When Marina Gioti returned to her family home in Greece after her parents' death, she re-discovered the one and only item that her grandparents managed to salvage during their flight as refugees: an icon of Saint Marina, the starting point of Gioti's film. Forced to leave the town of Mylassa in Asia Minor (now Milas in present-day Turkey), Gioti's grandparents were among the over one million Greeks expelled from Turkey during the Asia Minor Catastrope. This conflict, also known as The Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, played out during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Massacres (on both sides) and forced deportations resulted in one of the largest refugee populations of the early twentieth century in Europe. In 1923, a compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey forcibly relocated most of the remaining Christian Greeks from Turkey – present in Asia Minor since Ionian times - as well as 500,000 Muslim Turks living in Greece, to Turkey. Gioti's grandparents found themselves in Samos before eventually settling in Nikea, Athens. Here, they were given land upon which their four daughters, including the artist's mother, were raised.
The icon of St. Marina is the sole remaining possession from Gioti's grandparents' exodus. Gioti inherited the icon as a gift from a grandmother she never knew, Marina Yahaki, who wished for the figure to be handed down to the next Marina in the family. It was given to the artist by her mother during a period when "the icons of saints rated last in her interests." Now, wanting to know more about her heritage, the artist asks her two ninety-year-old aunts to reconstruct the icon's history. With their memories impaired by age, the aunts participate in a shared family effort to remember. In that sense, the film is not only a meditation on the condition of the refugee, but also what the artist sees as a "race against time" to salvage family history by those closest to the events.
Gioti's grandparents were part of a group of people not dissimilar to those currently fleeing to Greece. The scenes that played out in Lesbos last summer were not unlike those that were played out on the island in the first ten days of October 1922, when 50,000 Greeks mainly from Aivali (on the coast of Turkey) arrived in Lesbos, creating a huge humanitarian problem.
Whereas the Greeks were once refugees, now they find themselves acting as hosts for those fleeing persecution. History repeats itself and tables are turned. Remembrance becomes one of the mechanisms whereby human empathy might be safeguarded. Gioti's film reminds us of this.
Marina Gioti was born in Athens in 1972. Although she went through a formal film training, Marina has mainly been engaged in cinema experimentation and research, exploring its aesthetic and narrative capacities often in a visual arts context, through her videos, installations and hybrid media works. In her filmic work, she often manipulates found footage, in order to revisit old, forgotten stories and unearth new meanings. She has also co-curated two exhibitions and programmed experimental and documentary films for screenings and film festivals.
Gioti studied Chemical Engineering, Environmental Management (MSc), Filmmaking, and Media and Communication (MA) in Greece, UK and Belgium. Her films and installations have been exhibited in numerous exhibitions and film festivals including: Hypnos Project, Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens (2016), Thessaloniki Biennial (2015), Wroclaw Media Art Biennial (2015), Yebisu Film Festival, Tokyo (2016), Viennale Film Festival, Vienna (2015), No Country For Young Men, Bozar, Brussels (2014), Depression Era, Benaki Museum, Athens & Mois de la Photo, Paris (2014), Les Rencontres Internationales Paris/ Berlin/ Madrid (2010 & 2007), Jeonju Film Festival (2010), Toronto International Film Festival (2009), Transmediale (2007). She is currently working on her first feature, a documentary set in Cairo, Egypt, in the period after the 2011 uprisings.
Yahaki familyArchival research photo for:Agia Marina / Saint Marina, 2016Single channel video, colour, sound, 8'Courtesy the artist
Aunt DinaResearch photo for:Agia Marina / Saint Marina, 2016Single channel video, colour, sound, 8’Courtesy the artist