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Exploring gender issues at Bios April 1, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece.
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An intriguing festival organized by the Goethe institutes of Southeastern Europe comes to Athens > Berliner Joy Gutthardt’s performances explore stereotypes of the female gender. The artist is one of many German performers who will be coming to Athens for the Genderpop festival this week.

An unusual festival featuring cinema, performance art, video installations, live music shows and contemporary dance kicked off at downtown Bios yesterday. What brings all the different artistic genres together? A look at the role of the sexes and people’s identity.

The series of events comes as an initiative of the Goethe Institutes based in Southeastern Europe, the cultural centers are currently approaching the issue of gender, participating in a contemporary and global discussion on the socially predetermined, fabricated and stereotyped roles of the sexes.

Many are already acquainted with so-called gender studies, in the last few decades alone, they have made their presence increasingly felt in university programs around the world. Perhaps those familiar with these developments on the academic front will have a clearer picture of what lies ahead at Bios this week.

They may have also heard of Judith Butler, the American writer and professor at California’s Berkeley, author of “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.” Published in 1990, the book examined the notion of sex as a role. A feminist, Butler put forward the idea that a person’s sex identity has to do with specific moments and actions, she called it gender performativity. Difficult ideas to deal with back then, and not much has changed.

Don’t worry about the academic aspect however when it comes to the Bios events this week. The festival kicked off with a screening of Athanasios Karanikolas’s “S” and continues with short films shot by Jan Kruger between 2000 and 2007, along with a collection of films by Ula Stokl and Edgar Reitz from 1970.

Besides cinema, Genderpop, the three-day program starts in the Bios foyer on Friday, featuring art and music videos, performances, concerts and DJ sets. Among the guests is Berliner Joy Gutthardt, an actress whose performances explore the stereotypes of the female gender, Berlin singer Namosh, as well as female trio Rhythm King & Her Friends. All in all an intriguing group of artists taking over the downtown space this week.

Bios Venue, 84 Pireos Street, Athens.

Related Links >  www.goethe/de/athen

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Art Festival for Human Rights triggers dialogue March 28, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Festivals.
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The neighborhood of Exarchia in central Athens is about to be transformed into an alternative art center for a week.

Different kinds of art, including painting, street art, photography, installations and video screenings, will take over the block surrounded by Arachovis, Themistocleous, Coletti and Zoodochou Pigis Streets, as the second “Wo + Man =?” festival kicks off tonight.

Organized by the Open Horizons organization as part of the 6th Art Festival for Human Rights, this year’s event will explore sexuality, gender and identity issues. With the focus being on street art, 40 artists will redefine the use of public space as a venue for communicating with the public, by selecting outdoor and indoor spaces of bars, restaurants, cafes and other stores to exhibit their work. By exploring the possibilities that public and private venues can offer, they are hoping to send out a message about art and society. The aim is to create a bridge of communication with visitors and passers-by and trigger dialogue and a collective conscience.

28-03-08_human_rights.jpg  The festival’s central venue will be the Cosmos of Culture Center on the corner of Andrea Metaxa and Emmanouil Benaki Streets. That is where the official opening will take place, at 7 p. m. today and where information regarding all of the scheduled events will be available. Cosmos of Culture will also host all the video screenings.

Participating artists include Alexandros Avranas, Artemis Alkalai, Alma Bakiaj, Margarita Gelada, Giorgos Gyparakis, Antigone Kavvatha, Anna Laskari, Caroline May, Costas Beveratos, Giorgos Tserionis, Dorota Zglobicka, Ioanna Ximeri, Vangelis Raftogiannis and many others. The event was conceived and curated by Costas Theonas.

The festival will run until Sunday, April 5 and will be open daily 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission to all venues is free. For further information call 210 3303385 or 210 8846038.

Related Links > www.humanrights.gr and www.cosmosofculture.gr

A solo photo show at the Benaki Museum March 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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A few years ago, Pavlos Kozalides traveled the region of the Black Sea in order to document the lives of the area’s Greeks. In many ways, it was voyage in search of his own roots. Of Pontic descent himself, he grew up listening to his family talk about their lives in Ordu, Turkey, before the 1923 exchange of populations.

Kozalides visited Ordu as well as other regions of Turkey but also traveled to Georgia, Ukraine and Russia. The photographs he produced, on a commission from the Benaki Museum, are exhibited in “Pavlos Kozalides: Seeking a Lost Homeland”, an exhibition curated by the artist and on display at the main building of the Benaki Museum, while the Museum’s Photographic Archives is the organizer.

Kozalides seeks out those aspects of Greek tradition that still survive in the communities of Greeks living in the Black Sea and draws attention to an important but somewhat neglected part of the Greek diaspora.

Born in Piraeus in 1961, Kozalides moved with his family to Canada when he was 7. He started working as a photographer in the 1980s, upon his permanant return to Greece. He has traveled extensively, photographing different parts of the world. The Benaki exhibition is the first public presentation of his work.

“Pavlos Kozalides: Seeking a Lost Homeland”, Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street, Athens, tel 210 3671000. To April 13.

Related Links > www.benaki.gr

Sport and Democracy in Classical Athens March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Culture History Mythology, Greek Culture Heritage, Olympic Games, Sports & Games.
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University of Sydney historian explains why he thinks evidence suggests that sporting activity did not help promote peace in ancient Greece

26-03-08_ancient_olympia1.jpg  26-03-08_ancient_olympia2.jpg  Male dancers (above) form the Olympic circles with olive branches during a rehearsal for the lighting of the flame in Ancient Olympia, where the Olympics were born in 776 BC. Actress Maria Nafpliotou (right), in her role as the high priestess at the actual ceremony on Monday, holds up the Olympic Flame after it was lit using the sun’s rays.

Sport in ancient Athens has long been a paradox for ancient historians. The world’s first democracy may have opened up politics to everybody but it had no impact on sporting life. Athletics continued to be an exclusive pursuit of wealthy citizens.

In spite of this, the vast majority of the citizens, who as poor men were very critical of the aristocracy, actually lavished time and public money on sporting competitions and facilities, esteemed elite sports stars above all other public figures and handed international victors the metaphorical keys to the city.

Recent scholarship on sport and war helps us solve this baffling state of affairs. In the lead-up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, we are constantly reminded of the cherished belief of the Olympic movement that international sport reconciles hostile countries and encourages world peace.

As noble as this may be, a generation of scholarship has shown this belief to be almost entirely false. Sport and war – we know now – often manifest the same values and practices, such as aggressiveness and cruelty, and tend to legitimize each other. As such, the military hyperactivity of the ancient Athenian democracy gives us a clue to understanding the paradox of its sporting life.

Panathenaia > The Athenians provided tens of thousands of liters of sacred olive oil and silver crowns as prizes for sportsmen at their local games of the Great Panathenaia. This was the large-scale version of the city’s annual festival in honor of its patron deity, Athena, which was staged every four years.

It included over a hundred contests or bouts, not just in athletics and the athletic team event of the torch race, but also in horsemanship, music and choral singing. The people of Athens also carefully administered and renovated the city’s athletics fields and witnessed a massive expansion in the number of wrestling schools.

They awarded free meals and front-row seating at their regular sporting and cultural events for life to those citizens who had won an athletic or equestrian event at one of the Panhellenic or international games, which were staged,every two or four years at Isthmia, Nemea, Delphi and, of course, Olympia.

Since these were the democracy’s highest honors, their granting to athletic victors points to an extraordinarily high estimation of these stars. Such a high regard of athletes also left its mark on the irreverent comedies of the 5th century BC, in which the city’s athletes were the only group in the public eye to escape the abuse and ridicule of the comic poets.

For the youths of classical Athens, training in athletics was given in the regular school classes of the athletics teacher. Isocrates explains how they instruct their pupils in “the moves devised for competition,” train them in athletics, accustom them to toil and compel them to combine each of the lessons they have learnt. According to this Athenian philosopher, all of this turns pupils into competent athletic competitors as long as they have some natural talent.

Sports and learning > Often athletics teachers are represented in Athenian art as giving classes in wrestling or in the other “heavy” events of boxing and the “no holds barred” pankration, which is an unsurprising state of affairs, as many of these teachers owned wrestling schools and some had been victors in such events in their youth. Nonetheless we also find athletics teachers training their charges in the standard “track and field” events of ancient Greek athletics.

Predictably the expense of buying and raising horses ensured that contestants in the chariot and horse races would always be those Aeschylus calls the “super-rich,” such as leading politicians, tyrants and Kings. More surprising is that athletics was out of reach to the vast majority of Athenians.

Since the Athenian state did not finance nor administer education, each family made its own decisions about how long their sons would attend school and whether they would pursue each of the three traditional disciplines: athletics, music and letters.

The Athenians understood very well that the number of educational disciplines a boy could pursue and the length of his schooling depended on the resources of his family. Money determined not only whether a family could pay the fees of the letter teacher, lyre [a musical instrument] teacher and athletics teacher but also whether they could give their sons the required leisure to pursue disciplines that were taught concurrently.

Most poor citizens needed their children and wives to help out with family farming or business concerns. As a result, poor Athenian families passed over music and athletics and sent their sons only to the lessons of the letter teacher, which they believed to be the most useful for moral and practical instruction.

Thus it was only wealthy boys who received instruction in each of the three disciplines of education. Without school-based training in athletics, which everyone recognized as necessary for effective competition, poor youths simply did not enter athletics contests. In the world’s first democracy, sport was only practiced by wealthy Athenians.

There were other activities in classical Athens, such as the drinking party, horsemanship, pederastic homosexuality and political leadership, which were also the exclusive preserves of the wealthy.

However these upper-class pursuits – in contrast to athletics – were ridiculed and heavily criticized in the debates and public conversations of the democracy. Poor Athenians may have hoped to enjoy, one day, the lifestyle of the rich, but they still had problems with their exclusive pursuits, frequently associating them with stereotypical misdeeds of this social class.

Into battle > Critically, classical Athenians thought of and described athletic contests and battle with a common set of concepts and words. Most importantly, both were considered an agon or a contest decided by mutually agreed rules.

Today, when even democracies sometimes wage war contrary to international law and break the Geneva Convention, it is hard to recognize that European warfare was once a highly regulated activity and viewed as an honorable way to settle disputes between states.

The battles of the ancient Greeks were no exception, being conducted according to a shared set of nomoi or customs. Thus a Greek city informed another of its intention to attack by sending a herald. By agreement, their phalanxes of heavy infantrymen met on an agricultural plain. After hours of hand-to-hand fighting, the decisive moment was the trope or turning, when the hoplites of one side broke up and ran for their lives.

The victors only pursued them for a short distance, as they had much left to do on the field of battle. There they collected the bodies of their dead comrades, stripped the bodies of the enemy, and used some of the weapons and armor so acquired to set up a trophaion or trophy. When the defeated had time to regroup, they sent a herald to those controlling the battlefield for a truce to collect their dead. Custom dictated that the victors could not honorably refuse this request.

The citizens of classical Athens also thought battle and athletics involved the same ideals and tribulations. Both activities were recognized as involving ponoi or painful toils bring honor and kindinoi or dangers, with athletes, especially in the “heavy” events, frequently being injured, maimed or killed.

They believed it was the arete or manly excellence of individual soldiers and athletes, inherited from ancestors, and the support of gods and demigods, which secured nike or victory. Victory brought fame to the city of athlete and soldier, while defeat or the refusal to compete, in either activity, was a sign of cowardice and a cause of personal shame.

Although Athenian warfare, before the democracy, was a predominantly upper-class activity, the democratic revolution of the late 6th century BC subjected warfare to a profound democratization practically and ideologically. With the creation of a city-based army of hoplites, the construction of a massive war fleet, in the late 480s, and the introduction of state pay for military service, soldiering – like politics – was opened to every class of Athenian.

Democracy > To fight and, if necessary, die for the city became the solemn duty of all citizens, which, in an unprecedented era of Athenian bellicosity, they did with disturbing regularity. Warfare was now the main public expenditure and business of the Athenian democracy and its martial achievements were glorified in public speech, drama and public art and architecture.

Critically the egalitarianism of the democracy resulted in the traditional values of war, such as arete and ponoi, which had once been the preserve of the heroes of Homer and the aristocrats of the pre-democratic era, being recognized in the military actions of rich and poor citizens alike, whether they served as heavily armed infantrymen or sailors.

This democratic ethos also saw every Athenian soldier given equal credit for the city’s military victories and – if killed in action – a sumptuous funeral and veneration as a demigod. Every Athenian soldier was now treated like Achilles or Hector.

This democratization of war had a profound impact on the standing of athletics. Poor Athenians came to believe that upper-class athletes exhibited the same moral qualities and experienced the same ordeals as they did when fighting battles.

This affinity of theirs with the values of sport ruled out serious criticism of sportsmen in public discourse and underwrote the exceptionally high estimation of athletics. In short, the democratic style of war in classical Athens legitimized and supported elite sport.

Dr David Pritchard is an ancient historian at the University of Sydney. He will be speaking at the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens, 2 Promachou Street, Makriyianni, Athens, on April 1 at 7 p.m. This talk is free and open to the general public.

Copyright notice > Article by Dr David Pritchard for the Greek daily Kathimerini. All rights reserved.

Ancient Cycladic civilization meets modern Beijing March 24, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Arts Museums, Hellenic Light Asia.
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Archaeological exhibition will open on April 3

24-03-08_cycladic.jpg  A marble female figurine from the early Cycladic II period, circa 2700-2300 BC.

With the Olympic Games in Beijing almost upon us, the Chinese capital is getting ready to welcome some of the wonders of one of Europe’s oldest civilizations. “The Cyclades: Masterpieces of an Aegean Culture” is an archaeological exhibition that will go on display at Beijing’s Imperial City Art Museum on April 3 and is scheduled to run to May 15.

On loan from the Museum of Cycladic Art and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, figurines, tools and pots, dating to the 4th and 3rd millennia BC, are set to travel to China for the first time. The exhibition is part of the ongoing Cultural Year of Greece in China, which started last September and includes more interesting cultural events.

“This is the first archaeological exhibition of the Cultural Year of Greece in China,” said Sandra Marinopoulou, the new President of the N.P. Goulandris Foundation [who took over after the death of Dolly Goulandris], at a recent press conference. She pointed out that a display of artifacts from the ancient Cycladic civilization – the culture that flourished on the islands of the Cyclades – is of particular importance in a country that has not had much contact with Greek culture, because the exhibits are highly reminiscent of modern artworks by 20th-century artists whom they have inspired.

24-03-08_cycladic_art.jpg  The exhibits have been carefully arranged so as to reflect a sense of familiarity, as Nikolaos Stambolidis, Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, explained. “We had at our disposal a huge space with glass displays which could have made the few statuettes almost disappear,” said Bessy Drouga from the National Archaeological Museum. Yet the opposite effect was achieved, since the exhibition has been enriched with maps of Europe as well as colors reminiscent of the Aegean Sea. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog in Chinese and English.

Situated in the center of Beijing, in Chang Pu He Park, the Imperial City Art Museum opened its gates to the public in June 2003. The two-floor structure houses traditional Chinese art but is also keen on showcasing international artwork.

Further events organized in the context of the Cultural Year of Greece in China, as Sofoklis Psilianos, general secretary for the Olympic Utilization explained, include an exhibition of costumes from the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, a large exhibition in collaboration with Greece’s National Archaeological Museum, a performance of Dimitris Papaioannou’s staging of “Medea” as well as Sophocles’ tragedy “Ajax” by the Attis Theater, among other activities.

Name dispute talks to continue tomorrow March 24, 2008

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There was a climate of cautious optimism in Athens and Skopje over the weekend ahead of fresh negotiations on the Macedonia name dispute in New York tomorrow.

In Athens, diplomats said that a compromise could be reached ahead of NATO’s summit on April 2-4, where the possible accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is to be discussed. Officially Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was more reserved, saying, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, that she “felt neither optimistic nor pessimistic.”

Bakoyannis is to meet her FYROM counterpart Antonio Milososki on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Slovenia on Friday to discuss any headway made in New York by the two country’s representatives in United Nations-mediated talks.

On Saturday, FYROM’s President, Branko Crvenkovski, stressed the need for a “logical compromise” to the name dispute. FYROM’s envoy Nikola Dimitrov told reporters he had been given “precise instructions” but did not elaborate.

New theater places emphasis on technology March 23, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Events Greece, Arts Museums, Stage & Theater.
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23-03-08_theatron1.jpg  The Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center welcomes the Theatron [Theater]

23-03-08_theatron2.jpg  A digital view of the venue’s main hall, the Antigone, which can be transformed in 12 different ways so as to cater to all kinds of performances as well as conferences.

As of yesterday, the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center on Pireos Street can boast a new acquisition. The brand new theater, called the Theatron, makes its debut with a show commemorating the venue’s 10th anniversary, directed by Yiannis Kakleas. Fully equipped with the latest technology, the Theatron promises to become yet another cultural landmark on this fast-developing part of Pireos Street.

23-03-08_ime1.jpg  It comes just a year after the opening of the Tholos, the Hellenic Cosmos’s striking virtual-reality theater.

A guided tour of the theater on Tuesday revealed a highly efficient building with a high degree of functional diversity. Seating that can be re-arranged in various ways, excellent acoustics and sound-proofing and a stage with multiple possibilities are just some of the theater’s many features. “The sound-proofing is so good that theoretically we could have a rock concert downstairs and a poetry reading upstairs,” joked Dimitris Efraimoglou, Managing Director of the Foundation of the Hellenic World, the institution that has founded the Hellenic Cosmos Cultural Center, at the press conference.

23-03-08_theatron3.jpg  The three-level theater has two halls: the main one, Antigone, can be transformed in 12 different ways and can host anything from a theater performance to a large conference. The second, Iphigenia, can be used independently but can also open onto the main hall. Additional features include three foyers that can host exhibitions and other performances, rooms for rehearsals and a garage that will eventually have a 1000-car capacity. “We want to offer a hospitable venue to actors and dancers,” said Efraimoglou. He explained that the theater’s emphasis is on technology and one of the aims is to enable artists to combine live action with digital technology.

According to Thrasyvoulos Giatsios, program director of Hellenic Cosmos, the venue will focus mostly on contemporary spectacles and young artists without, however, excluding more classic-themed repertoires. “With the exception of our first performance, we will not host our own productions. We are interested in working with institutions that bring ensembles from abroad,” he said. Theater and dance shows as well as concerts by local and foreign artists will find a home at the Theatron. Giatsios did not rule out the possibility of booking the theater for an entire season for just one production, although there is a preference for ensembles giving a limited number of shows.

23-03-08_ime2.jpg  The program has yet to be announced, but there will be collaborations with the Attiki Cultural Society, the company that has brought actors such as Charlotte Rampling, Gerard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant to Athens, a concert organized by the Athens College Alumni and a tribute to the work of lyricist Lina Nikolakopoulou.

“The Theatron is ideal for directors who love technology. You can experiment with mixed media on body movement, music and vocals without losing the warm atmosphere of traditional theaters” said director Yiannis Kakleas. “Personally, I love multimedia productions. So many possibilities open up when live action co-exists with different kinds of sets thanks to virtual reality. Within the context of theater or dance you can create a visually beautiful show. Most theaters don’t have the structure for that. But this one does.”

The opening performance, which bears Kakleas’s signature, is a tribute to the past, present and future of the Foundation of the Hellenic World featuring live music by Haris Alexiou, among other things. It premiered yesterday and will be staged again tonight.

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