Touch me not

Touch Me Not: Byzantine Analogies in Contemporary Cypriot Art

An actual live “Vine-tree” transported and placed in the Church of Panagia Katholiki attests to the full materiality of the installation by Marianna Constanti, which is further stressed by way of its gilding. A symbol of the human incarnation of Christ, it alludes to the parable he recounts to his disciples during the evening of the Last Supper: “I am the vine, and you are the branches” (The Gospel According to John, 15:5). Mediating between the material and the immaterial, the sense of sight and the sense of smell, in the borderline dividing the tangible from the “Touch Me Not” because of its fragility, the purple and white veil by Marianna Constanti is a delicate and transparent piece of lace, embroidered with the flowers of lavender, known as the myrrh-bearer, used for decorating the Epitaphios in places such as Lysos, Akrotiri, Lefkara, Stavrovouni and Lythrodontas, where they bloom from March to May. The smell exuded by essences of rose, jasmine, citrus blossoms, geranium, lavender, and elemi, as they burn in ceramic hanging oil-lamps, constitutes the votive offering to the Church of Panagia Katholiki, by Marianna Constanti and her oenologist sister Aphrodite Constanti, specialist in the olfactory experience. If icons and chanting during the liturgy surround the worshippers with the sight and the sounds of Paradise, the incenses and the flowers of spring are the closest analogy to the scent of it, and a collective memory of Easter and the procession of Epitaphios, when roses and blossoms are carried and swayed with the image of the dead Christ, above the crowds of believers, engulfing them with an aura of mystification. Dematerialized and solely evocative of the sense of smell, this reminiscence becomes a tribute to “Touch Me Not”.

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