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No movement on FYROM March 6, 2008

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EU, NATO push for Skopje compromise; UN envoy’s latest talks inconclusive

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday dug in his heels over the Macedonia name dispute, stressing that Athens will not hesitate to block Skopje from joining NATO unless the disagreement is resolved.

“Greece’s stance is very clear as regards Skopje and we have clarified it absolutely to allies ad partners,” Karamanlis said. “I do not feel that I am under pressure from anyone,” he added, apparently dismissing speculation regarding US attempts to influence Greek policy in this area.

But there was pressure on Karamanlis at home. Thousands of Greeks rallied in the northern city of Thessaloniki yesterday evening, urging the government not to accept a name for the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that could lead to territorial claims on Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

The main rally in Thessaloniki, a street protest organized by the far-right LAOS, was not attended by politicians from other parties. Thessaloniki’s Bishop Anthimos led a separate rally in a local sports stadium.

The United Nations envoy entrusted with solving the name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, arrived in the northern city last night to brief Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis following his talks with political leaders in Skopje. Nimetz said the talks had failed to make any headway but delivered an upbeat assessment nonetheless. “I got a lot of encouragement to keep at this task,” Nimetz said. “There is a great interest here to solve this problem,” he added.

Meanwhile, European Union and NATO officials both appeared to nudge Skopje over the name issue. “If we can’t settle this issue, I’m afraid it will have negative ramifications (for EU accession),” the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said. And NATO representative James Appathurai remarked: “Greece has made it clear that it wants to find a solution and that it will participate in talks with an open mind – we hope Skopje’s government does the same.”

Sources said yesterday that US President George W. Bush may drop Skopje from the itinerary of his scheduled tour of Balkan states next month. According to the original plan, Bush was to visit Zagreb, Tirana and Skopje following a NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4.

Greek Police foil sale of precious Roman statue March 3, 2008

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Two men have been arrested in Thessaloniki on suspicion of trying to sell an illegally excavated Roman period statue thought to be of significant archaeological value, police said on Saturday.

The 1.15-meter statue was found in a trailer that was parked near the city’s airport. Archaeologists told police that the artifact is an important find and would fetch a lot of money if sold, though no specific amount has been made public.

Police believe the statue was being kept in the trailer while the two suspects, aged 57 and 50, negotiated its sale to an, as yet, unidentified buyer. Officers found several other artifacts when they searched the home of the 50-year-old. 

Legendary Marianne Faithfull live in Greece March 2, 2008

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Legendary Marianne Faithfull is to perform live in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece.

Marianne Faithfull will perform live at the Athens’ Pallas Theater on 13 March and at the Thessaloniki’s Vellidio Congress Centre on 14 March.

Her new album is expected to be released this Spring.

02-03-08_marianne_faithfull.jpg  Marianne Faithfull in a picture with the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger, during her early music days back in the ’60’s.

Thessaloniki Museum invites visually impaired to embrace art February 28, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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Currently the Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art is catering to the visually impaired, thanks to an innovative, by Greek standards, program titled “Aggizontas tin techni” (Embracing Art).

Members of the Thessaloniki School for the Blind and the Panhellenic Association of the Blind recently enjoyed a guided tour of a new contemporary art exhibition.

Among the visitors was Ioanna, who made her way along Constantin Xenakis’s work, “Keimeno horis logo” (Text with no speach) She noted the artist’s “hieroglyphics,” described the work as rather “abstract” and was informed by the caption (in Braille) about the work’s dimension, title and technique.

The embossed work “read” by Ioanna was the tactile representation of the original work. Placed one next to the other, Xenakis’s original painting is being showcased as part of the Museum’s “Visual Arts Panorama in Greece 2”, an exhibition showcasing 100 works by 80 artists. A group of specialists (including social anthropologists, teachers and art restorers) joined forces with Thessaloniki State Museum of Contemporary Art and Thessaloniki School for the Blind volunteers in order to translate 21 of the works into a hands-on format.

“Not all of the works are appropriate for tactile translation,” said Maria Tsantsanoglou, the Museum’s Director. “We usually select works that can be rendered in an easy and comprehensive manner.”

The Thessaloniki Museum’s initiative is part of an international network of Museums carrying out the “Art Beyond Sight” program, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York and London’s Tate Modern and Victoria and Albert Museum.

Related Links > http://www.greekstatemuseum.com

Some 200 films for Thessaloniki Documentary Festival February 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Festivals, Movies Life, Movies Life Greek.
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“My Life and Times: Michael Cacoyannis,” a profile of the renowned Greek Cypriot director by Lydia Carras, will premiere at the 10th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on March 7, organizers said yesterday.

Some 200 films, some Greek but mostly foreign, will be showcased exploring the harder edge of modern life, next to numerous tributes and side events. The festival will run through March 16.

28-02-08_documentary.jpg  UPDATE >>>

Thessaloniki gets set for documentary festival > Organizers announce main themes and parallel happenings as event celebrates 10th anniversary

A tribute to the 86-year-old Greek-Cypriot filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis, as crafted by Lydia Carras, will kick off the annual Thessaloniki Documentary Festival on March 7, organizers said at a press briefing. The 10-day cinematic marathon, currently in its 10th year, will showcase some 200 productions and is expected to draw over 35,000 viewers.

This year’s lineup features the familiar fare of hard-hitting pictures from the real world, including a shocking documentary on assisted suicide, a portrait of contemporary China and a story of a sex change.

Apart from the event’s established themes, such as human rights, the environment, music and human interest stories, this year’s offerings include a tribute to Canadian documentaries and a special feature on fascism prompted by the 70th anniversary of the events of Kristallnacht, the first Nazi pogrom against the Jews carried out on November 9, 1938.

Organizers will also present a tribute to the work of the US directing-producing duo Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (creators of the much acclaimed «Brother’s Keeper,» 1992, detailing the murder trial of Delbert Ward) as well as Finnish director and DocPoint founder Arto Halonen, all of whom are expected to be in town to discuss their seminal works.

«My Life and Times: Michael Cacoyannis,» a profile of the Greek-Cypriot director, will kick off the festival. Best known for his 1964 film «Zorba the Greek,» Cacoyannis has been nominated for an Academy Award five times.

Other entries narrate personal journeys, of various sorts: self-discovery, gender transition, suicide tourism. «The Suicide Tourist,» a controversial film by Academy Award-winner John Zaritsky, follows the progress of two couples as they turn to Dignitas, a Swiss non-profit organization that helps people die, a legal practice in that part of the world. The movie, to be screened under the Canadian focus section, has touched off a great deal of controversy as Craig, a 59-year-old euthanasia candidate with terminal Lou Gehrig’s disease, eventually dies on camera.

To premier at the festival, «Love and Sex in China» by Italy’s Annamaria Gallone, follows the existential journey of Yang Li Na, a young Chinese journalist in marital crisis, as she takes her own journey against the backdrop of a changing and often contradictory China. Simon Brook’s «Culture 68» also a world premiere, recounts personal stories from the transformative events of May 1968, while Gwen Haworth’s award-winning «She’s a Boy I Knew» which falls under the human journeys section, tracks the director’s own seven-year journey from man to woman.

The festival will also showcase a tribute to «War Zone,» a very successful monthly series that has been broadcast on Greek television since 2003. Reporter Sotiris Danezis has so far shot 40 documentaries on humanitarian, political and religious crises across the globe. The Mega channel reporter will also deliver a master class at the festival, organizers said.

Powered by its outspoken and highly energetic artistic director Dimitris Eipidis, the festival seems to be going from strength to strength, attracting growing numbers of visitors and enhancing its status among similar festivals across the continent. The festival, which started out with screenings at the flagship Olympion and Pavlos Zannas theaters on Aristotelous Square, has expanded to embrace the dockside warehouse complex.

The event will also host a market for buying and selling movies, while a five-day pitching session will give local and foreign filmmakers a chance to argue the merits of their work to commissioning editors, distributors and producers.

The festival does not offer awards, such as the silver and golden Alexanders of its bigger and more glamorous brother, the annual Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Documentary-makers rather have to settle for two public choice and two FIPRESCI awards carrying 2,000- to 4,000-euro cash prizes.

White Tower to reopen with an exhibition about Thessaloniki February 7, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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Every aspect of Thessaloniki’s history in multimedia format

07-02-08_white_tower.jpg  Thessaloniki’s landmark White Tower will once again become part of life in the northern port this year, after being closed for two years in preparation for an exhibition about the city through the ages. The exhibits on display will highlight the urban and cosmopolitan features that have characterized Thessaloniki since its foundation.

The illustrated 2008 diary from the Friends of the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki is a harbinger of an exhibition to open soon at the city’s White Tower. The monument has been closed for two years in preparation for an exhibition about Thessaloniki through the ages.

Exhibits will cover every aspect of life in the city, highlighting the urban and cosmopolitan features that have characterized Thessaloniki since its foundation.

Respect for the monument itself and easy access for all visitors are the basic premises of the curators’ approach to the new multimedia exhibition, which will encompass the city’s long history in seven rooms, each on a different floor.

“An historic monument like the White Tower is a museum in and of itself. For that reason, it can’t be loaded with archaeological finds,” Anastasia Tourta, director of the Museum of Byzantine Culture, said. “Besides, how can you squeeze 2,300 years of history into a 450-square-meter space?”

07-02-08_aghios_dimitrios.jpg  07-02-08_votive_offerings.jpg  The interior of Aghios Dimitrios Church (left). Right: Votive offerings for Asclepius (2nd-3rd century AD). The exhibition will encompass the city’s history in seven rooms of the White Tower.

On the ground floor of the tower, a digital map will show the city’s archaeological sites, historic monuments, museums and cultural foundations. The screen will also provide a flow of information about subjects ranging from the water supply system to commerce, the movement of people and ideas, and the coexistence of different cultures and religions.

“Cities like Thessaloniki, Rome and Istanbul have a lengthy, continuous trajectory throughout which they retained their urban character. You can’t ‘museify’ those cities. Their history is alive and scattered around different parts of the present urban fabric. So the exhibition won’t ‘museify’ the city but the images will be an information point,” explained Tourta.

So visitors, especially residents of Thessaloniki, who may have associated the Church of Aghia Sofia with the wedding of a friend but are unaware of the church’s age-old presence, will come to understand the history and worth of their city.

A cultivated coming of age November 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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The Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art presents a quarter of its holdings at Athens venues

Almost 30 years ago, a handful of people with a love for the visual arts decided to join forces in establishing a Contemporary Art Museum in Thessaloniki. Their enthusiasm and commitment found quick response. At first Alexandros Iolas, followed by Alexandros Xydis several years later, donated large parts of their collections to the emerging Museum, while the state provided, on a long-term loan, the building. Born of private initiative and partly state-subsidized, the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art was the first Museum to focus on contemporary art at a time when contemporary, international art was unknown to the Greek public and long before Greece acquired other showcases for contemporary art.

Yet its permanent collection was not fully presented to the public, mainly because the Museum’s exhibition space was not large enough to hold great parts of the collection. Besides large retrospective exhibitions, there were also presentations of the collection; that held just a few years ago was of great importance, yet it also showed just a portion of the collection.

“Topoi: An Exhibition, An Approach, A Museum, A History,” is the largest presentation to date of the Museum’s collection and its first outing in Athens. Curated by Denys Zacharopoulos, the Museum’s artistic director since 2006, it is spread across different venues of the capital city. The Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum is where the bulk is being shown but displays are also on show at the main building of the Benaki, the School of Fine Arts, Zappeion Hall and the Alex Mylonas Museum of Contemporary Art, which recently has become part of the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art.

The curator has succeeded in presenting a broad-ranging and diversified collection, almost 400 works by a total of almost 200 artists, in a way that flows, makes meaningful and unusual connections between the works and keeps the attention of the viewer. Part of its success is due to the choice of the artworks, some of the best in the Museum’s collection, which totals 1,600 works by both Greek and international artists.

The way the exhibition is structured is, however, its most impressive aspect. In its home Museum in Thessaloniki, the works that came from a specific donor were grouped together as separate entities. An example are the sculptures by Achilleas Apergis that the sculptor’s family donated to the Museum. The Athens exhibition does not distinguish the works in terms of their donors, although it opens with two portraits from its principal donors: Alexandros Iolas painted by Costas Tsoclis and Alexandros Xydis as painted by Yiannis Tsarouchis.

The exhibition also stays away from linear, chronological structure, the standard presentation for large collections, and does not classify the works in terms of artistic movements or the artists’ age group. A neo-Goth-style painting by young artist Alexandros Tzannis is, for example, placed near a sculpture by Dennis Oppenheim, a key figure in American conceptual art. A painting by Lila Polenaki is placed next to a sculpture by the Sixties Generation artist Vlassis Caniaris. A drawing by Nikos Gavriil Pentzikis is close to a drawing of Henry Miller.

By making such juxtapositions, the exhibition encourages the imagination of the viewer to travel freely across time and stylistic movements. It stays away from didactic, constricting categorizations and suggests that understanding art can be a far more rewarding experience if one is allowed to enjoy it through free associations. Topoi, which means “places” is also meant as mental places. This, however, does not mean that the connections made in the exhibition are haphazard. On the contrary, they stem from a penetrating analysis of art.

The juxtaposition of Andy Warhol’s “Alexander the Great” with a series of works by Theophilos, the naif Greek painter who had an impact on painters such as Yiannis Tsarouchis, is indicative of the play. An American pop artist from the 1960s has nothing in common with a naif artist from Mytilene. Interestingly, neither of them came from the high echelons of art, Warhol’s background was in advertising. However, both Warhol and Theophilos, each in a different degree and scale, became famous and developed a style that played an important part in the development of 20th century art.

Juxtapositions of this kind indicate that art can be open to various interpretations and that a Museum’s collection can be viewed from many different angles. The exhibition encourages that sense of freedom but also remains true to the core and personality of the collection. It has, however, left out the collection’s more conventional works. In general, “Topoi” highlights Greek, avant-garde art of the 1960s and 70s, which is one of the collection’s strengths. Works by artists such as Vlassis Caniaris, Stathis Logothetis, Takis, Pavlos, Yiannis Gaitis or Daniil fall into this category. Much of the art of this period contained a political subtext and was concerned with the social role of art. In the early 1970s, the so-called group of the New Realists, painters Yiannis Valavanidis, Kleopatra Diga, Kyriakos Katzourakis, Chronis Botsoglou and Yiannis Psychopedis, expressed this tendency. The exhibition includes a section that presents the works shown in the group’s first exhibition.

In “Topoi”, one will also find some impressive, open-air works. The atrium of the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum houses “Carousel” by Alexis Akrithakis, a work that the artist dedicated to the “Children of Vietnam” in 1969.

At the Zappeion playground, Mark Hadjipateras, Marc Charpentier and Jonas Lehec have made art part of children’s play. Their work will remain in situ and is a donation by the Museum to the City of Athens. It is yet one more example of one of the exhibition’s principal notions: to show that art cannot be made to fit into strict categories but is something open to varying interpretations. As well as that it is a form of creativity that occupies a place in everyone’s thoughts and imagination, a pleasure that we can all relate to and make a natural part of our lives. “Topoi” runs to November 25.