Refractions of Light and Time (2022)

Rosa Menkman in collaboration with Marios Isaakidis, Pandelis Diamantides, Taietzel Ticalos

©Rosa Menkman : Refractions of Light and Time (Sketch)

Refractions of Light and Time is a mixed media work that surveys the Cyclops's cave in Cyprus. In the work, the cave will be excavated through a mythological, historical and folkloric lens. As the work unfolds, a leaky stratigraphy of light and time becomes apparent.

Since the summer of 2022, Menkman has been travelling the Mediterranean to learn about three Cyclopes lineages. Cyclopes are famous mythical creatures, known for their gargantuan physique and single round eye. However, beyond their most famous features, and maybe a name born by a single Cyclops, little about them is known. In fact, Cyclopes seem shrouded in mystery, sparking general questions such as: Where do contemporary Cyclopes live, and how do Cyclopes perceive the world?

Rosa Menkman´s residency at NeMe has enabled her research and the production of a VR artwork Refractions in Light and Time. The work was realised in collaboration with sound designer Pandelis Diamantides, and graphic designer Mihaela Cristina Caldare and was supported by programmer Marios Isaakides, and curator Irini Mirena Papadimitriou.

Menkman’s work is narrated by the Angel of History, a recurring figure in her work. The Angel watches the Cyclopes pasts and learns from their perspectives in attempt to apply its lessons to a future.


In Dialogue: Artist Talk with NeMe, Limassol

NeMe: Could you maybe quickly introduce yourself and the work you are making in the scope of the NeMe/EMAP residency programme?

Rosa Menkman: Of course! But to do that, allow me to take one step back first – I am an artistic researcher of resolutions, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a flat country; it has no mountains, or at least, not in the conventional sense of ‘mountain,’ – we do have clouds, which we sometimes like to call the mountains of the sky :)
I think it is due to this initial lack of mountains, that only during the past decade I really learned to look at the mountains and recognise that there are different types of mountains that come about through different geological events. But also, mountains come with certain attributes, cultures and histories, connected to a time and place.
While I hail from the flat lands, there is a more adventurous part to my family: my uncle and aunt – who live on a mountain, on the Greek island called Serifos. My family and I used to go to visit them every year and enjoy our time there, by the sea. Specifically besides this particular tip of land, called Kavos Kiklopas – or the Cyclops Cape. A tip of land that is home to a Cyclops throne, cave and baths, but that I have only learned to appreciate recently, both for its mythological but also geological artefacts.
The work that I am developing during this residency is called Refractions in Light and Time and reflects not just on this specific piece of land, which kind of transformed me/to me, as I learned to see it. It also considers mythology as an algorithm that adjusts its parameters depending on its place and time; meaning I could expand my work to also include and involve other Cyclopean artefacts and stories. In a sense, to pull the mythology that is connected to this specific vertical piece of land out of its geo-specific time and place and pull it into a more expanded contemporary one.

NeMe: How do you think Cyclopes are relevant to contemporary audiences?

Rosa Menkman: When I realised I would have the opportunity to become a professional Cyclops hunter, through the support of the NeMe/EMAP residency programme, I immediately started collecting information on three specific Cyclopes lineages. Specifically: in Italy, around the island Sicily, which was home to the three elder Cyclopes. Greece and her island Serifos, home to the younger Cyclopes and Cyprus, an island filled with older but also contemporary Cyclop references. Especially the latter, where NeMe and my residency are situated, really helped me consider Cyclops’ vision.
Cyclopes are famous mythical creatures, known for their gargantuan physique and single round eye. However, beyond their most famous features, and maybe a name born by a single Cyclop, Polyphemus, little is known about them amongst the general audience. In fact, Cyclopes seem shrouded in mystery, sparking general questions such as: “do contemporary Cyclopes still live in caves?,” or “have they relocated elsewhere?” and if so, how do Cyclopes perceive the world today, outside their dark caves? I think what is interesting about their mythology, is that it invokes not just questions about older times, but actually forces us to reconsider contemporary modes of blindness or learning how to see /something/ one was previously blind too.

NeMe: For your EMAP residency at NeMe, you are working with the Cypriot artist Pandelis Diamantides and the Romanian Taietzel Ticalos as collaborators. You have also connected to the computer programmer Marios Isaakides for technical support, and curator Irini Mirena Papadimitriou as mentor. Tell me a bit about how these collaborations started and what they have been like?

Rosa Menkman: As soon as I started calling myself a professional Cyclops hunter, friends from all over the world started sharing pieces of information with me, including Pandelis Diamantides and Taietzel Ticalos, who were especially encouraging and supportive of my quest. I found I could actually discuss what could otherwise have been a quite alienating and difficult journey. In the end, it felt only natural to involve them. Pandelis is creating the sound for Refractions in Light and Time, and Taietzel is helping me with Cyclopean writing. Marios has been a local ally, generously sharing his curiosity and connections. Finally, meeting and spending some dedicated time with Irini was great, as she has an incredible trove of information not just about contemporary politics of water – which is where one consideration of contemporary CYCLOPS comes in (think for instance about The Cyprus Center for Land, Open-seas and Port Security) but she also used to live in Italy, studying all things gargantuesque. Finally I would like to add that you and Helene from NeMe were also of great support, both practically, personally and by pushing me a bit into directions I might not have dared going otherwise.

NeMe: With the recent expansion and developments in 3D rendering technologies for the web, why do you think it is important for artists to embrace the medium and how does this change how you approach your work? You are a media artist working with 3D and storytelling. How do you fuse your storytelling with the digital?

Rosa Menkman: Recent developments in web 3D rendering technologies are offering artists and developers new tools to consolidate collaboration, shared web experience and other forms of creative expression. They introduce new explorations not just on a technological, but also on an aesthetic and narrative level. At the moment I am using the 3D world building environment New Art City (NAC), which is best described as a live, multiplayer environment that offers a virtual space for artists to install their work in. The environment also provides tools that simplify the process of producing a 3D website. With the help of such web platforms, I believe we are at the cusp of a whole new paradigm that combines live performance with storytelling, which is just right now being discovered through experimental and hybrid online/in-person events that use the real-time rendering engines for cutting edge networked performances. The work I am developing within the scope of the NeMe/EMAP residency specifically, is using NAC to create an environment for interactive storytelling. The work involves custom, in environment-triggered scripting, video and audio objects and a spoken word component. Using all these at set times, I weave the lines between digital storytelling, video and games.

NeMe: You have had a number of residencies in various venues, but maybe Cyprus is a special case because of its geo-location. How have you experienced the periphery of the European new media arts scene? How has your residency at NeMe informed your practice?

Rosa Menkman: Cyprus, and especially Limassol, is a hard place to penetrate. Everyday I feel like I am walking through a giant Russian offshore bank. It’s macho, there is lots of extra statecraft everywhere. It is militarised and split into all types of pieces. It is easily alienating. As Egor wrote to me: “its an island of Special-Economic Militarist Multi Sovereign Europeism.”
All in all, it took me a moment to learn to see its beauty. But as I wrote earlier, with the help of just a few new friends and NeMe (which is more like family) it has been extremely welcoming too. It made it possible for me to work on something that is both reflective on the local – Cyprus – and on myself. To connect different elements of my practice – the researching of resolutions – and to overcome a form of ‘blindness’ through a lack of knowledge.
Refractions in Light and Time will be a work in which the Angel of History takes us on her Mission to Learn from Cyclops’ Vision.

History And Memory
Nature And Environment