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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 8 August 2015
18 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 8 AUGUST 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM New book on the dysfunction of modern Greek society Angelo’s perspective makes readers feel less compassionate towards the Greeks Amidst the Greek economic crisis, a newlypublished book comes as another yet account of what led the country to this mess, penned by freelance journalist James Angelos. Its title, The Full Catastrophe: Travels Among the New Greek Ruins, is taken from a line uttered by the protagonist of the 1964 film Zorba the Greek based on the famous Nikos Kazantzakis novel. Angelos, as a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, visited Greece to report on the rumours of Zakynthos being 'the island of the blind' back in 2009. Almost upon arrival he discovered that 498 of 680 of the ‘blind’ residents were not even only partially-sighted. Angelos uncovered a disability benefits fraud, involving one ophthalmologist and one official, estimated to have cost the country €9 million. Feeling that this scam was only scratching the surface of the problem, Angelos began travelling across the country, from Athens to Thessaloniki, visiting mountain villages and remote islands in order to document the dysfunction of the Greek society and state. He draws the modern portrait of a country overburdened by the patronage system, tax evasion and widespread corruption, often with the complicity of officials, leading to bribery scandals. The final chapter of the book focuses on Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi party which spurred anti-immigrant hysteria, yet still won 18 seats in the parliament in the 2012 elections. Being a fluent Greek speaker, Angelos was able to interact with the people he met along his journey and record their testimonies. On asking why people who have cheated the Greek state still go unpunished, he appears to have received the following answer from an official: "If you start putting people in jail, maybe you'll have to put half of Greece in jail." A paint-spattered bank in central Athens after a 2011 protest. Austerity leads to art revival A NYT feature says that austerity measures in Greece have one beneficiary: contemporary art An interesting 'side effect' of the economic crisis in Greece is the flourishing of contemporary art, according to The New York Times. Journalist Katherine LaGrave visited Athens and claims that even though austerity measures have been to the detriment of the Greek people, it appears that there have been two beneficiaries. Tourism has shot up to 28.8 per cent in the first three months of this year, as well as artistic activity. Contemporary art has sprung up during the crisis, as the political and economic turmoil offers a great deal of inspiration to the artists. The audience, exhausted and in need of support, is also seeking more creative exits during these difficult times. Moreover, Athens is one of the cities with the cheapest rent for studio space compared to other European capitals. LaGrave is surprised by the fact that artists from abroad keep choosing as their basis a country where federal artistic funding is almost non-existent. Ms Iliana Fokianaki, Athensbased curator, art critic and founder of 'State of Concept', decided not to leave Greece, seeing the economic crisis as a reason to stay. "I realised it would be much more useful to have an artistic platform in a city like Athens than another European city," said Fokianaki. "The crisis kind of boosted our energy to do more things, rather than flee the country." LaGrave mentions a series of events artists can attend if they plan on visiting Athens during the Greek summer. She suggests 'Snehta Residency', where applications have tripled for its two-month Athens-centric research residencies. The Athens and Epidaurus festival, including exhibitions 'Renaissance Stories' and 'Terrapolis' organised by the non-profit NEON, and displays at the Museum of Cycladic Art, are also extremely popular. Finally, it is worth mentioning that 'Documenta', the worldrenowned exhibition of modern and contemporary art which takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany, will be co-hosted by Athens. Adam Szymczyk, the exhibition's artistic director, said that Athens was chosen in an effort to boost artists struggling with the economic and political crisis. "Athens seemed to be the place where contradictions meet," Szymczyk said. "The cradle of civilisation affected by crisis and debt while its citizens endure a lasting uncertainty as to their future." * 'Documenta' starts in Athens in April 2017 and will be moving to Kassel later on the same year. Iliana Fokianaki in her art space ‘State of Concept’. PHOTO: CHRISTOS TZIMAS, OZON. PHOTO: PETROS GIANNAKOURIS/AP.
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