The Soft Power Lectures (6/6): The Final Show

Vassiliki Grammatikogianni visited the final event of Actopolis Athens for us. Her text is written along pictures taken by Michael Pappas.

Elpida Karaba, Copyright: Michael Pappas

An old cinema, which has since been transformed into the basketball hall of Panteion University, was chosen by the Temporary Academy of Arts (PΑΤ) for the final event of the project “The Soft Power Lectures” – a project supported and organised by the Goethe-Institut as part of a larger programme entitled ACTOPOLIS. It was also no coincidence that the PAT had chosen precisely this space. Since its foundation, but also during the parallel events, which the trainer Christos organises from time to time today, the sensitive eyes of the PAT artists have recognised the elective affinities between this sports hall and their own narrative art. In the following photo reportage we aim to lead you through this artistic event and to transport you into the atmosphere that prevails there – and, last but not least – to infect you too with the “germ” of the creativity of the artists of the PAT.

“Warriors of Desire”

Warriors of Desire, Copyright: Michael Pappas

I feel as if I have been hypnotised, and although I am surrounded by an array of artistic challenges, I move forward into the centre of the hall and stand, consumed by curiosity, in front of the “shattered” picture being projected onto the wall of the sports hall. A homosexual historian, “Professor Triantafyllos Manousakis” (played by Apostolos Lambropoulos), presents a different view of Greek history, from a gay perspective. From Hellenistic times and from the Greek War of Independence of 1821 until the years of the Greek Civil War, famous historical personalities such as Alexander the Great, Karaiskakis and Aris Velouhiotis are presented from the “historian’s” personal point of view. “Panos Sklavenitis is shaking up the basis of Greek society once again,” I think to myself and look impatiently round the room, searching for him. He laughs as he says to me: “In this way I aim to comment on the traditional representation of Greek history, which is basically a constructed one. Anything to do with homosexuality, other languages or other religions is removed because it has no place in our history.”


Athens, Copyright: Michael Pappas

The Athens of the economic crisis is at the same time also a city of creative energy. Since 2004 art has been blossoming there, with new galleries and new institutions, such as the Biennale. But does the creative energy of the city of the Olympic Games of the past have anything to do with the present day? “Athens is shown here as a city which can teach us something, which can suggest survival strategies and a way of creating art even without money. The emphasis is on collective, voluntary action. That is most certainly a positive sign. On the other hand the spending cuts in the field of culture have established art once and for all as an unpaid hobby, and that...raises questions,” Despina Zevkili told me in connection with a lecture which she had been taking care of on the subject of unpaid work by artists, entitled “So now where? What will you do next?”.

“Turning the Crisis into an exotic event”

Turning the Crisis into an exotic event. Copyright: Michael Pappas

The Grand Tours of the eighteenth century led adventure-loving French, English and German travellers to journey to Greece in search of the classical ideals of Antiquity. Today, by contrast, visitors come to us on another sort of Grand Tour because they want to find out something about their future. Athens, a city engulfed in the economic and refugee crisis, attracts artists in search of the dynamism which lies at the very heart of this catastrophe. In its Soft Power Lectures, the ΠΑΤ aims to investigate how people in Athens can use this turning of the crisis into an exotic event as a driving force for a transformation of the city.

“Sculpture and Emergency Planning”

Sculpture and Emergency Planning. Copyright: Michael Pappas

My attention was drawn to the artist Kostis Velonis’s work entitled “Help Desk”. It referred to the reception centres for migrants, the famous Hot Spots. In his work the artist denounces what we call “socially responsible planning” – sometimes it is also called “environmental public design”. “What we call ‘socially responsible planning’ often fails because it is intended for the underprivileged members of our society, but it was planned exclusively by members of privileged groups. For example, a reception office for immigrants should not be misunderstood as an emergency plan; it cannot be responsible for fighting distress and at the same time for carrying out bureaucratic processes,” explained Kostis Velonis.


Polis -Police. Copyright: Michael Pappas

The previously mentioned basketball hall of Panteion University also serves as the “screen” for works by the artist Giannis Papadopoulos. He “sees” the building as a printing machine and fixes his construction with the help of two straps to one of the pillars supporting the building. The matrix of this construction will print out cards with the words “Polis – Police” in order to prompt a discussion from this “heart” of the works about the city and its relationship to police surveillance and the police.

“The history of art is being rewritten”

The history of art is being rewritten. Copyright: Michael Pappas

The history of art in Greece was recorded in a one-dimensional way. The artists of ACTOPOLIS are attempting through their presentation and repetition of videos to “re-read” the aesthetic impression of a bygone era. With the picture “The Evening Meal”, Stefania Ablianiti and Stavroula Morakea are recalling one of the most important female artists of the twentieth century. Her name was Niki Kangini, and the object of the exercise is to ask us how we see topics like feminism today, and how they were represented by this artist during the 1970s.
The artist Sofia Dona lives in Munich and applied an old Greek feature film to Germany and an old German film to Greece. In doing so she plays with stereotypes and with how we see them today. Her work formed part of the Soft Power Lecture which was held in Munich.

“The World”

The World. Copyright: Michael Pappas

The overwhelming majority of viewers / participants at the closing event of ACTOPOLIS were students and young people, but I was impressed above all by the passers-by. They stopped in order to ask what was going on. When they realised that it was an artistic programme which not only aimed at an improvement to the city and the quality of life of its inhabitants, but also showed another way of overcoming the crisis, they were clearly delighted. They congratulated us and encouraged us not simply to bring the programme to a conclusion but to continue it until it is successful in those areas where politics have failed. Even mere visitors understood that. When I discussed these reactions with Elpida Karaba she told me that the reactions of those who had seen the works immediately before the final event had been very similar. “People understood what we were telling them and developed a joint discussion with their own thoughts and worries. Thus a start was made – a sign that the project will continue. In hard times culture can really demonstrate its ability to play an important part.”

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