Acts of Engagement Workshop: Projects
The program focuses on cultivating a discoursive environment, providing a collaborative platform for research, and in-situ project develoment, as responses to specific sites or contexts set within the frame of the public sphere in Athens. Through 10 day production cycles, the program aims to foster collaborative working, synergy, participatory methodologies and dialogue. The participating research-based projects converge around the topics of social engagement and experimentation on collective working methodologies, while broadening the scope of engagement, collaboration and exchange between local and visiting artists, local collectives and networks, and the broader public.
"How does one create a home away from home? How do you decorate your living space in a new place? Our homes provide a place of sanctuary and security. They reflect our sense of identity socially and culturally. The objects we choose to place in our living spaces help define who we are, an exteriorisation of our inner condition. They are the distillation in physical form of our essence as physical beings".
-Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception
What happens when we are forced to move and live in circumstances not of our choosing? How do we inhabit these foreign spaces and make them our own? Do we recreate an identical space to the one we left behind? Are these the traces of memory and nostalgia of our ‘true’ home? Is it possible to not feel at home in our place of origin and find a home elsewhere that feels like we’ve always belonged?
These are the questions and concerns that I explore without preconception of desired result. What is found, is what is found. Whatever comparisons or similarities that may exist are open to the viewers interpretation.
The series of participatory performances was developed in Aspropyrgos, which is located 18 kilometers from Athens. The town has 30,000 residents today that coexist with many immigrants of different nationalities who arrive as seasonal agricultural workers.
This town has been exclusively rural and unfolds the story of the history of Greek development from agricultural to industrial and then to the post-industrial era.
The project is experiential and inspired by the rural life, the cultivation of food and the post-industrial phase of the area.
Is it possible for a language to keep all the elements and the pronunciations of words, when the residents of a country migrate and leave behind much of this tradition in an effort to adapt to new conditions? How does the meaning of a word sound from a man who lacks the state of the exact word and from someone who has forgotten its interpretations/ meanings?
The movement of populations and globalization are two reasons that make people to the use a common language as a communication medium. The result of this phenomenon is the elimination of those cultural platforms over the years. It is quite difficult to be able to keep the elements and the factors of a language from the previous generation to the next, because those elements are not parts of an everyday experience by the new users.
The Definitions I is an audiovisual archive, where the recording of specific conditions intended to ensure preservation. Video has been selected as the mean to imprint in the same time the timbre and expression of participants –visually and vocally-.
Erasmia Tsipra approaches her public performance work with a sense of urgency and directness. She considers working in the public sphere important due to the opportunities it offers for art to be exposed to a broader public, beyond the "closed" environments of the museum / gallery, as well as the multiplicity of interactions that the work sets up within an outdoor public setting. Tsipra approaches the public space as a space of "polyphony", as a site (citee) that is a natural-unnatural stage for expression, a canvas in which the artist is positioned and positions.
By typing Omonoia Square on Google, I encounter many comments from people warning tourists or potential visitors about this place and how it is dangerous. My first approach is to map this place personally, making pictures, recordings and mainly experiencing the place myself. This personal experience during the workshop leads me me to the production of a series of projects
A sculptural detail from inside the Bagkeion, a bust of Hermes, is cast in plaster, fragmented into small pieces, and transported by 10 carrier pidgeons to a new location where they it is then re-assembled. This way the pigeons are exchanging features that reveal certain activities or simply specific situations that could take place in both sites, making a slight difference in subtle elements that are relevant for understanding the identity of each place. Pigeons are themselves elements of the city landscape, this way I pretend that the landscape itself (through the pigeons) would reconfigure this slight elements on itself.
Quickly-made banners, with barely distinguishable slogans, manifestos on flyers spread in the streets, meet the lonely paths of the single protestor, the artist. This time the slogans are not in demand of a relief in taxation or a change of law. They aren't directed to ministers and member;s of parliament. They begin from the question: "What should we do with art when we are starving?" Therefore, the banner "We want an art for the starving, no more works for the privileged" that was placed by Diafas on the facade of the Bagkeion on Omonoia Square, which hosts the Athens Biennale, is a cry directed towards artists. The work hints towards the notion of a more active relationship between art and society, which is the topic of Tomas Diafas' research.
The "Syn+" performance focuses on people’s connection with one another. In his attempt to wrap a transparent plastic membrane around himself and his viewers, the artist ties himself tight up to another person, then to somebody else and so forth until all of us are tied up to one another. After the creation of a complex net resembling an umbilical cord that keeps all of us close together, the least movement of a single person is communicated to the entire cluster of the tied up participants arousing the need for awareness. It is, in fact, a transparent net that captures everything inside as it spreads all over the place from the one end to the other. A developing activity which the viewer is invited to get involved with, to trust, to keep it going or put an end to the performance.
Vilelmini Andrioti, from the "Periigites" group, presents her work "Bordello of Borders", developed within the framework of the Acts of Engagement workshop and subsequent public exhibition at the Bagkeion, in the context of the Athens Biennale AB5to6 "Omonoia". The work concerns the precarity of the body as an analogy to a country, as it is subjected to the sweeping transformations of European policy. A system of borders acting as "gordian knots". The body negotiates the mechanisms of institutionalization that displace and marginalize the body unwillingly. The body thus becomes a field of exploitation exempt from any attempt of justice.
The “permanent residents” of the Omonoia Square, are in a continuous stand by state, waiting to be relocated (literally or figuratively). In 2016 the child population of the square has rapidly increased, a temporary safe-haven. During the “Acts of Engagement” workshop the artist approached the people of Omonoia Square –young and old- collecting wishes in the form of drawings. The majority of the participants were children and they used drawing to illustrate their wishes on flying lanterns. Those objects function as wish-carriers creating with their flight a mental vertical axis from the center of the square towards the universe.
The action takes the form of a celebration in the center of the city, with ceremonial elements, held on the public space of Omonoia Square, which acted as a in-promptu social gathering with a large participation by the public. The festivities are is food and drinks distributed by the social kitchen independent solidarity group "O Allos Anthropos". Street musicians are also involved the festivities. The public actions on the square, the sharing of food, dancing and singing, bring people together, a friendly coexistence under the symbolic idea of sowing. Within this setting, the ritualized action of the "sowing of the seeds" is undertaken by the artist, who spreads clay balls containing wheat seeds on the square and the surrounding areas.
"Omonoia, the "Concord" square, is a heavy gray platform, a gravestone, the tip of the iceberg, an old boat left useless in the middle of a desert, motionless and hostile. It literally sums up the "welcome to Greece" banner visible from the square, and from the Bagkeion building. "Infantry square" as an experiment-performance-experience exploring the reality of addressing a speech to an uninvited audience,a random one constituted by the inhabitants of the square, a non-audience. A group of multinational people, passerbys etc. The persona that I manufactured for this purpose concentrates some of the characteristics that are required for a cause like that with some additional contradictional traits."
Seong Kyun Yoo explores the relationship between doing arts and modes of living, observing the emergence of new environments and social conditions by endeavoring a global pilgrimage. He has been focusing on the co-relativity in phenomena across various environments, exploring the relationship between spirit and objects which represent living conditions globally, looking at misinterpretations of naturalistic reality. "Omonoia Square is a borderless island, but behind it in hiding lies the shadow of the barriers between humanity and urbanity, individual ethnic community and cultural diversity, visiting and leaving. It is a junction where people just pass through."