The Rape of Europa II
CONTEMPORARY ART- ECA ‘18
The Rape of Europa II is Nina Alessandri’s degree show installation, which comprises a video-sound piece and five painted prints on fabric, questioning the famous Greek myth of Jupiter’s abductions of Europa which was narrated by Ovid (8 AD) in his book Metamorphoses 11:88-875.
The prints are selected details of Renaissance paintings Nina researched and collected, among others, as they portrayed Europa as the young, beautiful, mythical girl. After the selection, Nina altered and reworked the images: first digitally then via paints, oils, brushes, and crayons once they were printed, so many layers remained.
“As in the case of the video, where I reworked and re-edited an American documentary The Rape of Europa (2006) which narrates the cruelty of Nazi Germany's looting of Europe's great works of art during World War II. I’ve then inserted text parts, images, erased the original soundtrack, and worked with a sound designer to create completely new work that could create a dialogue with the prints. The result was an overwhelming but intended installation.
The whole project was born out of a desire to talk about Europe in a different, antithetic way from the worn one that prevails in most of the mass media’s, and politicians’ discourses. Against the insidious backdrop of fake news, hypocrisy and great sociopolitical tension, my answer was to create work which is able to portray the malaise and contradictions of our time.
The myth here is used as a metaphor for the present political landscape which is worrying. Current issues from Brexit, the refugee crisis, the spreading of right-wing and fascist movements across Europe are addressed by the installation in a subtle way.
Europe is collapsing. Europe is dissolving. Europe is being raped.
The mythical character, Europa, was actually from a place which today we call Syria. She has been portrayed to have blue eyes and blond hair for the last two thousand years, which was probably not the case. Many questions can be raised by the juxtaposition of this myth and the contemporary reality. Europe is somehow currently going through an odyssey, trying to hold together its pieces by facing antagonistic forces which are trying to destroy its unity and heritage.
The comfortable feeling induced by the prints and their mythical character added to the fragility and the lightness of their materials clashes with the outer world: cruel and hostile, historical and real. It also conflicts with the tone of the video and sound piece due to their scattered nature: the juxtaposition of images and themes, the ongoing intersection of present and past. From the ruthless Nazi raids both of art pieces and people’s lives: the brutal siege of Leningrad with their massive cannons hurling shells into the starving city, the citizens trudging through the snow as the facades of neoclassical buildings fall about them. The destruction of the abbey of Monte Cassino, interspersed with a shot of one of the Buddhas of Bamiyan statutes before they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, as well as Hitler in Paris, his own early watercolours. Moreover, the pre-war Nazi exhibition of degenerate art, Hitler and Himmler with plundered art in the war, lots of images of Klimt, and connections made between wartime refugees and those today, overlaid with hate speeches from Trump. Art as a witness of history and vice-versa.
The Myth of Europa, like the one of Odysseus, speaks of diversity and multiculturalism. Europa is an epic heroine, less celebrated somehow than Ulysses. While Ulysses desperately wanted to return to his homeland, Europa allowed herself to travel towards unknown landscapes by riding on the bull’s back (Jupiter). At the intersection of lands, borders, and cultures lies the fascination of this myth. What and where is our homeland”?