Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

El ángel exterminador

May 22, 2019 - Anargyros Drolapas

My project that was presented in “Artist Feature” section is called A n g e l u s N o v u s [New Angel]. The title was inspired by a Paul Klee’s painting:

 

“A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress”
–Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”, Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn, New York: Schocken Books, 1969: 249.

 

You can preview my project here. What is interesting for me in the idea of an angel observer is that for a long time I preferred to take photos and stay unnoticed by the people that were my subject. By avoiding interaction I was preserving authenticity of emotions and reactions of my subject. Like a scientist in a lab that must always protect an experiment by any interference, in order to be an objective observer.

 

In  A n g e l u s N o v u s  project there is also a hint about an underline fear that is always present. A hint of an angel exterminator that is related with a constant “external threat” for Europe. Although what really is that “threat” might be immigrants in need. My experience with the Greek economic and social crisis has been an unfortunate influence. The following collection of images is a small sample of that influence and was based on that crisis state.


In September 1940 Walter Benjamin (who purchased the print in 1921) committed suicide during an attempt to flee the Nazi regime. After World War II Walter Benjamin’s lifelong friend, Gershom Scholem (1897–1982), the distinguished scholar of Jewish mysticism, inherited the drawing. According to Scholem, Benjamin felt a mystical identification with the Angelus Novus and incorporated it in his theory of the “angel of history,” a melancholy view of historical process as an unceasing cycle of despair [source:Wikipedia]