“The Law is not less conceptual than Fine Art”
by Xenofon Kavvadias
Gift Gallery until 17th June
At the usually white open corridor at the entrance of Gift Gallery is a black curtain; it marks the unusual security of Gift’s current exhibition where bags must be left outside and mobile phones switched off. Expecting darkness inside, supposing a film installation, we are instead confronted with the bright white brilliance of this exhibition. The walls are white in the simplicity of the framed books and white painted letters that line them; white are the nondescript, clinical covers of the purely bound looks that lie open and in piles on the tables. Kavvadias’s exhibition is the work of more than five years of research and planning to display the words of disturbing and often controversial contemporary ideologies. These white bound books contain documents and words that questionably break the laws of counterterrorism, presenting texts that “glorify terrorism in the strict meaning of the word”. Obtaining these confidential and seized manuals from bodies such as the CIA or the British Police (the letters of his correspondence and allowance line the walls) Kavvadias has reprinted text that is meant to be kept hidden. Opening the pristine un-titled covers we are confronted with words that immediately conjure fear and weariness — instructions of al-Qaeda, the manual of the White Supremacists. Countering this black and white of the page and text is the grey of ash, as symbolically each week Kavvadias burns one of the books. The ashes are placed in beautiful handmade vases, the glass itself tainted with the grey of the destruction it contains, and the charred remains of the books returned to their frames on the wall. These visual statements probe the questions behind freedom of expression and illustrate the power of the written word. Ideas will always exist whether written down or not and presented both pristinely and destroyed is incredibly poignant. Original and incredibly relevant Kavvadias’s exhibition is worth visiting before, like the books, it disappears.