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A forest made of modern sculpture February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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Athens first exhibition stop of touring Simon Spierer collection > Spierer wanted the installation of his collection to resemble a forest.

Simon Spierer, an Italian-born art collector of Jewish descent, used to say that he could not imagine his life without art. In the beginning, that art was paintings, then sculpture. Spierer had built up a substantial collection of 20th-century painting but sold it in its entirety to focus on sculpture. His collection includes 40 works by some of the most classic, prominent names in the history of modern sculpture, among them are Jean Arp, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Andre Masson, Isamu Noguchi, Henry Moore, Tony Cragg, Louise Bourgeois, Anthony Caro and Constantin Brancusi.

08-02-08_henry_moore.jpg  Henry Moore’s ‘Three-Quarter Figure: Lines’ (82.5×31.5×25.5 cm), a bronze sculpture from 1980. Moore is one of the 40 prominent sculptors represented in the Simon Spierer collection. Among them there are also two Greek names: Takis and Yiannis Avramidis. 

A year before he died in 2005, Spierer donated his collection to the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, Germany. To make the collection better known internationally, the museum, which is temporarily closed due to restoration work, decided to organize (in collaboration with the Institute for Cultural Exchange in Tubingen) a touring exhibition. Athens is the first stop (to April 14). “A Forest of Sculptures, Collection Simon Spierer,” which opened yesterday at the Athinais Cultural Center and is curated by Takis Mavrotas, is an impressive display of classic, modern sculpture. The sculptures have been arranged close to one another to create the idea of a forest of sculptures: This was how Spierer wanted his collection to be shown and is how it is displayed at its home museum.

The show resembles more of a open-air installation, is more engaging than a conventional display and effective in giving the elegant, monumental sculptures an even livelier presence. Spierer’s portrait by Andy Warhol is the only painting.

It seems that Spierer had an inherently trained eye for art. Born in Italy, he fled at an early age to Switzerland to avoid the fascist persecutions (his mother and sister, who remained in Trieste, were taken to a concentration camp) and subsequently worked in the USA. Spierer made his fortune in the tobacco business and lived in Hamburg and Geneva. He began collecting art in the 1950s. In the 60s, he and his companion, Marie-Louise Jeanneret, opened an art gallery in Champel, close to Geneva. In Boissano, an area between Genoa and San Remo, Italy, they established a center for the arts, a workshop and residency that drew famous artists from all over the world. When Marie-Louise died in 1994, he closed the gallery. His decision to donate his collection to a museum was a long-held wish. Spierer was a man with an appreciation of and love for art. The touring exhibition that begins in Athens now makes his vision known worldwide.

Athinais Cultural Center, 34-36 Kastorias Street, Votanikos, Athens, tel 210 3480000.

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Through the streets of Paris and Berlin with Ute Lemper, a musical journey February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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The striking German performer returns to Greece for two shows at the Athens Concert Hall

‘I like breathing fresh air into old songs,’ she said. ‘I try to approach them realistically and not romantically, because the artists who gave great interpretations had experienced all that the verses describe… They sang about life, after life itself had crushed them,’ said Lemper ahead of her upcoming performances.

At first I was quite suspicious of the “Ute Lemper phenomenon,” when I read articles that described her as a wonderful interpreter, an excellent dancer and a brilliant actress. That was until I saw her perform at the Herod Atticus Theater a few years ago where I was enthralled by her great conduct, her expressiveness, her ease and grace as well as her communication skills that captivated the entire audience. I don’t think there was one person that wasn’t taken by her that evening.

Later I looked into her recordings and came across gems like her tributes to Kurt Weill, the album “Illusions” for her two great loves, Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, as well as “Punishing Kiss” where she sings songs that were written for her by Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Scott Walker and Elvis Costello. I also noticed her takes on acting, the most notable moments being in Peter Greenaway’s “Prospero’s Books” and Robert Altman’s “Pret-a-Porter”.

The 45-year-old German artist returns to Greece with the program “Angels over Berlin and Paris” which she will present at the Athens Concert Hall on February 11 and 12. 

“It is a new production I have made especially for the Greek public. I am trying to continue from where I left off. It is a journey in space and time. I will wander through old and modern Paris, through the streets of Edith Piaf and through Berlin at the time of the Cold War, at the time of division and reunion, in the Berlin of Marlene Dietrich. I will also present some of my work in between great songs, it will be my look at these two cities that have left their mark on me.”

Lemper is a fearless performer. She has tackled demanding songs by Kurt Weill, Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prevert, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach, Jacques Brel, Hanns Eisler and, of course, Edith Piaf.

“I like breathing fresh air into old songs,” she said. “I try to approach them realistically and not romantically, because the artists who gave great interpretations had experienced all that the verses describe. They lived through war, violence, the weakness of happiness, death and the search for love. They sang about life, after life itself had crushed them. I am often asked if our era can create such great performers. My answer is that anybody who is politically alive, who is angered or saddened by current events, can get up on stage and sing about all the non-privileged people, those who struggle to live.”

When asked what makes her angry, she replied that the list is very long. “We could talk for hours. People have always been in danger, we have always had terrorism and there was no time when a war didn’t start in the name of religion. The difference is that today people are more polluted and I am not referring to the environment, I am talking about people’s ‘polluted’ souls.”

The past few years, Lemper has become a New Yorker. She lives there with her three children, spends a lot of time reading and listens to music ranging from Tom Waits’s early recordings to Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello. She talks passionately about the need for change in American politics and she is worried about the religious extremism of a segment of fanatic Christians in the US. She becomes optimistic with her children, especially her youngest, a 2-year-old boy, and is writing music and lyrics for her new album set for release in the next few months.

“I have been working on that album for two-and-a-half years,” she said. “It is my poetical observation on the world and I want people to listen to it as a complete story. I would like to point this out, because most of us now buy specific songs from iTunes; few are interested in concept albums these days.”

Those lucky enough to see Lemper in the role of Velma Kelly in “Chicago” or that of Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award and the Moliere Award respectively, may well wonder why she does not do musicals more often.

“I am not interested. Broadway has become like Disneyland. There are only a few shows that are really worthwhile, the rest is just a tourist attraction.” She wasn’t too optimistic about the infamous Berlin cabaret either. “The city is no longer ‘exotic’ in the sense of all those fringe groups that breathed life into the cabaret scene. Today’s Berlin is glamorous. It is not suitable for authentic cabaret, but has an amazing theater scene.”

Hopeful Dutch jazz act in Athens for club shows February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Greek.
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Marzio Scholten and his quartet play two more shows at the Jazz Upstairs/Guru Bar tonight and tomorrow.

Hailing from the Netherlands, young musician Marzio Scholten rates as a worthy prospect on the European jazz circuit. The Dutchman, a guitarist who studied in Amsterdam and has written music for film and television, played his first of three shows at Jazz Upstairs/Guru Bar last night. The visiting musician, here with his quartet – Floris van der Vlugt (saxophone), Lucas Dols (bass) and Bob Roos (drums) – also performs at the venue tonight and tomorrow. Most of the set list is from a forthcoming album, «Motherland» scheduled for release in June.

The Dutchman’s work sounds fresh and pure but he cites the intensity of fusion acts as a major influence. «There’s a musical game constantly going on between us at the live shows, and, generally, our concerts are very fiery and intense,» Scholten said.

Born in Spain in 1982, Scholten, like most youngsters of his generation, grew up listening to pop and rock music. «My father turned me on to the blues, which excited me because of the guitar’s importance in this music,» said Scholten. «Then, my music teacher suggested that I try something more demanding and guided me to jazz. I really liked it because you have the freedom you get with the blues, but within a more harmonic framework. It’s been the music I’ve played ever since. But that doesn’t mean that I only like jazz. I like good music.»

Scholten described his work as «modern creative jazz.» «Everybody in the quartet is on the same wavelength, which really does help,» he said. «Our generation grew up on rock, hip-hop and so on. I think that, subconsciously, we’re bringing all these elements into our music, which is why young people like it.»

When the discussion turned to the music industry’s future trends in the era of the Internet and extensive downloading, Scholten appeared troubled.

«Recordings are a wonderful part of music, and we need them. As I see it, live music is the best way to plunge deeply into music and I think that jazz always relied on live performing, and will continue to do so. I don’t think that the Internet and downloading will have a negative effect on the situation,» Scholten remarked. «The Internet is a great channel for getting your music to large audiences, and people who download your music can end up attending one of your shows. That’s very important. Of course, there’s a difference between legal and illegal downloading. Musicians ought to get paid for the music they play.»

Jazz Upstairs/Guru Bar, 10 Theatrou Square, Athens.

An unusual architectural presentation February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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The grandson of Alexandros Tombazis recently asked his mother, “Was Grandpa ever young?” That was how Tombazis, for many the most acclaimed modern Greek architect, opened his lecture at the Athens Concert Hall earlier his week.

It may seem like an unusual start to a lecture but Tombazis wanted to give an unusual lecture, divided into two parts. In the first, he addressed the “new generation” of architects, many of whom were present. In the second part, he gave a detailed presentation of the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity in Fatima, Portugal, which is considered of great importance and was inaugurated last October in the presence of 200,000 people. Tombazis conveyed the philosophy behind his career, which spans half a century, in an original way. A pioneer of bioclimatic architecture, he talked a lot about climate change and architects’ responsibilities as well as the era of narcissism and concluded that “there is no architecture without restrictions.”

08-02-08_church_in_fatima.jpg  In the part of the presentation on the church, Tombazis pointed out the difficulties brought about by the square in front of the church, which is eerily quiet during the day but abuzz when half a million worshippers show up.

Greece’s Intracom to build wireless telecom network in Syria February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Telecoms.
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Syria and a Greece’s Intracom yesterday signed an agreement under which the Greeks would build a backup wireless telecommunications network for usage if the country’s telecommunication system stops functioning, reported the state-run SANA news agency.

The agreement between the Syrian government and Greece’s Intracom Holdings was signed in Damascus by a representative of the Greek Foreign Ministry and Syria’s Communications Minister Imad Abdul-Ghani Sabbouni. SANA said the project, which will cost 40 million euros, will take 22 months to build. Under the contract, Intracom will build a “national wireless network that provides public institutions with emergency and disaster communications and a substitute communication, in case land and cellular telecommunication stop functioning.”

Intracom Holdings is one of Southeastern Europe’s largest technology groups, with operations in 19 countries.

Transport tickets simplified February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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Transport authorities announced yesterday that an 80-cent ticket will be introduced on all modes of public transport and that the cost of monthly travel cards will be cut in a bid to tempt more Athenians onto trains, trams and buses.

A bi-ministerial committee decided that the simplification of ticket prices on Athens’s public transport system would help boost passenger numbers. At present, ticket prices on the metro, Athens-Piraeus electric railway, buses, trolley buses and tram are all different. There is a 1-euro ticket that allows passengers to use any form of transport in a 90-minute period.

As of May 1, however, this ticket will be priced at 80 cents and all other tickets will no longer be issued.

This will represent a 60 percent rise for passengers who use just buses or trolley buses. Tram riders will be forced to fork out 33 percent more and electric railway passengers will cough up 14 percent more. There will be no change for metro passengers.

However, transport officials believe that more passengers will benefit from the fact that they will be able to use more than one form of public transport for 90 minutes and only pay 80 cents.

The prices of monthly travel cards will also be cut with the aim of offering better value for the money to commuters. A monthlong ticket that can be used on the entire public transport network will cost 35 euros, instead of 38, from May 1. The price of a monthly pass for buses and trolley buses will be reduced from 17.50 to 15 euros.

These adjustments are the latest in a series of measures to encourage wider use of public transport in Athens. Another scheme, the extension of the hours of service on the electric railway and metro until after 2 a.m. on weekends, is due to begin tonight.

Church of Greece elects a moderate new Αrchbishop February 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Religion & Faith.
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Soft-spoken reformist Ieronymos, Bishop of Thebes, chosen in 2nd vote

08-02-08_archbishop_ieronymos.jpg  The newly elected Archbishop of Athens, Ieronymos, holds up a cross as he emerges yesterday from Athens Cathedral, where he was chosen to succeed the late Christodoulos. Ieronymos, 70, is seen as a reformist but more soft-spoken than his predecessor. Ieronymos had been runner-up to Christodoulos in the 1998 elections.

Senior Orthodox clerics yesterday elected a moderate and popular churchman, Bishop Ieronymos of Thebes, to succeed Archbishop Christodoulos, who died last month.

Ieronymos, who had been a runner-up to Christodoulos in the last Archbishopric elections in 1998, was appointed following two rounds of voting at Athens Cathedral.

The 70-year-old cleric, from Viotia in central Greece, garnered 45 out of 74 votes in the first round, compared to 27 votes for his key challenger Bishop Efstathios of Sparta. Ieronymos got 33 in the first round, missing the minimum 38-vote mark.

When a lamp lit up outside the cathedral, indicating that a new Archbishop had been chosen, hundreds of supporters and clerics clapped and cheered. Ieronymos greeted supporters briefly upon emerging from the cathedral before walking on foot to the Archbishop’s residence in Plaka. He then led a service in memory of Christodoulos at the First Cemetery.

Senior Church figures and politicians welcomed the election of the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, considered a reformer but less outspoken and media-savvy than Christodoulos.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox faithful who had clashed frequently with Christodoulos, welcomed the development. «My esteem for (Ieronymos) is great and longstanding and my hopes for cooperation with him in solving the problems of the Orthodox Church are even greater,» Vartholomaios said. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis also sang the Bishop’s praises. «His faith, devotion to the Church… worthiness and experience will serve him well in his historic mission,» Karamanlis said.

Ieronymos, who holds several degrees from Greek and foreign universities, had criticized as «extreme» the mass rallies organized by Christodoulos in 2000 to protest the state’s decision to delete the reference to religion on citizens’ ID cards.

Church sources said they thought Ieronymos would continue in Christodoulos’s footsteps, boosting ties between the Church and society, particularly with young people. But they also expected him to distinguish clearly the role of the Church from that of the state.

Yesterday’s election of a new Archbishop of Athens in a rapid, clear and procedurally impeccable manner, showed us that the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece is paying attention to the signs of the times and learning a lesson from the mistakes of the recent past. Archbishop Ieronymos is now called upon to lead the Church with modesty, unity and a spirit of reconciliation – this is the mandate handed to him by the Church Hierarchy. He is also expected to respond to the rising expectations of the people, to put his ear to the ground and listen to a changing society, to stand beside the people of Greece and heed their fears and concerns, to cooperate and coexist in a constructive manner with the state.

The speedy and unequivocal election heralds an era of maturation and reorganization for the Church of Greece – and it needs it. The country also needs a mature and stable Orthodox Church that will spread the message of love and solidarity and ensure social consensus. We send our wishes to the new Archbishop that he may follow this path.