- Living and Working in Athens
Four young professionals in the arts living and working in Athens are the focus of this conversation. Ioannis Savvidis is a visual artist particularly interested in space, who mainly works with video, installation, and architectural design. He is based in Athens and Berlin. His recent work was shown at the first Biennial of Athens (2007) as well as at Art Athina (2008). Savvidis is a member of Stadtwald, a group of urban action based in Berlin, of Osservatorio Nomade, and of the Rufus Corporation. Laertis Vassiliou is an actor and a director. As an actor he has worked with distinguished theatre directors, including Roula Pateraki, Theodoros Terzopoulos, D. Mavrikios, and Robert Wilson. He has directed Mrozek's The Emigrants and more recently One in Ten, a performance about immigrants in Greece, which was invited to the theatre festival Mess in Sarajevo the fall of 2008. He also works in film and television. Maria-Thalia Carras and Sophia Tournikiotis are art curators. They founded (in 2004) and co-direct Locus Athens, a non-profit contemporary arts organization that does not have a space as such but curates projects in various sites in Athens, organizes talks and art film screenings, and publishes art books and catalogues. Recent work includes Sampling (2008), an exhibition of seven contemporary Turkish artists at the Center of Popular Art and Tradition in Athens.
The city of Athens, sensitive to the population's evolving, multicultural identity, inspires and shapes the work of the participants in this conversation, all of them reflecting divergent fields in the arts. They are skilled in employing artistic concepts and media to explore subjects relevant to the new global era, such as immigration and tourism, and adopt a variety of approaches, from playful postmodern discourses to site-specific performance and archiving work. This conversation also highlights Greece as a country of diaspora, its participants having been brought up in or lived abroad over extended periods of time in diverse countries, including Germany, Albania, and England. This explains their strong interest in approaching central concerns in present-day Greece and Athens as outsiders, from alternative, critical perspectives. Subjects range from the new immigrants to international relations with its Balkan neighbors, including Turkey, with whom relations have traditionally been strained. Their work exposes sensitive issues such as racism, censorship, and nationalism. Regarding national identity, the relation between Greece's European and Eastern heritage also surfaces in the conversation. Unlike older generations of Greeks or [End Page 45] even current official state rhetoric, participants freely draw on Eastern elements in Greek culture, without feeling that this detracts from their European identity. On a related note, they are inclined to explore the ancient heritage in terms of pop culture with nonchalance and humor. Other characteristic features about living in Athens emerge in the conversation, such as the inadequacies of city planning, which has resulted in extensive illegal building, and the necessity for small-scale projects, which allow for intimate, face-to-face interaction. The conversation was taped in Athens, on April 18 and 21, 2008.
KOTZAMANI: How is space relevant to the work you do? How does living in Athens engage you?
LOCUS ATHENS: As the name of our organization denotes, we are interested in the city and how it works. We founded Locus Athens in 2004 with the aim to do experimental projects of contemporary art that would be in situ. We place the work in a certain space and are interested in the social discourse this produces. We also try involving the people associated with the particular space we choose in our projects, who may not be the people who go to art galleries. We set up a dialogue between the space, the people, and the art and are open as to what will ensue.
KOTZAMANI: Have you had to deal with sensitive issues in the projects you have undertaken?
LOCUS ATHENS: Yes. For example, for Disco Coppertone we solicited works on tourism from contemporary Greek and foreign artists. They explored the subject from conflicting perspectives, from tourism as fantasy to tourism as a product of capitalist industry. The...