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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 April 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 APRIL 2016 19 GREECE Athens & Epidaurus Festival succumbs to Belgian narcissism An institution formerly known as Greek overshadowed by Jan Fabre’s ‘curation’ NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU The Athens and Epidaurus festival was founded in 1955 with an aim to promote modern Greek art and establish a platform for communication and exchange of ideas between international creatives. Former director of the festival Yorgos Loukos, who was appointed in 2006, was replaced this past December by Belgian multidisciplinary artist Jan Fabre, who will head the annual Athens & Epidaurus Festival as artistic director for the period 2016-2019. Fabre, unveiled his plans for the following four years at a press conference which was held at the Amphitheatre of the Acropolis Museum in Athens on Tuesday March 29, causing a stir among Greek artists. The acclaimed artist gladly accepted the invitation by the Greek Ministry of Culture & Sports, however, he's since changed the name of the festival to 'International' and has demanded he is referred to as "curator." Greece's most pristine art festival, a predominantly Hellenic event, seems to have become a Belgian production promoting solely Belgian creators on Greek soil. Not once was Greece mentioned in Jan Fabre's speech. Instead there were many praises of the incomparable ‘Belgian Spirit’ to which the 2016 festival is to be dedicated. "In 1980 the 'Flemish Wave' was born when a group of interdisciplinary artists overturned artistic conventions and influenced the art scene to become what it is today," he said, adding that Belgium is a role model for artistic creation. The festival will open in June with an exhibition of Fabre's body of multi-media artwork and a retrospective of his stage productions entitled ‘Stigmata. Actions & Performances 1976 - 2013’ at the Benaki Museum. It will then travel to the Musée d'art contemporain in Lyon in September. This will be succeeded by an exhibition of Belgian art entitled ‘Antwerp-Athens: Two faces of Europe’, which will be showcased at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. Several venues of great calibre are to undertake the staging of Fabre's iconic plays. The cast is - of course - Belgian. Meanwhile, upcoming editions curated by Jan Fabre (2017-2019) will include major international artists from outside the Belgian scene, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Romeo Castellucci, Isabelle Huppert, and Robert Wilson - all of whom have already appeared at past editions of the festival by invitation of the former artistic director Yorgos Loukos (2006-2015). "As, incidentally, have Anne-Teresa De Keersmaker, Jan Lauwers, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui," stresses producer Kyriacos Karseras. There will also be more works by Jan Fabre presented in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and numerous events with a distinctly Belgian focus. The limited number of works by Greek creatives have not yet been announced and it is not immediately clear who will select them. "No independent Greek artists have been included in the 2016 program, and none of their submissions from late 2015 were reviewed," Karseras adds. "Jan Fabre has stated that he and his (almost exclusively Belgian) curatorial team were not equipped to judge the Greek submissions, and did not have the time to do so. This year's Athens & Epidaurus Festival is dedicated exclusively to the ‘Belgian Spirit’ (the curatorial title for 2016) and will feature artists from Belgium and only Belgium." Jan Fabre has even planted the Belgian flag at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Karseras also notes that more than 60 Greek productions were presented at the Athens & Epidaurus Festival in 2015, involving the efforts of over 800 individuals from varying artistic fields in collaboration with a wide range of public and private ensembles, companies, groups, organisations and institutions. "The breadth of this support - across diverse forms of music, theatre, opera, dance and visual arts, from popular to experimental Greek artists of all ages - is extraordinary. Its importance for the Greek arts scene should not be underestimated in these times of crisis and minimal funding. And yet it has essentially vanished in 2016. [Greek artists] can only hope to be part of 30 per cent of the 'Belgian Spirit' Festival programs for 2017 and 2018, before being 'handed the torch' in 2019." On Friday 1 April, following acclaimed actor and writer Olia Lazaridou's initiative, hundreds of artists gathered at Sfendoni Theatre in Athens to address a open letter to Jan Fabre and the Greek government, declaring their position to the new administration. "I am trying hard to comprehend how can a man accept a responsibility, a position for which he knows he's not suited, as he himself admits. I am struggling to comprehend how he decides to 'curate' Greece's artistic program when he knows absolutely nothing about the Greek art scene as he himself, again, states," actor, director and TV presented Yiorgos Nanouris emphasises. "Honestly, I'm struggling to make sense of it all, to understand why he said yes. How can anyone take this man seriously? Who grants him the right to change the name of a state institution, to 'play ball without rules' because as he said, he's not aware of 'the game's rules'." Yiorgos Nanouris is angered by Fabre's "nerve" to call citizens of Greece nationalists just because they express their desire to work in their country; to be given the opportunity of employment. "Who gives him the right to pay Belgian artists, his business partners, with our tax money; the money of a country that is suffering financially, socially, politically and as of now, culturally. "I'm struggling to fathom how even after what he shamelessly proclaimed, no one has taken action. I'm struggling to understand why we are not already out in the streets protesting," Nanouris tells Neos Kosmos. In a time where almost every Greek citizen feels somewhat alienated, betrayed or at risk, actor and director Enke Fezollari is not at all surprised by the govern- ment's decision. "These professions and institutions have never been appreciated. I've personally never been funded by a festival, a sponsor or state organisations," he says. "What I hoped a leftist leader would do is break the monopoly and extend an arm to Greece's many independent and non-privileged creatives; allow them to be included in the institutions. However, Fabre's announcements, with the government's blessings, have just shunned all Hellenic artistic creation. Another tragicomic farce." Should the blame fall solely on Fabre and his self-obsessed narcissistic declarations? Should it fall on the Greek Ministry of Culture's offensive and irresponsible decision to not only appoint a non-Greek at our cultural helm, but allow them to freely overshadow Greece's only thriving industry? Tough call.
26 March 2016
9 April 2016