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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 May 2015
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 MAY 2015 FEATURE Tricks, traffic and the third eye; skate culture in Athens ALEXANDRA MANATAKIS The ability to internally engage with a city is entirely rare. Only very few times in life does one come across another with the ability to engage critically, communicatively, artistically and kinetically with their surroundings. In Athens, it is the skill of the skater who attains this rare feature. It is skaters who are some of the city's only inhabitants who can take what beautiful Athena has to offer and revel kinetically in her energy, further engaging every facet of her being. Skaters in Athens are some of the most marvellously creative people, mastering tricks, traffic and the urban third eye, whilst also standing as another form of creative escapism in the face of political and economic fluctuations and ultimate unrest. The life of Athenian skaters holds an ironic sense of nomadism; while continually exploring the city for the best new locations to skate, they have one of the strongest senses of Athenian belonging. Like no other inhabitants, skaters understand and appreciate the city at its most unique perspective, taking her stagnant nature as a concrete jungle, and turning her into a melting pot for expression, escapism and kinetics. The locations that skaters find are not destinations, however, but rather stopovers in their neverending wandering that has no beginning or end. With use of the city's features, Athenian skaters step up to plate as the most creative urban travellers, continually ridding their lives of inactivity all within the borders of one metropolis. Through the output of kinetic motion and interaction, skaters also liberate the energetic reality of the city, claiming back public spaces from stagnation and stillness. Skilfully capturing the essence of Athenian skate is Red Bull documentary maker Kostas Mandilas, with the 2014 release of not-forprofit skate documentary ATH; the perfect cinematographic experience for the global exposure of the Athenian skate realm. Mandilas began skating in early 1994 and has devoted his life to filming skate since 2003. Whilst times were hard to begin with, Mandilas was persistent in establishing his presence in the profession and ATH is an exemplary display of this. In the face of economic instability and the Greek economic crisis, Mandilas took to the streets to show the world Athens was far more than what was being portrayed in the media. "Since the crisis blew up in Greece we saw Athens fall apart, and the frustration associated with this meant it was the perfect time to show the world that this city has something unique that many cannot see," Mandilas says. "Skateboarding is the tool to explore our city, live it and make the best out of it." Ultimately, the documentary chronicles skate from the perspectives of Athenian skaters Vagelis Markogiannakis, Mike Vasilakis, Giorgio Zavos, Chris Loupis, Dicky Bury, Thomas Kolousis and Giotis Gordios. Pairing these unique perspectives with the remarkable cinematography skill of Mandilas raises ideas as to urban connectivity, freedom in motion, optimism in the face of demise, urban vision and the inclusivity of the city. It is through ATH that one understands that Athens through the eyes of the skater is like no other perspective. This is deemed a somewhat urban third eye, where skaters can extract inspiration, escapism and ultimate liberation in motion from places in the city seen as ordinary and useless by other inhabitants. Where everyday inhabitants see steps and handrails, skaters see endless tricks and possibilities, magic and an ultimate source of happiness. Skilful juxtapositions, embodied into ATH by Mandilas, of ancient structures alongside the contemporary motion of skaters speak volumes as to the difficulties faced by skaters DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Creativity is that marvellous ability to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw spark from their juxtaposition.” Max Ernst against the conservative and traditionalist views of older generations. "Since the recession began, people are more stressed and agitated; they see skating as destructive and pointless." Another extremely important notion drawn from ATH is the use of skate as a source of escapism in the face of recent economic turmoil in Athens. Not only does skate culture provide Athenian skaters with a sense of belonging, but a persistent freedom in motion against the chaotic backdrop of the city, which naturally detaches the mind of the skater from the anxiety of the world and allows them to draw nothing but liberation and inspiration from kinetic energy. Here, skaters create a possible reality by bending physical laws and breaking free from the shackles limiting human vision. All in all, ATH is a charming ode to one of the city's most contemporary and underrated realms and a skilful compilation that brings life to the concrete passivity of Athens. To watch ATH, head to www. vimeo.com/84937404 Kostas Mandilas PHOTO SOURCE: ALEX GRYMANIS.
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