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Parthenon restorers use lasers July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Experts restoring some of the ancient glory of the Acropolis in Athens have been using modern laser techniques to clean away pollution from the 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles.

Using a new technology that combines lasers with microwaves, restorers hope to clean  the  16 remaining figures that once adorned the Parthenon in time to display the sculptures for the opening of the new Acropolis museum in 2007.

The statuary is a series of sculptures in a frieze that once adorned the upper sections of the Parthenon in Athens. Sixteen segments remain in Greece, while 17 are at the British Museum in London and are also called the Elgin Marbles.

“It will be done with a pioneering method that is being put into effect — maybe for the first time — with lasers, but also with a combination of two microwaves,” says Maria Ioannidou, head of the Acropolis monuments restoration team. Ms. Ioannidou says it will be the first time lasers and microwaves are used together for such cleaning.

After two years of practising on other marbles, the Central Archeological Council recently gave approval for the method. The cleaning will take about 1½ months for each of the marbles in Greek hands.

The remaining 17 marbles in Britain have been long sought by Greece. Britain has for decades refused to give them back. Greece hopes to repatriate them, where they will be housed as a totality in a special wing of a new Acropolis Museum.

The marbles were stolen from the Acropolis in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

New life for Greek isle of banishment July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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Once a place of banishment for Communists and a target for naval guns, the Cyclades island of Yaros now has a future as a tourist destination.

A project has been announced to improve the island’s port, tourist and cultural attractions, while Yaros would be dedicated to “the Greek people and their history”.

From 1945 to 1974, when the Greek Communist party was outlawed, Yaros was used as a banishment island for any Greek national suspected of being a Communist. As such, it occupies a similar place in Greek consciousness as Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela spent most of his imprisonment, did for South Africans.

Now that the navy no longer needs the island, part of the Cyclades chain south of the Greek mainland, as a firing range, residents have pushed for it to become a cultural destination for both Greek and foreign tourists.

Other islands in the Cyclades, such as Mykonos, Ios and Naxos, are popular destinations for thousands of holidaymakers each summer.

Theatre > Casualties of war July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Americas.
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Troilus and Cressida

Directed by David Mackay

Written by William Shakespeare

Starring Allan Gray, Jennifer Lines, Chad Hershler, Gerry Mackay

Let us be fair. Troilus and Cressida is at a disadvantage to other Shakespearean plays since a) neither Mel Gibson nor Al Pacino has starred in a screen adaptation, b) Baz Luhrmann hasn’t apparently heard of it and c) the general public refuses to speak the play’s name for fear of mispronouncing it. These are heavy crosses.

By all reports, the Bard’s contemporaries didn’t care for Troilus, either. The play is about the confused and ignoble effects of war, and even the structure, sprawling and oppressive, mimics its sullied content. Bard on the Beach should be commended for placing this often-ignored work on the dance card.

Two plots run concurrently in the labyrinthine narrative. First, we have military exploits in the seventh year of the Trojan War, which director David Mackay transposes into the American Civil War, complete with Kentucky Fried gentlemen, southern belles and some unfortunately muddled accents. Achilles (Gerry Mackay) has lost interest in the war and prefers to cavort with his male lover, Patroclus (a fawning but sweet Torrance Coombs).

Barely connected to this dalliance of Achilles is the story of one woman who just can’t say no. Cressida (an exquisite Jennifer Lines) is in love with the prince of Troy, Troilus (Chad Hershler). She is aided by her uncle, Pandarus (Allan Gray), in securing alone time with her hunk. Gray is masterful as a southern dandy, and the only actor who convinced me that the Civil War gimmick could work in this play.

Traditionally, Cressida is portrayed as a turncoat. When she is torn from the arms of Troilus and traded to the Greeks in exchange for prisoners of war, she loses no time in getting intimate with the enemy. But director Mackay, using a feminist interpretation that only partly makes sense, has Lines deliver a redeemable Cressida, whose concessions to the Greeks/Union soldiers represent a stalwart survivalism.

Love is squashed by the demands of war, and when Achilles goes on a vengeful rampage upon finding his slain lover’s body, we find that war can be squashed by the demands of love. Both forces collapse into ruthlessness and tyranny.

“This is the monstrosity of love,” Troilus says to Cressida, “that the will is infinite and the execution confined.”

This is not a date play. Bard on the Beach’s final offering for the 2006 season is a salty tale better suited for war vets and seasoned divorcees. While director Mackay gives us the despair of Troilus, he neglects to uncover, among the windbags and brutes, the patches of sense or beauty that might render the darkness more terrible by comparison.

Troilus and Cressida runs to Sept. 21. Tickets are $17 to $29.50. Studio Stage, Vanier Park, Canada, 604-739-0559.

Editor’s Note > Article by Michael Harris, Copyright The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved. 

You can’t stop an old master (from rock and roll) July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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James Brown, ‘hardest-working man in show business’ here for gigs in Athens, Thessaloniki > Brown plays Athens Sunday and Thessaloniki Monday, with no day off.

Some of those old music masters never seem to stop, and they probably won’t until old age either incapacitates them or sends them to the other world.

Now 73, James Brown, who is to perform two shows in Greece over the next few days, beginning with the Lycabettus Theater in Athens this Sunday and followed by the Gis Theater in Thessaloniki the following night (with no day off in between for the aging performer) hasn’t really stopped since getting started in the early 1950s, except for when he’s been forced to by the law.

There have been a few well-publicized detrimental periods in the life of the “Godfather of Soul” or “Mr Dynamite,” just two of many titles bestowed upon the man who’s artistic career now spans five decades. One of the worst crises in his personal life arose in the late 80s, when his wife filed charges for assault and battery. Not long afterward, the artist was also involved in an interstate car chase with police after allegedly threatening people with a gun. Brown ended up behind bars but was paroled after serving two years of a six-year sentence.

No major turmoil has since been reported in the life of Brown. And, amid the seemingly quieter life, there haven’t been any important album releases either from this contemporary music great. Which isn’t necessary anyway from an artist who has contributed volumes and volumes of material, some of it groundbreaking, to Afro-American music. The lasting effect of it all, and Brown’s legendary stage charisma, continue to make him a concert highlight, despite the questionability, these days, of the man’s once unrivaled showtime stamina.

Brown has been credited as a key figure in turning R&B into soul.

Brown’s early R&B style intensified by the 60s with the inclusion of more complex, Latin and jazz-influenced rhythms to his work. His “Live at the Apollo” album release of 1963 took Brown’s scintillating showmanship and sound beyond already-acquainted Afro-American circles and into the mainstream. He was also largely responsible for dropping soul into the early funk styles of the late 60s and early 70s. Since the mid-70s, however, Brown has done little more than tread water artistically, but Mr Dynamite’s music has remained greatly influential, as highlighted by the numerous samples of Brown’s voice and rhythms used by hip-hop acts.

Global and local in art July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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‘The Saint’ (2003), a photograph by Mariana Matthews, is on display at the exhibition on Chilean art.

At a time when trends in contemporary art are extending all over the world and becoming globalized, it is interesting to think about whether art has features distinctive to the country in which it is produced. Does French art differ from Greek, Spanish or US art? And, if not, what is the value of exhibitions that present an overview of a country’s contemporary art scene?

Two exhibitions currently on display at the Benaki Museum, one on Chilean art and the other on French art, and an exhibition on contemporary Danish art that was held at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center as part of Danish cultural events held early this the summer in Athens, present an occasion to ponder such a question.

The tradition that Scandinavian countries have had in nurturing societies that promote social, democratic welfare has sensitized artists in addressing issues related to sociopolitical issues. According to Katerina Gregos, the curator of the exhibition “Regarding Denmark” (she was also recently appointed artistic director of Argos, a center for art and media in Brussels), the fact that Denmark and other Scandinavian countries are gradually veering toward neo-liberal, conservative politics, is triggering this political sensitivity, making it even more pronounced. This political response to the transformations taking place in Danish society prevails in “Regarding Denmark,” an exhibition that is not intended as a generalized presentation of Danish art but aimed at highlighting a particular area of Danish contemporary art practice.

As with most contemporary art that carries a political message, most of the works had a documentary-like quality with content prevailing over form. Almost all the works were more forceful as texts and less so as images.

Several Danish artists expressed their social and political sensitivity by making process-oriented and community-based works. An example is the work of Superflex, a group involved in projects aimed at fostering social egalitarianism. The bold lettering reading “Foreigners, Please Don’t Leave Us Alone with the Danes,” presented as a panel in the exhibition, was meant as a criticism of xenophobia.

Other artists included in the exhibition were Jakob Kolding, Lars Mathsen, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen and Kirstine Roepstorff.

Contrary to the exhibition on Danish art, “Profils, 15 Years of Artistic Production in France,” which is curated by Philippe Piguet and presented in the Benaki exhibition (it was shown at Istanbul’s Pera Museum earlier this spring), does not isolate any particular aspect as distinctive to contemporary French production. The exhibition’s curator writes of the plurality and diversity of French art, an aspect that also echoes a more general tendency in contemporary art that favors globalized rather than local characteristics.

The 70 works by 40 artists that are presented in the exhibition come from France’s national and regional collections of contemporary art (FNAC and FRAC, respectively), both state ventures that are aimed at promoting contemporary art and showing the art of the provinces.

In the exhibition, one will see the surreal photographs of Philippe Ramette, the black-and-white, large photographic portraits of Valerie Belin, the paintings that Philippe Cognee makes by using the encaustic technique, or the deserted but calm landscape in the painting of Adam Adach.

Curated by Patricia Ready, “Chilean Art, Crossing Borders” is the largest survey exhibition of contemporary Chilean art (it includes works by 78 artists) to have toured international museums.

To a European, many of the works presented will seem more ethnic or culturally specific. Examples include “Thanks to Life,” a bust made out of yarn and knots that Isabel Margarita Perez made by using a pre-Columbian technique, Ester Chacon’s sculptures of knotted fibers or Hugo Marin’s totemic-like sculptures.

The exhibition is structured along themes with landscape painting being one of the most prevalent.

Other sections in the exhibition highlight turning points in the course of postwar Chilean art. The inclusion of Matilde Perez, for example, underlines the importance of the Rectangulo group, which pioneered abstract, geometric art in Chile during the 50s.

The richest and most encompassing exhibition of the three, “Chilean Art” brings contemporary art from a distant region of the world to Europe. Although diversity is what typifies the exhibition, the viewer will find distinctive Chilean features in some of the works, whether in reference to the political situation or aesthetically.

The more distant from the main European centers of art, the more “different” the artistic work is likely to appear to us. The question of whether there is Chilean, French or Danish art therefore invokes a different answer depending on who is posing it. Arguably, some distinctive aspects do apply, yet one should appraise them without falling into the trap of labeling and stereotyping.

“Chilean Art, Crossing Borders” to August 20, and “Profils, 15 Years of Artistic Production in France” to September 3. At the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum (138 Pireos & Andronikou street, 210 3453338).

Greek designer Kokosalaki takes over at Vionnet July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Fashion & Style.
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‘A great honor and tremendous responsibility’

In an age when everything has been said, designed and done, rewriting fashion history is a challenge many designers face around the globe. Right now, a gifted Greek is coming face to face with one of fashion’s great legacies. Sophia Kokosalaki, the 33-year-old Greek-born, London-based designer, was appointed creative director at Madeleine Vionnet earlier this month. Vionnet, the pioneering French 20th century designer celebrated for her fashion innovations, which included the bias cut, is credited with giving women a sense of freedom through fluid designs.

“It’s a great honor and a tremendous responsibility. Madeleine Vionnet has always been a reference point for fashion designers,” said Sophia Kokosalaki in a recent interview.

“Sophia Kokosalaki has always used her Greek heritage to explore the concepts of drape and shape. It makes good sense that she should be the creative director of Madeleine Vionnet, because the designer was so influenced by Grecian drapes, as well as inventing the concept of bias cutting,” said Suzy Menkes, the fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune.

The Vionnet legend rests upon a unique vision of fashion architecture and sculpture, in which garments follow the movement of the body. For the wider public, the Vionnet style was linked to the original glamour of the silver screen, the late designer’s creations having been associated with the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

“The choice of Kokosalaki is very relevant, not because she works on the drape, but because she walks in the steps of Vionnet in the sense that she experiments with the dress and the fabric in a very free way, as well as having the heritage of Greek beauty. Vionnet created the absolute dress; she stood for absolute simplicity,” said fashion historian and Vionnet expert Lydia Kamitsis, also of Greek descent.

The Madeleine Vionnet fashion house was established in Paris in 1923 on Montaigne Avenue and added a branch on New York’s Fifth Avenue in 1925. Business flourished and the company grew to employ no fewer than 1,200 seamstresses. Vionnet signed her last collection in 1939, and the house was acquired by the De Lummen family in 1988. Intensely private and keeping a low profile, traits she shared with the label’s new designer, Vionnet quietly passed away in 1975. (more…)

Expansion of metro ethernet network July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web.
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Huawei wins bid to build metro ethernet network in Greece

Huawei has bagged a contract to build an IP DSLAM broadband access and broadband bearer metro ethernet network for Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) in Greece.

This contract is reported to be the biggest in OTE’s IP DSLAM broadband access and metro ethernet network construction till date. Under the contract, Huawei will provide OTE with ADSL2+ IP DSLAM access equipment of 200,000-line capacity and metro ethernet equipment to build approximately 100 nodes in two Greek cities, Athens and Thesalonniki.

Based on this new network, OTE hopes to provide its residential users with high-speed internet access service, with IPTV and triple play services to be introduced in the future. The company also hopes to provide ethernet private-line service to group customers, such as government, enterprises and banks.