Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 June 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 JUNE 2017 25 OPINION able to carry with them to their place of safety, or is it in actual fact a rainbow, a symbol shared by the Armenians, symbolising God's covenant to Noah never to destroy humanity ever again? The segments that comprise the arch also invite interpretation. Are we looking at a conglomeration of prison bars or cages to show how the non-recognition of the crime of genocide makes the victims captives of history? Are these barrellike contraptions coffins, symbolic of the fact that the narrative of our mod- ern history rests upon the corpses of the massacred? Is it, in actual fact an accretion of rubbish bins that denote how the perpetrators and genocide deniers alike will be consigned to the dustbin of history as more and more people around the world become sensitised to this heinous historical crime? Or do they simply form part a narrative featuring the physical passage of the refugees themselves, with some of the smaller cylindrical segments placed on top of beside the larger ones suggest infants being carried by their mothers? The name of the installation is also laden with significance. ῾Πυρρίχιο Πέταγμα᾽ has been tenuously translated as "Pyrrhic Flight." This mistranslation lends its own interpretation to the piece. The word pyrrhic generally has to do with Pyrrhus, the ancient king of Epirus, not with Pontus. Although, if a pyrrhic victory is one which actually is considered a loss because the price of victory is so high, than a pyrrhic flight may be considered by analogy to be a triumph of the human spirit in that the refugees survived and the memory of those massacred is still preserved. However, Pyrrhic is a bad translation of Πυρρίχιος, an ancient Greek war dance, which purportedly has been passed down and preserved exclusively among the Pontians, even though the Kurds and Assyrians of Asia Minor have similar dances with broadly the same movements. The Pyrrhichios is thus a war dance, casting the victims and survivors of the Pontian genocide, as ‘battlers’ and ‘fighters’, either with history, memory, pain or the world itself. Interestingly the English rendition of ‘flight’ is tantalisingly more polyvalent than πέταγμα, which denotes flying with wings. The English also has connotations of fleeing, which juxtaposed against the portrayal of the Pontians as warriors, lends itself to interesting perspectives. The artist himself states that his work is a sculpture within a sculpture, a sculpture that changes depending on the position of the viewer. Anyone who has studied the Genocide in all its depth and complexity can see how Tanimanidis' statement forms the embodiment of their experience. The more we study the Pontic genocide, the more our understanding of the time in which it unfolded, of ourselves, its victims, the perpetrators and even its commemoration peddlers, accretes and changes. As a monument to the capacity of study and introspection to transform perspectives, Pyrrhichios Flight is a masterpiece. In the photograph in which I first saw the monument, which was at its launch, I particularly appreciated the way it was augmented with crimson textiles spread before it, symbolising how memorials and debates about them are built on the foundation of the blood that has been spilt and can be- come a stylised motif if we use them for political purposes only and become desensitised as to their true importance. The Assyrian flag is emblazoned with similar rivers of crimson blood, and this augmentation of the monument, albeit inadvertently, references the history of the other inhabitants of Asia Minor who were subjected to the same genocide, engendering and entrenching, a spirit of brotherhood. Tanimanidis himself views his arch as a wave, one which emanates in Pontus and breaks upon the shores of Greece. The segments, made of coiled springs, symbolise perpetual tension and rage at injustice, as well as remembrance. He embeds within those segments, coded retellings of the experience of the Pontian people before and after the genocide, all of which tell a story. A kemenche, predictably enough, is the first thing the Pontian refugee takes with him, and along the way, various symbols denote, locks, drums, The Bible, a flag, wells, evoking memories of desparately looking for water while fleeing, docked ships, church bells, churches, looms, the kemenche as a javelin, binoculars, the kemenche as a plough and finally, the kemenche as it arrives in Greece, ready to be transplanted into Modern Greek culture. This kemenche, a symbol done to death and dragged far beyond the borders of the land of kitsch by the Pontians themselves, becomes in Tanimanidis' hands, an instrument of a bard, reciting an Homeric epic. I am incensed that the artist was compelled to provide such a thorough exposition of his work by irate and impatient Greek viewers. In contrast, Peter Eisenman' hauntingly beautiful but deeply disquieting Berlin memorial to the Holocaust and Daniel Libeskind's bold abstract design of Berlin's Holocaust Museum has provided no such explanations. Instead, the viewer is invited to ponder its significance and by corollary, that of the event it commemorates, itself. If true art is that which makes one think, challenge, enlighten but ultimately feel, then Tanimanidis' monument to the Pontic genocide is exactly that, a worthy depiction of a horrific event but most importantly, of its complex, conflicting and often disturbing aftereffects. It compels thought. Foo Who? My big fat Greek week NIKOS FOTAKIS • Ah, to be a fly on the wall of the Ministry of Culture meeting room, where the Central Archaeological Council discusses whether to grant access to archaeological sites. • Specifically, the meeting when they debated whether to allow usage of the Ancient Roman theatre of Herod for a Foo Fighters concert. • "Foo who?" • Arguably one of the greatest rock bands of our times (albeit not very popular in Greece), the Foo Fighters are to play the Herod Theatre on 10 July, but those of you planning to be in Athens at the time (or were about to call your travel agent?), don't even try. • The event will not be open to the public, but rather an exclusive gig, held as part of the 'Landmarks Live in Concert' travel-and-music documentary series of the american public television (PBS). • Hosted by Chad Smith (drummer of Red Hot Chili Peppers), the series features popular acts playing in World Heritage Sites. • Which is why it needed approval from Greece's archaeologists, who were not very keen on letting a group of loud, hairy savages playing their electric guitars there. • Still, they finally conceded, reportedly after one member evoked the long-lasting effect of the seminal footage of Pink Floyd performing in Pompeii. • Yeah, man, right on! • You can count on an archaeologist talking as an advocate of 'dinosaur' rock. • The other thing that apparently persuaded the council to come round was political pressure from the Ministry of Tourism and the mayor of Athens (who are going to give out the tickets, presumably to their friends and partners). • And also that the producers promised that the band will not play their loudest, wildest material. • So yes, Greece is all for its ancient theatres being used for rock concerts, but only if they are 'quiet' ones. • This is comedy gold. • But it is not even the funniest Greek story of the week. • No, this award goes to the union representing workers of the state-run electricity company, Public Power Corporation (PPC), which issued a statement supporting Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. • It was a move that saw the whole world uniting against the US. • Well, not the whole world. • In a small country perched on the edge of the Balkan Peninsula, some electricians, technicians, and administrative unionists begged to differ. • "In supporting and insisting, obviously, on his view that climate change is simply a 'Chinese conspiracy', Trump - four months after assuming office - announced that the US is suspending the implementation of binding conditions of the climate change agreement, and ending its contribution to the Green Fund (GCF) for climate . . . a superpower, the United States ( . . . specifically the second in terms of highest emissions) leaves the remaining 195 countries to continue with a common (climate change) action plan, which was 'inspired' by some in order to . . . achieve an end to the era of fossil fuels" reads the statement. • The PPC (to friends, 'DEI') may be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) but it is largely managed by the union. • Sometimes, the union does good - like when it defied the Samaras government's order to cut power from households that could not pay the bills, refusing to humiliate many poor, crisis-stricken families depriving them from a basic commodity. • Sometimes, it is predictably controversial - like when it strikes against any attempt to privatise any of its assets or services. • And sometimes it's blatantly monolithic and ridiculous - like when it acts like a mouthpiece for climate change denialism. • Of course, the PPC mostly uses high-emission producing lignite to fire its often outdated plants, not to mention burning low-quality mazut fuel oil in various small island power plants. • So yes, the power officers in Greece burn coal, they think coal, they are coal. • But they've yet to make a statement on whether they support a Foo Fighters acoustic set.
3 June 2017
17 June 2017