Rinos Stefani designed and proposed the project ‘On Target’. The original idea was based on his work ‘Human Targets’. The proposal was accepted as one of the cornerstones of the artistic program. When Pafos won the title, the ‘On Target’ project was included in the official program of Pafos 2017. The ‘On Target’ exhibition was held at the Pafos Municipal Gallery in 9 July – 30 September 2017. It was curated by art historian Inge Baecker with the assistance of visual artist Susan Vargas. The participating artists were: Rinos Stefani, Wolf Vostell, Ulrike Rosenbach, molitor&kuzmin and Tammam Azzam. In the On Target exhibition Rinos Stefani did not use his Targets. He showed a triptych painting 420 X 200 cm. titled ‘The X-Dance’
The Human Targets at the Eco Art exhibition
In April 2017, Stefani participated in the Pafos 2017 ‘Eco Art’ project, with his work ‘Hiding Endemic Targets’. He produced 49 facsimiles of the original target and asked the local population – shepherds, fishermen, farmers, priests, intellectuals and others – to hide the replicas in the Akamas peninsula. This particular Praxis appeared to be an act of exorcism, a desire to chase a restless spirit away from Akamas. Was it perhaps an apotropaic ritual against the curse of human self-destruction?
The Human Targets contains an oximoron
The shooting target contains two contradictory images; a target and a human figure. As he explores this ambiguity, Stefani not only investigates issues of violence but also calls visual semantics into question. He reveals hidden significations and brings out an oxymoron: man aiming at his own image, aiming at himself. Does violence inescapably return to its generator? The ‘Target’ in the perforated human form becomes a metaphor of our times, its own conceptual image. Are the ‘Targets’ a sign of warning? Does art need to renew its language to communicate with a wider audience? Such questions remain open.
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. These conditions challenge the artist and the viewer to propose a series of questions. How can art pursue a more effective critical approach to an unjust and increasingly dangerous socio-political system? What is the social role of art in the age of virtual reality?
Based on the text in the catalogue of the ‘On Target’ exhibition of Pafos 2017