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An artist goes beyond pain November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Retrospective exhibition on the work of Marina Abramovic, the famous exponent of performance art

Her grandfather was patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and was poisoned, along with King Peter I, by the monarch’s doctor in 1938. Her partisan father was a communist, an atheist and hero of the Second World War. Her mother became part of the Communist Party and during the 1960s was director of Belgrade’s Museum of Art and Revolution. She was recently buried with the honors of a general. It is almost ironic, but the family of Marina Abramovic, the famous art performer, is a microcosm of the recent history of Serbia.

Born in 1946 from contradictory gene pools, Abramovic is one of the most important exponents of performance art, a priestess of the medium who knows how to give the acts of everyday life the character of a ritual. One of her most well-known performances was in 1988 in collaboration with Ulay, her partner in life for many years. Each of them started a three-month walk along the Great Wall of China. Their meeting at the end of the walk symbolically marked their separation.

Almost 20 years since then, Abramovic retains her Balkan psyche untarnished and takes her performances to the edge as if there was no tomorrow. She has spent hours on end washing a human skeleton in a trough; she has consumed onions until her tears dried up; she has allowed the public at her performances to slash her body and point a gun at her; she has swallowed mental illness pills in front of her public and has fainted from lack of oxygen. In short, she has taken herself to extremes, not out of masochism but in order to help us realize certain fundamental things about life.

What will you be presenting in the Athens exhibition? > The exhibition is a mix of old and new works – videos and documentations of my performances, put together under the title “Present, Past, Present”. It coincides with a period in my life in which I am re-examining everything I have done until now. I have changed the way I work and have turned to performances that last much longer; my recent performances last days.

You have said that you love Greece because it reminds you of your country, without the pain. > It is true. Our psychology is similar. The religion, the food, the tendency to dramatize everything. I have made works that speak of the pain that I feel for my country. In “Balkan Baroque” the work that was awarded at the 1997 Venice Biennale, I lamented by scraping the bones of animals for days on end. The work speaks of all countries that are faced with war, not just Serbia. Picasso’s “Guernica” is not Spanish but universal and timeless.

Do you like living like a nomad and having no one country? > I love airplanes and hotel rooms. My home is the planet. I have owned a house in Amsterdam for the past 30 years but have only spent eight months there. I go where my work takes me. For some people, having no country and constantly roaming the world feels chaotic. For me, living this way can be extremely creative and awakening. I think that the root of most problems we face is taking things for granted and obeying to the rules that come with living in one place for too long.

How would you define a charismatic performer? Daring, sensitive to political issues, inventive? > The role that artists should play in society has not changed since the time of Michelangelo. Artists have to experiment, to raise issues and to work with honesty. There were always artists who believed that recognition is the same as money and fame. I have always told my students at the School of Fine Arts that if this is their aim, they will never find the meaning of art and it is best that they drop out of school. True artists do not give a dime for money or fame but are only guided by a burning, fever-like passion. Art feels like breathing, it is as vital as that.

Which do you see as your most important work? > I cannot single out one particular performance. Anyway, I have never looked to the past. But since my mother died, I have been reflecting on it… I always had difficulty communicating with my mother. She was a war hero and, after she divorced my father, she had imposed something like military law at home. I lived with her until I was 29 and during that time I staged the most radical, dangerous performances. I would cut my body up on stage but I would never get home after 10.30 at night. My mother taught me discipline and self-command. With time, my mother became proud of me.

What is the sense of family in the Balkans? > It is much more emotional. You never think of throwing your grandparents into an old people’s home. At a time of globalization, we are fortunate to still keep the old-fashioned sense of morality.

Why do you take your endurance to extremes? > When we do things that please us, we usually stay the same. But when we are challenged with an extreme situation, death, an incurable illness or an accident, then we become witness to a radical change within us. Happiness has nothing to teach us. In contrast, pain, suffering and obstacles can transform us, making us stronger and better; they make us realize the vital importance of living now and here.

Do you mean that we are absent from our own lives? > Today, we suffer from not taking the time to reflect seriously upon our needs. Our lives are like zapping through the channels on television, and the greatest problem is that we have not realized this. Instead of living our lives, we consume them. It takes much time and great commitment to really find out our true selves. This is the reason that in my recent performance I have been placing greater emphasis on time.

In recent years, the large international art exhibitions are full of works filled with cynicism and cruelty? What do you think of those works? > Nowadays MTV and advertisements use the language of the art performances of the 1970s. Back then, piercing your body or cutting yourself up was something authentic. Today it is part of lifestyle, fashion. Shocking the audience does not suffice. The point is not to frighten the viewer but to help him feel a certain spirituality, to help him become better. Artist Bruce Nauman used to say that art has to speak of life and of death. It sounds melodramatic but it is the truth. If you make a work of art with the sense that this is the last day of your life, with a vigor, responsibility and force that springs from that realization, then you might be able to produce something strong, to truly move your audience.

“Present, Past, Present” at the Kappatos Gallery, 12 Athinas Street, Athens, tel  210 3217931, to December 15.

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Presenting the best of the new November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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At the Thessaloniki Film Festival

The Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which is celebrating its 48th anniversary this year, will kick off this Friday and run to Sunday, November 25.

In the past 48 years, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which begins this Friday and runs to November 25, has blossomed from a domestic event geared at local industry to a regional force of international stature.

Last year the TIFF featured 230 films and sold 153,000 tickets. Some 100 members of the international press followed the event, and it was attended by about 500 industry representatives from around the globe.

Sponsorships, which account for one-third of the festival’s budget, have risen by approximately 20 percent this year. These are no mean figures under any standards, especially for a country the size of Greece.

Related Links > http://www.filmfestival.gr

Tough task for volleyball team at pre-Olympics tournament November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Baseball Handball Volleyball, Olympic Games.
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Greek squad, now rebuilding, focused on prospects, coach admits > Greece volleyball coach Alekos Leonis said he was viewing an upcoming pre-Olympics tournament in Rome between November 28 and December 2 as part of the rebuilding process. The Greek National Team made a first-round exit at the recent Europeans with one win and two defeats.

The men’s National volleyball team will need to produce miracles at an upcoming pre-Olympics tournament in Rome between November 28 and December 2, following a poor showing at the recent Europeans, if it is to stand a chance of reaching the next stage of pre-Olympics qualifying action.

In Rome, Greece and five other contestants will battle for one place at next January’s final-stage qualifying tournament in Turkey where the European zone’s berths for next year’s Beijing Games will be determined.

Greece coach Alekos Leonis, whose squad has just gathered for the Rome tournament, said he would treat the pre-Olympics tournament in Rome as an opportunity to build for the future.

“We’re looking at this pre-Olympics tournament as a continuation of the recent European Championships. We want to rectify the problems that existed,” said Leonis, whose team was eliminated in the first round at the recent Europeans in Russia following a win and two losses. “Italy rates as the favorite. If we play seriously, we will have laid a claim for the future. The transition toward renewal needs to be conducted smoothly. In recent months, we were joined by Costas Prousalis, Achilleas Papadimitriou and Theoklitos Karypidis. Our objective is to play well and achieve realistic goals, like qualification to the next Europeans. On the other hand, we also want to push forward young players,” added Leonis, who will be missing several players, sidelined by injury, in Rome.

Greece will face the Netherlands and Romania in one of the Rome tournament’s two groups. First or second place leads to criss-cross semifinals. Italy, Croatia and Montenegro make up the other group.

PAO beats AEK, takes over at top of Greek league November 12, 2007

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Panathinaikos hit top spot in Greek soccer’s first division for the first time in two-and-a-half-years last night with a 2-1 win at home over AEK, the league’s previous front-runner, in a toughly fought contest that produced fiery action and two red cards, one for each side.

For AEK, yesterday’s defeat was the second in a row following an unblemished start to the season with six consecutive victories. Panathinaikos, which has won just one league title over the past 11 years, in the 2003-2004 season, leads the standings with 19 points from eight games, one point ahead of AEK.

On Saturday, defending champion Olympiakos suffered a 1-0 defeat at newly promoted Asteras Tripoli, to slip to fourth place with 15 points. Thessaloniki club Aris moved up to third spot, a point ahead of Olympiakos, courtesy of a 2-1 away win against Atromitos. Aris ended the game with nine players and Atromitos with 10.

In the round’s other games, it was: Iraklis-Larissa, 1-1; OFI-Levadiakos, 1-2; Panionios-Xanthi, 3-2; PAOK-Ergotelis, 1-0; Veria-Apollon Kalamaria, 0-2.

Piraeus port an appealing investment for foreigners November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
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One of the companies to bid for the port of Piraeus is China’s Cosco. Its President has written to the Greek government asking it to pen privatization procedures for Piraeus and Thessaloniki ports.

A number of international giants in the areas of seaborne transport and port management, such as China’s Cosco, Italy’s MSC, Denmark’s Maersk, Saudi Arabia’s Dubai Ports World and Israel’s ZIM, have all expressed interest in investing in commercial Greek ports, with their targets including boosting container transit and upgrading the quality of and expanding current port services.

Recently, Maersk officials repeated their interest in the Port of Piraeus, noting however that they would wait for a fresh tender procedure to be announced. The tender, according to reports, may include certain changes in the requirements envisaged to bar the emergence of monopolies, which would otherwise have a negative impact on treating all of the interested companies on an equal footing.

Wei Jiafu, President of state-owned China Ocean Shipping Group Co (Cosco), is reported to have sent a letter to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, asking for the opening of privatization procedures for the country’s two largest ports.

Jiafu is said to have reiterated in his letter a Cosco proposal for investing in the Piraeus port, with regard to both the container station and land areas to be used for assembly operations of electrical appliances. China has repeatedly underlined its interest in the Piraeus port, wishing to transform it into a transit hub for Chinese products destined for the Balkans and the rest of Europe.

On the other hand, Italian-Swiss MSC, which has signed a contract with Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) and currently handles 70 percent of the port’s container operations, has announced it would use the rights it has now gained in the port, despite its contract having been disputed by the Competition Commission. The Commission is expected to issue a verdict by the end of the year and this could be critical for the future of the port’s privatization process.

Officials from ZIM, one of the largest container shipping companies in the world, have been making certain plans, insisting on their intention to raise container operations in the port of Piraeus by 100,000 containers on an annual basis. The Israelis have made it clear in a number of ways that their presence in Piraeus is imperative, given that they have been using the port in recent years as a second central port in cases of hostilities or industrial action taking place in their region.

The Piraeus Container Station (SEMPO) is seen as a fine investment by a number of foreign investors. The station contributes 75 percent to PPA’s turnover and 50 percent to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

The station’s current annual handling capacity stands at approximately 1.5 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units), but this would be raised to 4.5 million TEU under an eight-year investment plan, valued at 400 million euros. Most of the container operations at Piraeus port are currently taking place at Pier II, but construction of Pier I, currently under way, is expected to raise capacity.

An updated business plan for the container station includes the completion of the Pier I infrastructure, to be equipped with advanced container loading-unloading and stacking machinery to enable facilities to serve new-generation vessels of capacities of over 10,000 TEU. The plan also provides for the construction of a third pier, Pier III, valued at 450 million euros. The time schedule for the above projects is especially demanding, providing for the conclusion and full operation of the station by the year 2014. In addition, construction of a new railway station to be located within the port is expected to conclude in the early days of next year.

Cosmote is OTE’s shield against an aggressive takeover November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Telecoms.
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Telecom decides to buy cell network’s minority stakes, borrowing 2.9 billion euros > The clash between the government and OTE on the one side and Marfin Investment Group (MIG) on the other is culminating for the control of the country’s telecommunications giant.

The move to acquire minority stakes at leading cellphone network Cosmote on Friday created a barrier to the threat of an aggressive takeover attempt, but the corporation is going to get burdened with a new debt of 2.9 billion. This will be the cost of the acquisition of 33 percent of Cosmote, about 110 million shares, by its parent company.

The move was not at all popular with MIG. This was evident by the visit of the group’s Vice President, Andreas Vgenopoulos, on Friday afternoon to the office of the Chairman and CEO of OTE, Panagis Vourloumis. Vgenopoulos aggressively asked the OTE head to call off the meeting of the governing board of OTE which was going to start 90 minutes later, with the issue of the acquisition of minority stakes of Cosmote as the main subject.

Vourloumis, however, did not accept Vgenopoulos’s demand and on Friday afternoon the board members decided to acquire all Cosmote shares that did not already belong to the corporation through a public offering. OTE will pay 26.25 percent per Cosmote share. Shares are priced at a premium of 5 percent of the closing price on Thursday on the Athens Stock Exchange. Toward this end, OTE will proceed with the issuance of a loan jointly organized by four foreign banks, including Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

According to Vourloumis, the new borrowing by his company is not expected to hurt its credit rating. He informed the board that the ratio of borrowed to equity capital of the company will rise to 1.9 from 1.2 today. This, the OTE head suggested, is tolerable for a corporation the size of OTE’s.

Vourloumis also informed the board members that Cosmote will not be absorbed by OTE. He believes that the cellphone company would be better off if it stayed outside its parent firm, as it has reached a particularly satisfactory level of business operations and efficiency, which might be threatened in the case of an absorption attempt by the parent firm.

The same attitude, more or less, was followed by Deputy CEO Michalis Tsamaz when speaking on Friday to analysts on the occasion of the publishing of the nine-month results of Cosmote. He said that a closer relationship between the parent and subsidiary firm will allow the group to compete better with its multinational rivals, Vodafone and Wind.

The Vourloumis proposals on the Cosmote minorities were voted for by all board members except for Theodoros Veniamis, the member of the investment committee of MIG. He argued that such an issue should have been discussed at the extraordinary general meeting of OTE that had taken place two days earlier and not in the meeting of the board.

Yet the acquisition of the Cosmote minority stakes is a barrier to the threat of an acquisition move by OTE itself. The telecom shows low borrowing and as a result a candidate buyer would need to spend 2.5 billion to 3 billion to buy it out. As soon the buyers do that, they could then make OTE borrow money to give them their money back, in a leveraged buyout.

This is exactly what happened in 2006 with former TIM Hellas, now Wind, which was over-indebted with 3 billion euros with the main purpose being the offering of capital gains to its shareholders, who reaped them through capital returns. However, the new borrowing to which OTE is resorting may now render it less attractive for such an acquisition.

Yet this is not the only reason why OTE is spending 2.9 billion: The corporation’s administration was forced to make this decision as Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis had rejected the plan of acquiring the minority stakes of Cosmote through an OTE share exchange. In such a case, the stake that the state would have in OTE would become less, from 28 percent to about 24 percent, which is something the government is not prepared to discuss.

One of the chapters in the book of international financial reporting standards (IFRS) that defines the meaning of “associate business entity” was under scrutiny by OTE legal advisers in the last few days, as it almost describes the company’s relation to MIG.

The IFRS say that “a business entity is considered associate if the investor has significant influence on it even if it is not a subsidiary or part of a common business platform.” So how is “significant influence” defined? According to IFRS, this applies when the investor owns 20 percent of voting rights. There is, however, an alternative definition: “The investment may be smaller than 20 percent, as long as this influence can be clearly proven.”

Slowly, the situation becomes clearer as it is obvious that this can happen in more than one way: either by representation on the governing board or a similar administrative entity, or by participation in policy-making procedures. This in effect also means participation on the governing board.

This is the way OTE managers interpreted the persistence by MIG to acquire representation on the corporation’s board. In this fashion MIG could acquire “significant influence,” characterize OTE as its associate business entity and include it in its financial report. At least that is the interpretation given by OTE.

They would therefore have to deal with a stakeholder who would control more than 15 percent of their share capital and at the same time participate on the board and its key decisions, so as to exercise significant influence and proceed with an economic merging.

What would this mean? Simply, that MIG could incorporate OTE into its single financial report, add the corporation profits or capiralization to its own. Effectively, OTE would be like a subsidiary of MIG, which would cause great alarm at OTE headquarters. That is what drove the OTE board to its decisions on Friday. 

This Week in Greece > conferences and shows November 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Shows & Conferences.
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Monday >

The Hellenic Management Association (EEDE) and the Economic Chamber of Greece host a conference on «Modern Leadership & Development of Human Resources» starting at 6.30 p.m. at the Pancretan Cooperative Bank, 5 Ikarou Street, Iraklion, Crete. For information call 2810 263351.

The Greek Bank Association is hosting an exhibition titled «Consumer Loans – Cards» at the Athens Syntagma metro station. The exhibition will be open to the public from 2 to 9 p.m. on Monday and from 8 to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday. For details visit > www.hba.gr.

The seventh Bank Management Conference on «Transformation for Innovation, Shaping Next Practices» begins at the Athinaida Conference Center, Athens. For information call 210 6617777 or visit > www.bankmanagement.gr.

Tuesday >

The Express Kalofolias Group hosts the first Ecofinance Forum, starting at 9.30 a.m. at Zappeion’s Aigli Conference Centre, Athens. Development Minister Christos Folias will make the opening address. For details call 210 6172809.

The Hellenic Migration Policy Institute (IMEPO) and the British Council host an exhibition titled «City Streets» opening at 8 p.m. at the Evnardou Megaron, 20 Aghiou Constantinou Street, Athens. For information call 210 2711721.

Wednesday >

The Greek-American Chamber of Commerce and the Greek Association of Branded Products Manufacturers (ESVEP) host a conference on «Branding: Branded Goods, Adding Value for the Consumer» starting at 4 p.m. at the Ethniki Insurance Conference Center, 101-103 Syngrou Avenue, Athens. Development Minister Christos Folias will speak. For information call 210 6993559 or visit > www.amcham.gr.

The Technical Chamber of Greece hosts a conference on «The Protection of Natural Sources» starting at 6.30 p.m. at National Bank of Greece’s Theodoros Karatzas Amphitheater, Athens. For information call 210 3291252-4 or visit > www.tee.gr.

The German Embassy in Athens and Athens International Airport present the exhibition «Renewables in Germany» strarting at 11 a.m. at the Athens Airport. The exhibition will run through November 25. For information call 210 7285222.

Thursday >

The Educational Research Center and the Education Ministry host a conference titled «The Quality of Educational Work: System & Interventions» at 10 a.m. at the Divani Caravel Hotel, Athens. To Friday. For information call 210 3312406 or visit > www.kee.gr.

The Greek Logistics Association hosts the 11th «Logistics» congress, starting at 9 a.m. at Zappeion Hall, Athens. To Friday. For information call 210 3216014 or visit > www.eel.gr.

The IDC Business Intelligence conference 2007 begins at 9 a.m. at the Ledra Marriott Hotel, Athens. For details visit > www.idc-cema.com.

The Greek-Swedish Chamber of Commerce hosts a conference titled «The Athens Stock Exchange: Development, Modernization and Globalization. The Challenges of the Next Day» at 7.30 p.m. at the Ledra Marriott Hotel, Athens. The head of the Athens bourse, Spyros Kapralos, will be the keynote speaker. For information call 210 6084399 or visit > www.hellenic-swedishcc.gr.

Friday >

The University of Patras hosts the fifth Diabetes Congress, titled «Diabetes: Past-Present-Future» at 3 p.m. on its Campus in Patras. To Sunday. For details visit > www.upatras.gr.

The eighth aluminium congress, titled «Aluminium, Constructions and Products» opens at the Creta Maris – Terra Maris Hotel in Iraklion, Crete. To Sunday. For details visit > www.alunet.gr.

The seventh sales congress, titled «Conditions and Changes in the Greek Market» begins at 9 a.m. at the Goulandris Museum in Kifissia, Athens. For information call 210 6202083 or visit > www.bthere.gr.