While local folklorist Nikolaos Peristeris is very much alive and well, during the quarantine Hypercomf (artists and beekeepers Paola Palavidi and Ioannis Koliopoulos) haven’t been able to maintain regular contact with him. He seldom leaves the house and hardly ever meets with anyone in person—a disposition that certainly isn’t unreasonable under present conditions. However, any attempt at communication is further complicated by his reluctance to discuss matters over the phone, much less through the use of more recent technology.
As a compromise the two parties resorted to the supernatural, which everyone knows has a strong presence on Tinos. Peristeris agreed to channel prayers to the miracle-performing icon of Mary housed in the cathedral 3.8 km from his home, asking for permission to release a phantasm of himself every Tuesday that could meet Hypercomf at their workshop at 3 pm. On April 19, 2020, Peristeris received word from a local priest that his request had been granted.
At the first meeting Paola and Ioannis went over the project. They had been given 14 months and a modest stipend to document local soundscapes (not only songs but also the distinct tones of the island’s bell towers), use computer software to render their frequencies visible, and then turn these visualizations into a wall tapestry. Engaging the concept of the social fabric in its most literal sense would be central to their practice. Key to the project’s success was the collaboration with three weavers from the Technical School, one nun with access to the tapestry workshop in the former monastery of the Sorority of Saint Ursula, the handler of the bells of the church of Saint John in Komi, and composer Stylianos Dimou, with whom they shared a fascination for interactive sonic walls.
Peristeris, in phantasm form, found the endeavor worthwhile. “A tapestry is a garden and a cosmos. Tradition lives in motion,” he said somewhat enigmatically. He went on to suggest that the project expand its focus to include a systematic study of weather data and wind patterns as a precondition for the making of any kind of tapestry. To Hypercomf this idea made good sense and facilitated an important realization: recording the moods of the wind, making a catalogue of waves as they smash into the port’s sea wall, or observing the interaction of the elements with the built environment could reveal the logic of tradition, how people inhabit a place, and, ultimately, how forms and patterns emerge.
“Take ‘Kisbam/Kisboom,’ a folk song that I recorded in the 70s,” continued Peristeris. “It echoes the roughness of the sea, the sound of the wooden boat momentarily levitating before its keel hits the waves again. The first musical instruments on the island, like the songs that people sang, were made with the weather in mind—bamboo tubes with holes designed to harness the power of human breath and the wind. Local feasts would be strategically positioned around the island’s barren terrain so that music could travel far. In August, when the north wind blows incessantly, some believed that their voices could turn into geometric shapes, cross the cavo doro, and reach the shores of Andros.”