Staged in the Australian landscape, in her series Between Worlds (2009), Polixeni Papapetrou photographs children acting as animals. Papapetrou sees children as being between worlds: between the world of infancy and adulthood. Though in a sense absurdist, she presents the children as animals because they seem to have a magical affinity with animals. Children meet up with animals through fiction and fantasy, from cuddly toys to animations, to the great stories of Lewis Carroll. Animals enter our consciousness in mysterious ways and we look at them in order to understand ourselves and our emotional realm. For most of the history of philosophy, it is what we don’t share with animals that defines us as human. In a similar way, children are the ‘Other’ that defines adulthood; and for that reason, children pervade our consciousness, at times adorably and at times threateningly.
In dressing up and wearing masks, the children, like actors, perform identities other than their own. They appear as something we immediately recognize, but are fantastically hybridized, losing their child identity and adopting the sublime identities of the mask. Beneath the mask, the child’s image is both present and absent, tangible and intangible. They can dream up alternative worlds, but also reflect sardonically upon the one they share with adults.
Many of the landscapes Papapetrou has staged these dramas in are portentous—as if at the edge of a space or the end of an epoch—conveying some of the wonder that children might entertain in entering the animal kingdom. The children as animals dance upon their own liminal world between fantasy and theatre, mythology and reality, archetype and free play, male and female, child and adult and of course animal and human. Within these ambiguities, Papapetrou fathoms the space that children occupy in our understanding and wonder how they might bestride the stage of art.
Polixeni lives and works in Melbourne. She has held over 40 solo exhibitions and participated in over 70 group exhibitions in Australia and internationally. Her work is held in private and institutional collections including the National Gallery of Victoria, Bendigo Art Gallery, Geelong Art Gallery, BHP Billiton, Wesfarmers, Artbank and Murdoch University, Perth. She has been the recipient of numerous Australia Council New Work Grants and Arts Victoria Grants. In 2009 she was awarded the Josephine Ulrick-Win Shubert Photography Award. Polixeni is also a Research Fellow at Monash University, Melbourne and holds the degrees of PhD 2007 (Monash University), MA Media Arts 1997 (RMIT University), Bachelor of Laws 1984, (University of Melbourne) and Bachelor of Arts 1984, (University of Melbourne).
Polixeni is represented by: Stills Gallery (NSW), Johnston Gallery (WA), Nellie Castan Gallery (Victoria), Foley Gallery (NYC), LMD Gallery (France) and ARTITLED! (The Netherlands).