ISSN: 2241-6692

Lessons from Makronisos: ‘Fictions’ of the Camp in Documentary Practices

Brenda Hollweg


Cultural imaginaries of the modern Greek state often draw on the legacies of ancient Greece and the city-state of Athens to invoke the democratic principles of legal equality, personal freedom and governance by the people. These principles have been reprocessed in art, literature and film, in Greece and other European countries, for purposes of self-definition, nationalism and cultural memory. A different moment in Greek history and memory is called up in four recent works of documentary practice. They include Swiss filmmaker Olivier Zuchuat’s Like Stone Lions at the Gateway into Night (2012), South African artist Penny Siopis’ The New Parthenon (2016), Greek artist Zafos Xagoraris’ The Concession (2019) and Greek-American filmmaker Eva Stefani’s tripartite Anaglyphs (2019). All four pieces of film and installation art reference a moment in the history of modernity when fascist regimes in Europe made widespread use of camps as a strategy to punish, oppress or destroy political opposition from the Left. This article explores the formal, cinematographic and aesthetic operations that become ‘visible’ in these works and invoke the ‘concentrationary’ logics of the camp – not only with regard to the past, but also to other systems of violation against the human in the present.

Keywords: camp system, the concentrationary, film and installation art, Makronisos. multidirectional memory, politics of aesthetics