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“illneas” is a 23 year old “imperfect filmmaker and poet” living in Thessaloniki, Greece surrounded by its indigo coastline, foggy smoke-filled rooms hollowed inside graffiti emblazoned walls, and the slinky movements of cats in concrete corners. His videos, peppered with this imagery, are accompanied by a poem that is either self-written or one that he admires. There is a pensive loneliness that underscores much of his work as he understands that the thoughts floating around in his head could never fully and completely be understood by another person. So, he writes and creates to convey a feeling that his audience can transcribe in their own chambers of thought colored by their unique experiences. While he emits an air of an artist in dream-like thought, illneas is just as much a curious logician, reflected by his career as an engineer. He considers his poems more like a puzzle of words to put together through a scientific method, to convey an idea or attempt to answer a question, rather than a brush of pen to paper pushed by a romantic imaginative wind. 

To his audience, illneas looks most like himself when his camera takes the place of his eyes from which to see the world through. This idea outlines much of his portrait as he is most recognizable by many in the mirrored image of himself reflecting back to his audience. His cool- toned portrait behind the mirrored surface is the same person that holds the jagged edge in his palm, yet the image that bounces to his audience is inverted. In the mirror, his appearance is one of a creative person who is artistic and imaginative, but behind is a logician who is scientific and mathematical in his process. These images are not of separate figures, yet they appear to represent two slightly different realms in which illneas can be identified. Read below for a full PORTRAY-T of illneas, as he merges together his reflected and non-reflected image in a discussion about his thoughts behind his work, a story from his grandfather that has shaped his life, and scents that remind him of childhood, home, and new beginnings!

So to start, can you tell me about your decision to start sharing your work to the public? 


It’s a bit weird because I was making short films and promotional videos on social media about volunteering and things I was doing with my university. So, I was already familiar with the platform and exposing my videos. I remember doing the first videos, which were super immature, they were called multi-fandom which is when you combine music with video. I did it for fun and it got 5 views at first, but it blew up after a year so I decided to do another like that. So, it wasn’t really a decision, it was just in the moment. 


So once you started gaining a following, when did you decide that you wanted to make the poetry videos that you are creating now? 

I can’t say that I was following audience trends because once I gained traction with something, I didn’t continue doing it if it didn’t fulfill me. That is why I stopped doing movie montages and videos for others’ poetry. I had a deeper need to make things that represented me. In the beginning I was just experimenting. I didn’t think I would gain any following. I actually didn’t even own a camera back then. I got my first camera on Christmas of 2018. My Father said, 'I like your work and I’m getting you a camera' but it wasn’t even something that I was looking to buy myself at the time.

I know that writing feels like such an intimate thing sometimes and it’s a difficult thing to show to the public. When you started sharing your own poetry, how did you feel? 

It’s a bit of a paradox and maybe a miracle, but I’m actually not anxious about releasing my poetry. I am very introverted in real life and don’t really say much about my feelings to people in my personal life, and for some reason on Youtube I’m like “yeah I’m going to talk about my feelings to everyone!” But for some reason, anxiety about whether people will think my poetry is stupid or things like that doesn’t cross my mind because it would paralyze me. 

Wow yeah that’s really nice that you don’t get anxious about it because honestly I think most people who write, or who are just creative in general, are filled with so much doubt when they release their work.  

Yeah, I get anxious in every other aspect of my life so it’s a surprise that I don’t feel that way. I actually studied to be an engineer which defines my life and personality a lot. As an engineer, I try to make things complete so that you won’t find mistakes- not imperfections- but mistakes like paradoxes. I try to disprove my poetry like I try to disprove things in engineering. In my creative way, I try to disprove it with a scientific method and I’m then okay with the result.


At first when I saw that you were an engineer, I was surprised because it seems like a field that is so drastically different from the work you put out but it’s really interesting how you connect the two. 

I was a curious child and I’m still a curious person. With engineering and art, you answer different kinds of questions. With engineering, you are answering practical questions like ‘how does this engine work?’ or ‘why is this built like this?’ but you won’t find answers for ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ or ‘what’s friendship?’ or ‘what’s love?’ in engineering. So, art is a way to answer those questions for me. 

I know you said that you don’t really create videos for other people’s poems as much anymore but does it feel different to create a video for your own poetry vs. for the words of others? 

I am super immune to writing. I have released 11 poems so far which is almost nothing. It’s so much harder to write something new for me. You might not believe this, but the first poem I’ve ever written was the first one I published. I always like experimenting with poetry, but it’s not like I was building my craft for 10 years and then finally decided to expose it. It is much more intimate to release my own poems. There is a bit of a misunderstanding with poetry- people always think that the main character is the one who wrote it. I don’t know why that happens. For example, if a director does a movie and the main person is a gangster, you don’t assume that the director is a gangster. In poetry, people always think a love poem is about who the writer loves. But, I can’t control what people assume so it’s okay.

A lot of your videos are created from Charles Bukowski poems. What do you love most about his work? 

I grew up in Greece, and Greek curriculum includes poetry. I was first introduced to it academically and I HATED it. I disliked it with all my heart. I was a kid that liked mathematics and physics- I became an engineer in the end. I didn’t like the way teachers approached it- it was very technical and they would break it down too much and assigned meanings to things that I didn’t necessarily agree with. They also believed that Greek poetry was superior- it’s good, but chill there are other poets in the world. For Charles Bukowski, I read his poetry and I wasn’t bored. I think it’s poetry for people who don’t like poetry. That’s how I view my own writing- I don’t necessarily want to be included in the poetry community. 

What are some of your biggest sources of inspiration? So, when you go to create a video or poem, what does the process look like? 

There is a concept in my writing that I’ve been experimenting with recently. I expressed this idea in “This is Goodbye Beautiful Human.” The inputs in the world are standard for everyone and our brains are natural decrypters. Once you decrypt information and make it your own experience, there isn’t a way to communicate that. You have language, you have drawing, but you will never be able to express an idea completely and fully in a way that two people understand it the same. I think if you were able to have an idea and place it in someone's head exactly the same way you experience it, art would be meaningless. The whole creation of art, for me, is to try to take a feeling and translate it for someone else. The core of everything I create is a feeling and afterwards it is just finding creative ways to express that. 

I find a ridiculous amount of inspiration from music. I find silence scary- when I’m not listening to music I find silence really scary. I don’t read poetry when I’m writing because I don’t want to be influenced by other people's writing and want to create my own work. Sometimes I get absorbed into writing styles and put pieces together like a puzzle.


Photography Credit: Ilias Tsak

"You have language, you have drawing, but you will never be able to express an idea completely and fully in a way that two people understand it the same. I think if you were able to have an idea and place it in someone's head exactly the same way you experience it, art would be meaningless. The whole creation of art, for me, is to try to take a feeling and translate it for someone else. The core of everything I create is a feeling and afterwards it is just finding creative ways to express that."

What type of music do you listen to? 

I have a few playlists published that are completely different from music I use in my videos. In my videos, music is more ambient and not heavy. I grew up going to live music performances. I really like rock, punk, and metal music. I’m really affected by that culture because there are heavy emotions. I listen to emo music a lot which I have used some songs from to put in my videos. I like really small artists like a garage band of 3 kids with very little views. They’re horrible but it’s so full of emotion- I find comfort in that! I tried to make a band back in the day but I’m not musically talented. I listen to hip hop as well, like Greek hip hop, because that music best expresses what is happening in society right now. 

Do you have a favorite line you’ve written or a favorite poem? 

I really like “The Frequencies of Depression.” I also like “This is Goodbye Beautiful Human.” I like creating a new concept and build a story through it. For writers it takes a whole chapter to explain how a world works like Middle Earth, but in poetry it takes a line that comes into your head. I am proud of that poem in a technical way. I know most modern writers in Greece are stuck trying to imitate the greats and they sound like they’re stuck in the second World War. A lot of the language isn’t even modern. Why would you say, ‘we watch the same moon’ to a lover when you now have your phone and can call them? It just doesn’t make sense. In my first ever poem I wanted to express a different way of writing that is more modern.

I know your recent video “The frequencies of depression” was shot during Art van Rood's 3,2,1 movie filming. What is the process like for choosing a filming location, and how did that change during the pandemic? 

I randomly met two students from the Netherlands and Italy. They were looking for an actor and I told them I’m not an actor but I could be an extra or offer a camera service. I’m not charismatic or comfortable with acting. The movie’s characters fit quite nicely with the poem. The poem is about two friends and the movie is also about two friends where one is trying to help the other so it was perfect. It was really a lot of fun. 

How did filming change at the height of the pandemic when you couldn’t really go anywhere to film? 

I think my mental breakdown dates around last February. In Greece we had to lockdown at 9pm every day and 6pm on weekdays. In Greece the laws are not necessarily applied- they can be broken but I’m not comfortable with that so it was really limiting. So I couldn’t really go out with my camera. It didn’t stop me though. At the start of the pandemic I had 60,000 subscribers and closer to now I have 200,000 so my work didn’t stop. It definitely affected me mentally and on a personal level. 

"Why would you say, ‘we watch the same moon’ to a lover when you now have your phone and can call them? It just doesn’t make sense. In my first ever poem I wanted to express a different way of writing that is more modern."

A lot of your video films are based in existential thoughts while others are based in being grounded in a single moment. Do you consider yourself an existentialist or someone that’s more grounded in the present moment? 

I think I have two poems that are strictly about death through personification. A good friend I admire said ‘if you write about death, you are already defeated.’ You can’t disprove it. He told me it was impossible to not be able to disprove it. If you manage to disprove death then there is no longer a fear of it. I think I’m obsessed with certain ideas like the whole existentialist movement and the purpose of life. I think all people think about those things but you try to forget them because they are dead ends and you’ll get stuck. I also am obsessed with the idea like I told you before that we are alone in our heads and the perception of the world is trapped within us. 

Do you have any vivid memories from childhood related to your love for filmmaking or writing? 

I picked up a camera when I was 20 and now I’m 23 so it’s super recent and I hated writing so nothing like that from my childhood but I grew up in a really artistic family. I always thought about, ‘how can art be nonspecific?’ My Father is a painter and he’s really into abstract things. From a young age I realized that art didn’t have to be specific or recognizable in reality. Having that in my head from an early age helped me to develop past that and be completely free without restrictions of specific things. It’s not really a memory but it’s a realization of a complete experience.  

A lot of creators say that when they release a piece of work, that it then belongs to those who view the work or interact with it. I know you have a segment on your channel called “art is a ripple” dedicated to those who are inspired by your work. Do you feel like your work, or art in general, becomes different when it is no longer private? Does it become any less intimate or more? 

I’m surprised you asked about this because I never really publicize that, it’s just a playlist on my channel. Do you know the whole thing about NFTs? That topic brought to the surface a big question: what’s the difference between painting the Mona Lisa versus owning the Mona Lisa versus owning a perfect replica of the Mona Lisa versus owning a photo on your phone of the Mona Lisa? The creator always remains the creator, and the original is special because it's the first one but afterwards it starts to lose value to people. Or, if you are more logical you might think it's the same thing- why would I own the Mona Lisa if I could have it in higher resolution on my phone? Everyone has a different idea and that happens with art. The moment it’s shared it becomes a completely different thing but it’s still yours because you created it. It’s a really huge compliment for someone to say they were inspired by you. You have to have a conversation about what that means in your head. If you say it’s meaningless then you are cynical but if you gloat about it then you are arrogant so my playlist really finds a balance between the two. 


Photography Credit: flipmattia

If you could bottle three scents, what would they be and what do they remind you of? 

I talked about this question with my friends over coffee this morning. There is a certain smell of seawater when it dries on your skin. That reminds me of my childhood- it’s not a great smell but it’s a natural smell. It reminds me of my childhood summers. The second one is coffee because it’s my favorite smell. I drink coffee every morning and mornings are my favorite part of life. I am always the most optimistic in the morning because there’s a new day ahead so every time I smell coffee I feel optimistic. The last one is a bit of a bad smell but has to do with Greek culture. It would be the smell of smoke in my clothes after a night in Greece. In Greece, it is illegal to smoke indoors but people don’t care. Everything is filled with smoke- I don’t smoke but the smell in my clothes reminds me that I had a social night out drinking or something having fun. 

Do you have favorite words someone has told you, or a favorite saying?

Yes I do and I’m actually super excited about this question. No longer can a combination of five words affect me like fortune cookies. A story is what affects me. There is a story of my grandfather that has always affected me. My grandfather has the same name as me and we kind of look similar which is super cool. He was born on Mount Olympus in a small village. By the age of 15 he had lost both of his parents and he only had inherited sheep to milk. One night, a bad wolf ate all of the sheep. He was 15 without anything in the world. A lot of people say only humans are greedy but that’s not true- the wolf only needed one sheep to be satisfied. He moved into the city after that because he had nothing. He became a pillar for society and created the family that created me. He has lived a really long life, he’s 95 and still alive. He still remembers that story and his mind is in a perfect state. The title of the story is “The Good Wolf” because it forced him to move into the city and create my family’s storyline. For me it’s such a deep story and I like how you can view problematic situations and change the narrative even relative to the evil in the world.  

How do you view yourself? 

I have a bad habit in my personal relationships where I try to guess what people are thinking. I can do it really well and people don’t like it. That is connected with the view of myself. I am split between two worlds- engineering and the arts. I try to establish an identity of a person being serious in both of those roles. I was never forced to do either one. I think people can tell that I’m a bit different in both worlds. I’m an outsider both ways and I enjoy it- I’m comfortable with it. 


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