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Rattling Frames addresses a shared global experience.

through a participatory archive, it examines the images of public space which emerged during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

it collects videos of public space, isolated and disconnected from any common function

it captures the emotional imprint of Athens under lockdown

The beginning

During lockdown, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the residents of Athens were invited, through social media, to document the silence and void of human presence in public space making reference to their street and neighborhood. At the same time, participants were asked to share their feelings or reactions to the pandemic, social distancing, and the depopulated image of public space that arose due to the restrictive measures. The aim of the invitation was the creation of a collective archive of Athens under lockdown and the visualizion of its emotional imprint on an interactive map. The shared emotions are classified in 15 categories which correspond to 15 colored groups on the emotional index.

The archive remains open for entries.

A suffering shared and intimate space

The archive began to be formed by open invitation in the first weeks of the pandemic, while we were all trying to deal with the fear of an unknown disease and the concern caused by an unprecedented condition of confinement and social isolation. Those who wanted to participate were invited to send documentation of their empty streets and deserted neighborhood as seen from their balcony or during their short walk.

Rattling Frames has at its core an aporia . First of all, by the etymologically literal meaning of the word, i.e. the impasse, the lack of passage. The health prohibition of movement and assemblies of that first period had defined for each citizen a confined, enclosed space within a small range around their home, a space of minimal activity in which only the fewest possible relations were permitted. The Rattling Frames archive documents this period of control over movement, of the otherworldly urban silence, of the suspension of common, shared experience, its displacement into digital platforms. Through its images, the sinister sense of the public sphere that we all felt in those days returns: no longer as a public space full of ideas, conflicts, noises, passions, bodies in proximity, but as an actual sphere of white light and silence with invisible and impenetrable walls that do not allow movement outside its perimeter, a cell with open doors that are impossible to break through.

However, considering the Rattling Frames archive as an unambiguous diary of the epidemiological crisis would be restrictive. Instead, the empty streets with their parked cars, the terraces with their irregular ridge on the urban skyline, the opposing balconies with their trapped inhabitants transpose a fundamental ambivalence into an image: on the one hand, their cause is undoubtedly enclosure, anxiety, the public space's rupture; on the other hand, their gaze is motivated by intimacy, tenderness towards the close surroundings, the sense that the walls of the house, especially in this period of unrest, have been lowered and privacy is spread out, occupying a much wider space, precisely that common space in which anxiety and fear are acted out every day. Ultimately, the archive’s formation draws on social isolation but does not exhaust itself on it: it highlights public space as an innermost space in unrest, as a suffering common, shared intimacy. Rattling Frames' documentations imply narratives, memories, desires.

Rattling Frames is an archive of affect. Digging through it I had the following personal experience. On April 21, 2020, an anonymous video was registered on Rattling Frames which captured a deserted street in the Athenian suburb Pefki, a spring blossoming yard full of poppies and chamomiles, while from the opposite sidewalk, lacking any human presence, empty, probably abandoned, one could see the house where I was born and in which the declaration of the dictatorship had found us as a family a few months later. I rarely visit this area anymore and I recognized this old house with the surprising and uncanny feeling one has when suddenly encountering forgotten traces of their childhood. This coincidence, of the day I saw the video and the modern history anniversary, not only condensed the space but also the time of the day; 53 years since 1967. In the shadow of the woman filming which could be seen on the street, I saw a neighbor, not in the present but through time: on the paradigmatic axis, myself at the end of 60's as an infant, her at present time. As this house was associated with my infancy, I also saw my mother's shadow, who had, I felt, escaped time and was captured on the sidewalk always roaming around the neighborhood. In the shadow, I saw the ghost of the uncertainty that runs through our days and ends up in the flowers that continue to blossom.

During the pandemic, we got familiar with the privacy of strangers. With libraries and living rooms seen through the angle of a laptop camera, with blurry frames on the walls and curious cats harassing their master while they spoke. The digital publication of privacy is of course a process that has been going on already for quite some time with video calls. But now something qualitatively different has happened: privacy has become a space for academic activity, political debate and artistic creation, that is, essentially public activities. It was not only that privacy was made public but also that public life was relocated into parallel and synchronized private spaces. Particularly in the first period of the pandemic, the time when the Rattling Frames archive began to be formed, this displacement of the public sphere into private space was presented as an offering and as acts of solidarity; as if the opening of the private sanctuary aimed at strengthening the bonds of community. Like saying: "I will show you my space, you will show me your space, and our common exposure will cover the distance from which we both suffer". But at the basis of the public exposure of the private, there was a latent trading: individuality and its space became spectacle and the spectacle created surplus-value. Rattling Frames is the opposite movement: the anonymous archive formed as an open invitation brings out the public space's affective power, the street as a meeting place for subjects, their desires and fears. In a way, the etymologically literal aporia at the core of Rattling Frames, the impasse, is a reminder of fundamental questions, in the current, modern greek, sense of the word aporia, that emerged from the pandemic: what is this new form of public and political life, educational and artistic, that we have discovered, some with relief and others with horror, that we have been digitally cultivating for many years now? How are the space boundaries redefined when freedom of movement, a fundamental principle of classical liberalism, is restricted so that foundation of the subject, life itself, is preserved? Through the use of the mask, through the threat of spreading, through the prohibition of touching, intersubjectivity becomes an everyday moral, metaphysical and political exercise.

Theophilos Tramboulis, Sounio 2021

Translated by Orestis Stylianidis