An Athenian Nocturnal Archaeology I: At the end of Rest Street

By day
I caress ornithomorphic figurines
bodies of clay
strange hybrid forms
three-quarter animal
one-quarter human.

By night
I photograph creatures with large beaks and colourful plumage
pinned like butterflies
on the walls of semi-ruined buildings
crafted by twenty-one-year-old
fine art students
who are about to sign a deal
with a gallery in Miami.

By day
I sit in a dark room
not far from the First Cemetery
at the end of Rest Street
(next to a plastic bag
full of dismembered limbs)
and reflect on the operational sequence of fragmentation.
On how creatures of clay were unmade
step by step
blow by blow
their fragments scattered in far away places
not to be seen again.

By night
I pass by figures broken
unmade
dis-assembled
dis-remembered.
All that’s left for them to do,
is to shuffle and reshuffle
their own fragments
recollect them with due care and attention
rearrange their order and stratigraphy
and put them back
neatly
in that stolen shopping trolley.

Yannis Hamilakis, An Athenian Nocturnal Archaeology (a photo-poetic essay), Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 2.1 (2015) 149–168. DOI:10.1558/jca.v2i1.26634

Feature photo taken by Yannis Hamilakis between July 2014 and February 2015.

Introductory note by the author (excerpt):

How does one evoke and conjure up the contemporary moment of crisis in the urban landscape? Can the conventional tools and methodologies of archaeology and archaeological ethnography be of any use in that endeavour? Where do these tools meet other expressive modalities such as poetry? What does it mean to “do” archaeology amidst the contemporary ruination? Is our impulse to record and to archive, the most appropriate reaction in these cases?

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