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Destroy Athens > Art draws a pessimistic, dark view of life September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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‘Destroy Athens,’ the first contemporary art biennial held in the city, opened a few days ago at the Technopolis Art Complex

A mood of violence, annihilation, anguish and entrapment prevails in the first, much-awaited Athens biennial of contemporary art. Held under the provocative title “Destroy Athens” this is an exhibition that is intended to shatter stereotypes and predetermined notions that stifle our existence and limit man’s freedom.

Since, according to the exhibition’s catalog, “Athens is in itself an appropriate emblem for what we termed a stereotype,” several of the works included in the exhibition make reference to Athens, Greek history and culture. Yet this is not a biennial that intends to attack Greek history, the title is symbolic and broadly referential, but an exhibition that evokes concepts from existential philosophy and probes into the perennial question of existence and the search for the meaning of life. Although it is shaded with notes of optimism, overall it offers a dark vision of life filled with obstacles that deter self-fulfillment and challenge the power of will.

More than half of the artworks shown in the biennial were commissioned especially for the show. This includes all the works by the Greek artists and some large productions by foreign artists, most notably that of German artist Olaf Nicolai, who made a documentary on a late 19th century house which a man by the name of Alekos Rodakis built on Aegina. For many of the remaining works, Athens is their European or world premiere. Video art makes up a large part of the exhibition which, moreover, includes works by both established and younger artists.

Aside from the theoretical concept that the biennial makes a claim for, this is foremost an exhibition that succeeds in engaging the viewer and placing him in a particular mood. It is intelligently designed as a one-way route, a metaphor of our biological, forward-moving life’s course, which continues along the industrial, rough spaces of Gazi and along gray, concrete-built corridors covered with a wire net, they are the nets used for collecting olives, a subtle reference to Greek culture. Those that know what Technopolis looks like will be surprised to see an entirely different place. Taken on an almost underground journey and with limited exposure to daylight, the viewer is at no point offered a full view of what the Gazi architectural complex looks from the outside. But he is taken to some of the interiors that are used for the first time by the art exhibition and along rooms that vary in scale and architecture. This sense of surprise and constant change helps maintain the viewer’s excitement and pulls him through the exhibition’s dark mood.

Another factor that keeps the viewer’s interest alive is the exhibition’s story line. The three curators of the exhibition, art historian Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, artist Poka-Yio and arts writer Augustine Zenakos, the three curators also conceived the Athens biennial and should be credited for starting a contemporary art biennial in the city, have structured the exhibition around a six-chapter story, a metaphor for what the curators see as man’s course in life.

The story begins with destruction. The image of crumbling buildings in the video installation by German artists Julian Rosefeldt, the first of the exhibition’s works, sets the mood. These are real-life footage material showing the demolition of buildings in Germany just after WWII. Catastrophe as a reminder of the war or as a harbinger of a new beginning? The question is left open. Yet the multimedia, video installation by Void Network that follows, although a bit simplified, expresses hope by positing collective action and friendship as an effective reaction to world crises.

If the first chapter of the story is about destruction and a new beginning, the second is about how factors such as gender and age, history, ethnicity, culture and legends breed stereotypes and shape one’s identity. One of the most interesting works is a project by the British Otolith Group which reframes and presents a series of television series on Greece’s cultural heritage, interviews with intellectuals such as Michel Serres, Cornelius Castoriadis, Michel Serres and Iannis Xenakis appear, made by the French filmmaker Chris Marker in 1989. The series was produced by the Onassis Foundation which, according to the exhibition’s catalog, found the material insulting to Greek identity. As a result, the documentary was not widely distributed.

In “Proposition for a New Greek Sculpture,” made in the early 1960s by the late Nikos Kessanlis, whose inclusion in the exhibition is an apt homage to his contribution to Greek modernism, a bucket and a rag suspended from the ceiling capture a 60s tendency in art for contesting the stereotypical language of art and seeking unconventional ways of expression.

Folker de Jong’s monumental, figurative sculpture installation that resembles a mise-en-scene is one of the most eye-catching works in the section. Nearby, the drawings of American artist John Kleckner and Jannis Varelas are filled with motifs and figures drawn from mythology. Also of interest are the wall paintings of Stelios Faitakis, which use the style of Byzantine religious painting to tell the story of Socrates’ apology. In that same exhibition hall, a small drawing that Picasso made in the early 1950s in support of the liberation of the communist Manolis Glezos comes as a small, pleasant surprise. It is one of the exhibition’s numerous works that refer to Greece and its culture.

The story then moves on to how life in our private, domestic space shapes our awareness and identities. One’s domestic space is shown as both a refuge and a prison. The section includes a video by Gregor Schneider in which the depiction of corridors creates an ominous, constricting feeling, furniture whose upholstery is designed by Bjarne Melgaard, an eerie-looking sculpture by Robert Gober, drawings by Jan Freuchen, a table with an uneven surface by Pierre Joseph and a live performance, for the first four days of the biennial, by Georgia Sagri. The video by Thanassis Totsikas, which shows the recurrent image of the artist throwing up, is closer to hoax than to art. It is an unfortunate moment in an exhibition in which the average, quality standard of the works should be noted.

Indeed, not all of the works are of equal standing, something to be expected in such a large production. If “Destroy Athens” is about challenging stereotypes, then this is an occasion to also make us contemplate that what is presented as art is not always interesting or original. Sometimes it is should not even be counted as art. Contesting the myth of art and the artist is perhaps as useful as calling into question other stereotypes.

The next section is the exhibition’s most pleasant and a metaphor for respite and the isolated moments of happiness that bring hope to what is, according to the exhibition’s concept, a rather dark existence. An open-air installation by “assume vivid astro focus,” looks like a playground, subtly evokes the hippie era and is the only instance where the viewer is exposed to full sunlight. Another work is Torbjorn Rodland’s video featuring calming, serene images of young women in the countryside.

Extreme violence follows in the next section: skeletons dressed in rags in the installation by Aidas Bareikis, the urban debris in Kimberly Clark’s work or images of cosmogonic disaster in the drawings of Vassilis Patmios Karouk and the work of Martin Skauen make evil reappear. The violence in John Bock’s video is impossible to watch.

In the final section, violence fades but existential angst sets in. The confrontation of nothingness, the time wasted in trivialities, of life spent below one’s expectations becomes a haunting nightmare. The cell of Angelo, a real convict, in the work of the “art activist” group known as Temporary Services, brings back the exhibition’s recurring concept of constriction and entrapment. The hundreds of almost identical images of glasses of water that Peter Dreher has been painting every day for the past 30 years remind us that time is expendable. In the video by Eleni Mylonas, the corpse of a sheep washed up on the seashore confronts us with fatality. It is the epilogue to a course in which disaster and violence prevails.

In such a dark, almost nihilistic perception of reality, is there any room for hope and vision? Is man condemned to a Sisyphean, eternal and useless struggle? As an art exhibition, “Destroy Athens” is not the place to look for an answer. After all, this is art, not philosophy. It is where to look for sensations and not for intellectually rigorous thoughts. As such, the biennial is effective. It engages the viewer in a mood and helps raise life’s broader questions.

“Destroy Athens” which opened Sunday and has already been attended by international curators, artists and members of the foreign press and art magazines, writers from ArtForum, the Berliner Zeitung, Deutsche Zeitung, Art in America, Frieze and the Independent, among others, includes satellite, parallel projects held in this area of downtown Athens. These include the exhibitions “How to Endure,” curated by Tom Morton, and “Young Athenians,” curated by Neil Mulholland, as well as film and video projections, many of them held under the broader Remap KM project, as well as host of artistic events in the nearby Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos areas.

Counted among the supporters of the biennial is athens art review, www.athensartreview.org and artwave radio, www.artwaveradio.net as well as Greek art collectors and other individuals. A catalog is available in Greek and English. 

“Destroy Athens” at the Technopolis Art Complex in Gazi, Athens, through November 18. For more information visit > www.athensbiennial.org 

Two exhibitions remembering Jan Rozeboom September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Two exhibitions in Athens celebrate the work of the Dutch artist who died in Filiatra, Greece in 1982 > Jan Rozeboom was inspired by Greece’s landscapes and its people

Remembering a friend and artist, the Association of Friends of Jan Rozeboom has been busily organizing a series of exhibitions celebrating the life and work of the late Dutch artist who loved Greece.

While the first exhibition took place in Filiatra, in the Peloponnese, from August 5-18, the works are now on display in Athens at the Herakleidon, Experience in Visual Arts gallery as well as at the Dutch Institute.

“Portraits and the People of Greece” is currently being showcased at Herakleidon and includes about 20 paintings and drawings, while “Greek Landscapes” is on at the Dutch Institute, featuring watercolors and drawings. Both shows run to September 19. Essentially, the exhibitions commemorate the 25th anniversary of the artist’s death.

Born in the small Dutch city of Zutphen in 1945, Rozeboom studied at the School of Fine Arts in Arnhem. In the 1960s, the emerging artist followed the global craze for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and produced a series of portraits of the celebrated musicians.

Up to 1970, the artist’s work was defined by its abstraction and expressionism, while a year later, he entered a period of experimentation. In 1974, Rozeboom established himself in Rotterdam, working on large-scale paintings with elements of realism. Two years later, however, he abandoned the city and moved to a farmhouse with his partner in life, Agnes Raben.

In 1981, the couple traveled to Greece for the first time. Back in the Netherlands, Rozeboom created a series of works, acrylics, watercolors and drawings, of Greece, its landscapes and its people. They decided to return in the fall of the same year and rented a house in Filiatra. This is where in January, 1982, Rozeboom died suddenly of a heart attack.

Herakleidon, 16 Irakleidon Street, Thiseion, Athens, tel 210 3461981. For more information visit > www.herakleidon-art.gr.

The Dutch Institute in Athens, 11 Makri Street, Makriyianni, Athens, tel 210 9210760. Entrance to both exhibitions is free. For more information visit > www.nia.gr 

The godfather of modern flamenco in Greece September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Paco de Lucia plays his second of two Greek shows tomorrow at Thessaloniki’s Gis Theater

In a lengthy career that has yielded 25 albums to date, Paco de Lucia, back in Greece for two shows, has established himself as a progressive flamenco guitarist who has added further dimension and detail to the style’s tradition.

«I never distanced myself from the roots of my music because, had I done that, I’d lose myself. What I’ve tried to do is touch tradition with one hand and dig into other territories with the other in an attempt to discover new aspects that can be added to flamenco,» noted the Spanish guitarist, who played at the Athens’ Lycabettus Theater last night and performs a second show tomorrow in Thessaloniki at the Gis Theater.

Before de Lucia came on the scene, flamenco music was widely regarded as a musical style that accompanied dancers. The celebrated Spanish guitarist expanded the music’s reach further and even modernized the style’s instrumentation. De Lucia’s prolific output has earned him many awards and generated international fame. The Spaniard recorded his first album, «Dos Guitarras Flamencas,» in 1965, an outing that stuck firmly to tradition. A decade later, he began introducing improvisation into his work, as was highlighted on 1975’s «Fuente y Caudal» album. By this stage, flamenco guitar, previously a marginalized style, had developed into an international phenomenon. De Lucia’s role was instrumental, and there is no doubt that his enormous contribution has assured him a place in musical history. Following a five-year break from recordings, de Lucia’s most recent album, «Cositas Buenas,» a very well-received effort, was released in 2004.

Greece okays landmark demolition for Acropolis view September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Museums.
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parthenon_plaque.jpg  A plaque is placed in front of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis during the announcement of its classification at the top of a new list of European Cultural Heritage sites, on March 26, 2007.

Greece’s Culture Minister signed a decree allowing the demolition of historical landmark buildings in central Athens to improve the view for the new Acropolis Museum, a stone’s throw from the Parthenon, the Ministry said on Wednesday.

Despite protests from conservationists, Minister George Voulgarakis signed a decree allowing the demolition of an art deco building and a neo-classical property owned by the Oscar-award winning “Chariots of fire” composer Vangelis Papathanasiou.

Voulgarakis signed the legislation on August 30 ahead of a September 16 election and while public attention in Greece was riveted by raging forest fires which destroyed whole villages and killed more than 70 people.

“The minister took this decision under pressure ahead of the snap election and because the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) had already taken its decision,” the Culture Minister’s press officer Evgenia Migdou said.

The new Acropolis Museum, expected to open its gates in 2008 after years of delays, has spurred renewed efforts to bring the Parthenon Sculptures, known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles, back to Greece from the British Museum.

Greece’s Central Archaeological Council in July agreed that the two buildings could be demolished to improve the visual continuity between the Museum and the ancient Greek ruins of the Parthenon.

“We were surprised that the Minister had the peace of mind to make such a decision the week that the deadly forest fires raged in Olympia and across the country,” said Marina Kouremenou, owner of one of the two buildings.

The Ministry said opponents could still challenge the decision. “The owners of the buildings can still appeal to the KAS and to the courts if they think that a wrong decision was made,” Migdou said.

Greece makes the quarterfinals September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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European Champion through with encouraging 85-67 win over Portugal, now ousted

Vassilis Spanoulis was one of three Greek players to reach double-digit scoring figures. Greece next meets the loser of tonight’s game between Lithuania and Slovenia.

European Champion Greece advanced to the Eurobasket quarterfinals with an 85-67 win over Portugal last night that secured it third spot in Group E. In the quarterfinals, the Greek team will now meet the loser of tonight’s encounter between Lithuania and Slovenia, who both go into their last Group F game undefeated and looking for top spot.

Later last night, host and world champion Spain was due to take on Israel having already guaranteed top spot in Group E and its quarterfinal berth.

Should Greece and Spain both make it past the quarterfinals, they will meet in the semifinals for the second time in the tournament. Spain outplayed Greece for a 76-58 win in their Group E encounter after thrashing Greece last summer in the final for the world title.

Dimosthenis Dikoudis scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds as the Greeks dominated the post, outscoring their opponents 38-18 in the paint. Greece guard Dimitris Diamantidis was three-for-four from behind the three-point line and finished with 13 points, while Vassilis Spanoulis added 10. Joao Santos led Portugal with 17 points. Greece trailed 17-16 at the first break but gained momentum to lead 45-34 at halftime, and 64-47 at three-quarter time before winning by an 18-point margin.

Earlier last night, Russia beat Croatia 83-70 to end second in Group E. Despite the loss, Croatia sneaked through to the final eight by ending fourth in the group. Andrei Kirilenko scored 20 points yesterday to lead Russia. Davor Kus scored 17 points to lead Croatia, which could have earned it a place in the quarterfinals with a win.

More fundraising soccer today, Saturday September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Olympiakos will host a fundraiser against Red Star Belgrade today in support of victims of the country’s tragic wildfires that led to the loss of nearly 70 lives.

Panathinaikos, Iraklis and Panionios will also stage a one-day charity event on Saturday at Panathinaikos’s Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium. Last weekend, AEK, PAOK and Larissa led the fundraising cause with a three-way tournament of their own.

The Greek Super League, just one round into the new season, is currently on hold because of the National team’s Euro 2008 qualifying game tonight in Norway and the National elections this Sunday.

Free light bulbs to Cypriot households September 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
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Cyprus will distribute thousands of free energy-saving light bulbs to households to knock down its energy consumption by the end of the decade, officials said yesterday.

“It is part of a five-year plan aiming at an energy conservation of 1 percent yearly on energy consumption and reaching a total of 5 percent until the end of 2010,” Cypriot Commerce and Industry Minister Antonis Michaelides said.

The project is costing 1.88 million Cyprus pounds ($4.4 million). Solon Kassinis, Head of Cyprus’s Energy Service, said islanders needed to become more energy-conscious. “Cyprus comes first Europe-wide in the use of household irons. Cypriots even iron their underwear.”