George Tillianakis

“A wind is sweeping away my life.
I close my eyes so I don’t see you leave.
Somewhere night is falling, don’t cry, it’s OK.
Just say it’s the end of the world.”

I sing these words from Somewhere Night is Falling in ‘Lo-Fi Auditions’ (2003), the final instalment of my five-part video performance series, Distilled Distortion.

In a dark space, a close-up of my blue-painted face evokes the Greek flag. I sing the Greek blues – the Rembetika – a capella. When the singing breaks, the silence is filled with my hysterical crying and the feedback of a distorted electric guitar. Behind me a television plays an audition tape of myself at 16, my face obscured by acne. The sound is turned down. I am only my despair and my humiliation covered up.

In Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia, Julia Kristeva suggests that “naming suffering, exalting it, dissecting it into its smallest components, that is doubtless a way to curb mourning. To revel in it at times, but also to go beyond it, moving on to another form, not so scorching, more and more perfunctory.” My face is torn of individual identity, covered in a calculated mess of cultural and subcultural references, my mouth expressing what my heart and mind needs to discern for the purpose of moving forward. It is this catharsis that propels me to create my work.

The five parts of Distilled Distortion were also exhibited in my solo show at Artspace, Curtains: The Excavation Process (2005). During the four-week exhibition, I performed bi-weekly alongside the video installation. The performances were an extension of the videos: my entire body and face smeared in black paint symbolising a worn-away abyss, divulging personal stories and secrets in an attempt to dispel trauma with my electric guitar strapped to my body as if it were a weapon for protection.

The performances were physically and emotionally painful: accidentally ripping my stomach open from the broken metal of an old rusted paintbrush, discussing sexuality and sexual abuse, getting black paint in my eyes, sharing personal family tragedies, annihilating Artspace by throwing buckets of water all over the space and then lying in the dirt singing Greek songs in ravaged underwear. Placing myself in these physically painful and humiliating scenarios allowed me to access and expose internal grievances.

For the next seven years I painted my body in various colours, performing throughout suburban and urban cities to exhaust my body (to the point of transcendence), in order to access the psyche and execute hidden pain.

In ‘Back In Black: Diamond In The Rough (Fucker)’ (2007), the fourth instalment from my solo show at the Blacktown Arts Centre, painted fluorescent pink, I am barefoot, wearing an orange beehive wig and sagging women’s underwear as the camera follows me through the streets of Blacktown.

In ‘Black’ (2012), I take to the streets of New York City, barefoot, smeared in black paint, wearing a black helmet and black-sequined, high-waisted underwear. Unlike previous works where the musical wall of sound was a crucial element of the experience, the travellers in these two works are stripped of a voice. Mute.

Viewers are provided no lyrical cues as to what wounds the travelling subjects. These faceless characters are abject: the bottom of a gutter, an abandoned and syringe-ridden house, symbolising not only subjective but universal, pain, loss and humiliation.

The album Cry, Fuck Or Fight (2016), under the artist name Melodiqa, is a return to the electronic synthesiser music of the Back In Black video works. The black cover, with a faint hint of the title in a lighter shade of black, once again invokes the abyss.

Like the characters in recent video works, the music and lyrics take you on a journey. Inspired by numerous synthesiser soundtracks of the 70s and 80s, I fuse this sound with personal lyrics of sex, loss and abandonment.
The song ‘Tzigano’ best encapsulates these themes, yet concludes with a surprising, enlightened twist that was absent in my previous work, perhaps reflecting who I am at the moment.

And for all the times the door closed in my face,
I turned around and noticed a space.
I could fill it with love or fill it with hate …
I’ll keep on moving … time will not wait.

MELODIQA is available for download on iTUNES

22 June – 12 August 2017
Blacktown Arts Centre, Sydney.

Courtesy the artist.

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