Bellapais abbey, a ruin of a monastery in northern Cyprus built in the 13th century, is the subject of investigation for the site-specific virtual installation “Transmundane Economies”. A relic of many lives, following the different colonial periods over the centuries, the monastery went through changes, architectural but also cultural, organizational and operational.
Theodoulos Polyviou & Dakis Panayiotou address the long-lasting shape-shifting history of Bellapais abbey to discuss the codes and hierarchies that over the years have been established and inscribed on it. Starting from the architectural structure as well as the ceremonial use of the place while examining its narratives, liturgy and history, the artists speculate on the relation- ship between queerness, restoration and reinvention.
Visitors to the exhibition are immersed in the partial reconstruction – based on drawings by George Jeffrey from 1912 – of the Gothic refectory of the monastery by means of VR technology. alternative paths and possible uses that devi- ate from colonial interventions of the past, become free and accessible in this way. The virtual architecture, which in its digital translation appears to be sacred, yet free of Christian intentions, in turn, exposes the socio-political fabrication of the monastery. Next to this conceptual grounding, by virtually transposing the site into the gallery space, the artists turn the ruin into an event rather than an object, proposing in this way an alternative to acquisition.
The Cypriot Orthodox Church exerts a strong influence on the political affairs of the island and participates in the instrumentalization of the national collectivity, often through the superintendence of gender and sexuality by claiming to protect the Greek Cypriots from ‘the ethnic other’ as described by Nayia Kamenou in her text Sexuality, Gender and Nationhood in Cyprus and hence exploiting the country’s postcolonial milieux. The queer community on the whole island is therefore not only subjected to marginalisation based on their sexuality but all the processes of identity formation that constitute their bodies; race, class and gender. Transmundane Economies is an offer to discuss mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, and think of the potentiality of any place to transcend its own physicality and hence escape its embodied ideological charge and power.