Aris Kalaizis

Devastated Home

Aris Kalaizis | Homeland | Oil on canvas| 55 x 71 in | 2020
Aris Kalaizis | Homeland | Oil on canvas| 55 x 71 in | 2020

Based on the paint­ing "Heimat" (2020) by Aris Kala­izis , the Cologne psy­cho­ana­lyst Fotini Ladaki exam­ines the concept of home. She refers to sev­er­al his­tor­ic­al events and looks for par­al­lels in the life of the Kalaizis' fam­ily. Because the painter's par­ents lost their roots and their home­land dur­ing the Greek civil war of 1946 – 1949.

"The crows screech and fly whirr­ing towards the city: soon it will snow, woe to those who have no home" (Friedrich Nietzsche)

"Being without a home means suf­fer­ing (Fjodor Michail­ow­itsch Dostojewski)

"Home is the per­son whose nature we hear and reach" (Max Frisch)

Aris Kalaizis "Homeland" Detail
Aris Kalaizis "Homeland" Detail

While the human – embod­ied in the paint­ing by the artist him­self – pen­et­rates into the dev­ast­ated home­land and observes the room with wor­ried eyes, appear­ing extern­ally and phys­ic­ally intact, he is caught up in a cloud of destruc­tion. The fol­low­ing images are float­ing in this cloud: the por­trait of the par­ents, an empty suit­case, an aban­doned bed, tree leaves, a col­lapsed roof and a world globe. But unfor­tu­nately noth­ing can be seen on the world globe, neither coun­tries nor con­tin­ents or oth­er home locations.

Home­land is by no means romanticized

The world has ended. In doing so, the artist Aris Kala­izis propag­ates a gen­er­al loss that may not only have to do with a lost home­land, but also with the psy­cho­lo­gic­al con­sequences that usu­ally fol­low such a dra­mat­ic event.

The paint­ing is a them­at­ic­ally grip­ping paint­ing because on the one hand it is of untimely rel­ev­ance, on the oth­er hand it is able to express a lot about the people of our time. One should not use one's home­land in a roman­ti­cized con­text. Mil­lions of people are cur­rently los­ing their homes. Refugees are always on the move.

They flee their homes and will prob­ably nev­er come back. This loss can­not be com­pensated psy­cho­lo­gic­ally with the pro­clam­a­tions from polit­ics and eco­nomy, because world polit­ics propag­ates reas­ons that have noth­ing to do with the qual­it­ies of the soul. Not for noth­ing did Franz Kafka say in his book "A Let­ter to the Fath­er" that our world is a chor­us of lies and deception.

Aris Kalaizis "Homeland" Detail
Aris Kalaizis "Homeland" Detail

But what does the loss, anni­hil­a­tion and destruc­tion of the home­land involve? Because when you lose your home­land, you don't just lose your moth­er tongue and fath­er­land. Moth­er tongue and fath­er­land are fun­da­ment­al con­cepts with regard to home­land. One can assume that one loses not only one's own lan­guage, but also one's soul. When you lose your soul, you lose yourself.

Freud asso­ci­ated the concept of home as a sig­ni­fi­er, after Lacan, with the secret and uncanny. In his essay on “The Uncanny” he writes: “…also homely, belong­ing to the home, not ali­en, famil­i­ar, tame, famil­i­ar and famil­i­ar, homely, belong­ing to the house, to the fam­ily … from the nat­ive, domest­ic devel­ops fur­ther the concept of the stranger's eyes, hid­den, secret, also developed in sev­er­al respects…
The Ger­man word 'unheimlich' is appar­ently the oppos­ite of secret, domest­ic, famil­i­ar and the con­clu­sion sug­gests itself that some­thing is fright­en­ing because it is not known and familiar …

The char­ac­ter of the uncanny can only come from the fact that the double is a form­a­tion belong­ing to the past spir­itu­al primev­al times, which at that time had a friend­li­er mean­ing. The dop­pel­gänger has become a night­mare, like the gods becom­ing demons after the fall of their religion.”

What hap­pens when the nation or cul­ture is lost? Has the Jew become the etern­al scape­goat because, among oth­er things, he embod­ies a con­stant loss of homeland?
Aris­totle said in his work "de anima" that man thinks with his soul. There is his­tor­ic­al and reli­gious evid­ence for this. After 300 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israel­ites had lost both their lan­guage and their soul. Is the prom­ised land also a hyper-meta­phor for the lost soul? In Kab­ba­l­ah, Jew­ish mys­ti­cism, it says that the soul is the throne of God.

In this respect, both the rebirth of the soul and lan­guage are dis­cussed in the Old Test­a­ment with Gen­es­is and the Exodus. How­ever, this is done under the mantle of God. God per­son­ally takes respons­ib­il­ity for the Israel­ites and tries to give them back lan­guage and soul. On Mount Sinai he hands over the writ­ten tab­lets with the ten com­mand­ments to Moses.
The writ­ing is also a sym­bol for the return of lan­guage. The ego, too, is a mys­tic­al sign for the lost lan­guage. And the food of the Israel­ites in the desert was called manna. It was the bread of heav­en. In the every­day lan­guage of the Greeks, manna means moth­er. On Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the writ­ten tab­let with the 10 commandments.

Who­ever has neither lan­guage nor soul ends up in the realm of enjoy­ment (Lacan)

Even the Greeks were not allowed to use their own lan­guage dur­ing the three hun­dred years of Otto­man rule. They had to speak the lan­guage of the con­quer­ors. There were the hid­den schools (to krifo scholio) that were vis­ited secretly at night.
In these schools one learned the let­ters and the gram­mar of the lost lan­guage. How­ever, they were not allowed to be used for lit­er­at­ure, reli­gion and philo­sophy. They were silenced and mute.

When the Frank­furt Book Fair was ded­ic­ated to Greece 20 years ago, the FAZ repor­ted that the Greeks had lost the skills of Homer, Socrates, Pla­to and Aris­totle. But now they can dance and sing. If you have no lan­guage and no soul, you end up in the realm of Lacani­an enjoy­ment. Freud would call it the realm of the pleas­ure prin­ciple. The true desire implied in all oth­er realms such as nar­rat­ive, philo­sophy, lit­er­at­ure, poetry, even sci­ence was cor­rup­ted and also not allowed. How many years it will take a nation to find its lost soul and use it for desire is not yet known.

There is an eco­nom­ic and a spir­itu­al exile

But Nation­al Social­ism also caused the Ger­mans to lose their old lan­guage and eth­ics as well as their soul. How else could you, as the may­or of a city, move into a Jew­ish villa with your fam­ily when the Jews had per­ished in the Holo­caust. Holo­caust means com­pletely burned in Greek. So I'm mov­ing into the house of the burned out. Only mice and rats can move into such a house, but nev­er people who are aware of mor­als and ethics.

If you lose your home­land, you end up in exile. But there are cer­tainly dif­fer­ent exiles, as James Joyce notes:
"In exile we said, but it is import­ant to dis­tin­guish here: there is an eco­nom­ic and a spir­itu­al exile" (2)

James Joyce also sought spir­itu­al sal­va­tion in exile in Trieste, because his home­land was threatened by polit­ic­al and reli­gious attacks and restric­ted his cre­at­ive free­dom. But if one does not vol­un­tar­ily lose one's home­land, like the Israel­ites and Greeks already men­tioned, one falls into a dif­fer­ent status. – Eli­as Canetti describes the con­di­tion with slavery. He says it turns you into an anim­al that has no lan­guage. These trans­formed anim­als or birds can only bark and caw.

"So the jur­idic­al defin­i­tion of the slave as prop­erty and prop­erty is mis­lead­ing. He is an anim­al and prop­erty. One can best com­pare the indi­vidu­al slave with a dog. The cap­tured dog has been detached from its pack and isol­ated. He is under the orders of his mas­ter. He aban­dons his own enter­prises so far as they go against these com­mands, and in return is fed by the Lord… Just as the Lord does not per­mit his dog to hunt what he pleases, but nar­rows the scope of that hunt accord­ing to his super­i­or util­ity, so he also relieves the slave of one trained trans­form­a­tion after the other…

Like Zeus, art can give birth to its own Athena

From the begin­ning there must have been two dif­fer­ent types of slaves: some tied alone like a domest­ic dog to a mas­ter, oth­ers togeth­er like flocks in the pas­ture… The desire to make men into anim­als is the strongest impetus for them Spread of slavery.” (3)
You are trans­formed into an anim­al under for­eign rule, as Kafka often addresses in his stor­ies such as "A Hun­ger Artist", "The Meta­morph­os­is" or "Josefine, the Sing­er or the Folk of Mice".

“Our singer's name is Josefine. Any­one who has not heard them does not know the power of song.” (4)

In the story "Meta­morph­os­is", the prot­ag­on­ist turns into a crawl­ing anim­al, which stops using human lan­guage. But with his eyes he sees everything that hap­pens around him. Under his father's dic­tat­ori­al rule, Kafka was also unlikely to have a soul. But lit­er­at­ure not only helped him, but also gave him a soul. Oth­er­wise we wouldn't know any­thing about him. Lit­er­at­ure and cre­ativ­ity belong, among oth­er things, to the saviors of the soul, or help one to regain one's own soul. Just as Athena was once born from the head of Zeus, one can also give birth to one's own Athena through art.

Aris Kala­izis does the same with paint­ing. With his art and the paint­ing "Home­land" he addresses and brings to light para­met­ers that may have also taken place in his biography.


  1. Ges­am­melte Werke, Werke aus den Jahren 1917 – 1920, Band XII, Das Unheim­liche, Fisc­her Ver­lag, Frank­furt am Main, 1966, P. 231 – 232, 248

  2. Jean Par­is, Joyce, Rowohlts Mono­graph­i­en, Ham­burg, 1982, P. 32

  3. Eli­as Canetti: Masse und Macht, Fisc­her Ver­lag, Frank­furt am Main, P. 430 – 431 

  4. Franz Kafka, Erzählun­gen, Fisc­her Taschen­buchver­lag, Frank­furt am Main, 2002, P. 518

©2020 Fotini Ladaki | Aris Kalaizis

©2020 Fotini Ladaki
©2020 Fotini Ladaki

Fotini Ladaki was born in north­ern Greece in 1952. A psy­cho­ana­lyst after Lacan and Freud, she works in her own prac­tice in Cologne. She is also a freel­ance writer.

In addi­tion to sev­er­al essays on art and psy­cho­ana­lys­is, plays, stor­ies and poetry, she has also writ­ten ‘Mor­itz’ by Ger­hard Richter. About the hor­ror of see­ing the exper­i­ence of being. Her oth­er pub­lic­a­tions can be found on

She lives and works in Cologne

©2020 Fotini Ladaki | Aris Kalaizis

© Aris Kalaizis 2024